Trends in Online Fashion Shopping
Back in 2000, when the 'dotcom' bubble burst, pioneer fashion etailers like Boo.com went bust because consumers weren't prepared to forego the 'touch and feel' factor of offline shopping for the convenience of purchasing online. Much has changed in the past decade and today, whilst the majority of shoppers prefer to shop on the High Street (55%), just under half prefer to shop on the internet (45%).This is just one of the findings from research commissioned by GSI Commerce and summarised in their 2011 UK Fashion Retail Report, which analysises the latest trends in online fashion shopping in the UK.The research also found that although most consumers prefer to conduct the final purchase in store, almost 2/3 (64%) of those surveyed visited fashion retailers sites to research items before deciding to buy them on the High Street. Perhaps unsurprisingly, women (71%) were more likely to undergo online window shopping prior to purchase than men (52%).And whilst online features such as filtering search results via size and colour and reading other customer reviews were popular amongst consumers, videos and sharing features were found useful by 5% or less.But for us, the most interesting part of GSI's research was into the role that social media played in the online fashion purchase process.It has to be said that for most fashion consumers, social media played no part at all - GSI's research found that 90% of their sample revealed that they hadn't interacted with any fashion brand via their Facebook, Twitter or mobile sites.However, the 1 in 10 that did interact did so on a frequent basis. Social shoppers aged 35-45 were the most engaged, with 71% of the sample interacting with a fashion brand's Facebook page on a daily basis.Not only were those interactions frequent, they were meaningful too. Over 1/2 (54%) of social shoppers were found to believe that the conversations they had with brands on social media platforms had changed their perception of those brand, with men's perceptions more likely to be influenced than women's.Of course, perceptions can cut 2 ways and what's clear is that consumers are not prepared to make allowances for the fact that social media is a new channel. Customers clearly expect the experience to be of a high standard and consistent with other channels. If the brand delivers a good experience, then they can enhance customer perceptions and loyalty. If they don't, customers won't be forgiving.One way of keeping social shoppers happy is to give them what they want, and the research found that what most social shoppers wanted to hear about was the latest offers (49%) and competitions (48%). They also saw social media as a useful channel for getting direct answers to questions or complaints (33%) and to join in conversations with other friends and fans (21%).Social shopping was not high up on the agenda, but seemed to grow in importance the more affluent the shopper - 3 times as many luxury consumers (21%) were interested in purchasing via social media channels than value shoppers (7%).GSI 's recommendation was to appoint a board level 'social media' champion to ensure social media strategy was being discussed at the very highest level of the company. We'd agree. With social media channels likely to become more rather than less popular with consumers as more and more see the benefits, this channel is going to become ever more crucial for managing a brand's reputation. As social media inevitably develops from purely a marketing channel to a customer service and sales channel too, only involvement and participation across the company is going to ensure that this tool is being leveraged to the full extent of its potential.