While some industries are seeing online sales rise in light of the coronavirus outbreak, this period is proving to be an uphill battle for fashion and apparel websites.
Although eCommerce provides many consumers with a convenient way to shop without venturing outside, financial uncertainty has started taking a toll on shoppers’ willingness to spend money on non-essential items. Recent sales trends show that even popular direct-to-consumer brands have cause for concern. Looking at the big picture, it is clear that the long-term impact of this unprecedented crisis will require those selling clothing and accessories online to adapt in order to weather the storm.
It’s not just a matter of staying afloat until the COVID-19 outbreak ends and until all related restrictions are lifted. It’s also about preparing for the challenges and opportunities that will follow this tumultuous period.
With both of those goals in mind, we at Namogoo have put together a guide of four recommendations to help online fashion and apparel companies navigate through the difficulties of today and tomorrow. By following these four steps, those businesses can increase their chances of adapting effectively and maximizing their sales revenue:
1. Offer discounts
Although this is a step you would certainly rather be able to avoid, the reality of the situation within the fashion and apparel industry today can make discounts especially attractive to customers. Given the financial concerns of many shoppers, we have seen that they now tend to be more price-sensitive than they would have been just a few months ago.
Lowering certain prices during this challenging period will not only encourage your site visitors to click Add to Cart, but it can also improve your brand image by demonstrating empathy towards your customers. To maximize the impact of your discounts, make sure to advertise these special prices widely. And, if feasible, it may be worth your while to offer free shipping as well.
2. Optimize for both desktop and mobile
For years, those of us following eCommerce trends were asking when smartphones would finally replace desktop and laptop computers as the go-to tool for making purchases online – a future reality that seemed inevitable. After all, which on-the-go consumer wouldn’t appreciate the convenience of being able to shop remotely from a handheld device?
But today, with travel at a minimum, we are seeing a trend of individuals putting down their smartphones and instead going back to their computers. For example, earlier this month, The New York Times (paywall) reported that usage of YouTube’s website had increased 15.3% between January 21 and March 24 of this year – while usage of its mobile app had fallen by 4.5%, according to data from SimilarWeb and Apptopia.
What does that mean for online fashion and apparel retailers? On the one hand, it is especially important to make sure that desktop users will have a flawless experience as they shop on your website. But on the other hand, it is essential to be prepared for the business environment that we will face after the end of the COVID-19 outbreak – including ensuring that your website is fully optimized for mobile devices.
And, of course, if you do offer any discounts in light of today’s crisis, it’s a good idea to advertise those discounts right on your homepage.
3. Adapt your marketing strategy
Even if your sales numbers fall during this challenging period, you can take this opportunity to maintain a strong and reliable brand, so that you will still have a loyal customer base after the crisis has passed. With so many customers and potential customers at home, and with many of them having extra time on their hands, it’s a good idea to use all available digital marketing outlets to connect with them and keep them engaged.
However, it is important to keep in mind that consumer sentiment has shifted dramatically this year, and brands that don’t show empathy for their customers risk alienating them.
Here are some ways you can keep in touch with your audience these days:
- Email marketing. Send emails highlighting your current discounts, your recent blog posts, and maybe even a survey to help you gauge how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting your customers’ shopping habits and preferences.
- Social media. Use this time to share enjoyable, fashion-related content with your audience. For example, on Instagram Live, you could offer a live runway show, a sneak peek into the next season, or a Q&A session with a top designer. On Twitter, you could tag other brands to spark a discussion on ways to get through the COVID-19 outbreak. And on Facebook, you could share a poll asking followers which clothing item they would like to buy first once all coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted.
- Paid ads. Depending on your company, it may be a good idea to use online advertising to boost your new content, to promote your latest discounts, or both.
- Blog posts. There’s nothing like high-quality written content to help you position yourself (or strengthen your position) as a fashion industry thought leader. For example, depending on your brand, you could post content about how to be fashionable at home, what to wear for a grocery run, or why should you still dress up.
- Influencers. Reach out to your current or new influencers, and check if you can start a campaign such as “staying fabulous at home.”
Of course, it is also important to take this time to plan ahead for the next season. Even if you have ideas for digital content that aren’t a good fit for today’s situation, you can create this content now, so that it will be ready to publish after the outbreak.
4. Prevent Customer Journey Hijacking
At a time when every dollar and each website visitor counts, brands should be especially concerned that 20% of online shopping sessions are subjected to injected ads, many of which are designed to lead shoppers from one online store straight to a competitor. This phenomenon – Customer Journey Hijacking – decreases eCommerce websites’ conversion rates by between 1.5% and 5% and reduces companies’ online revenue per visitor by between 5% and 7%.
However, online fashion and apparel retailers can eliminate the threat of Customer Journey Hijacking by blocking injected ads in real-time. With Namogoo, these companies can see an immediate increase in their online conversion rates by regaining control over their customer experience.
In light of the challenges facing today’s companies, we are temporarily offering leading retailers access to our Customer Hijacking Prevention solution at no charge. And, because our cloud-based technology requires no on-site installation, it can be set up rapidly and remotely, even with stringent travel restrictions in place.
While many questions about the economic fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak remain, it is clear that thriving both during and after the crisis will require online fashion and apparel retailers to adapt. As some U.S. states start to lift their restrictions, we will need to keep a close eye on how consumer sentiment and preferences shift going forward.
But it is safe to say that this crisis and its aftermath will not affect all consumers in the same way, and retailers can improve their chances of success by responding to that reality. While not all consumers will see their finances suffer, many will be concerned about their bank accounts – which can make discounts an effective sales strategy. And while some will prefer to make purchases from their desktop or laptop computers, others will find their smartphones to be more convenient for online shopping.
In addition, while many consumers may have less disposable income now and in the near future than they did a few months ago, many will also have more free time on their hands. That makes this a good opportunity to update your messaging and invest in marketing so that your customer base will be prepared to shop once this crisis has passed.
Finally, while Customer Journey Hijacking is a costly problem for online retailers even in the best of times, today’s challenges make it even more important to ensure that injected ads are not sending your customers – and your potential sales – from your online store straight to your competitors. And with Customer Hijacking Prevention available at no cost for a limited time, retailers now have a risk-free opportunity to see how blocking injected ads in real-time can boost sales.
To offer your customers an online shopping experience free of injected ads, request cost-free access to Namogoo’s Customer Hijacking Prevention solution.