Despite shaky global markets in virtually every arena, the global fashion industry continues to grow – especially in e-commerce. Growth in online fashion retail far outpaces growth in the total market. As major retailers and big brands adapt their marketing and sales strategies to e-commerce, customer support chat is an indispensable tool for maximizing revenue, decreasing returns, and optimizing customer experience.
According to Ibisworld, the global online market for men’s fashion experienced $17 bn in revenue, while the global online market for women’s fashion was roughly $43 bn. Although women’s fashion is still a larger market, the rise in men’s fashion is one of the most impressive industry forecasts for 2016-2020. Between 2010 and 2015 there was a 17.4% growth in mens fashion online, and Ibisworld predicts this trend will continue with an annual average growth in online sales of 14.2% between 2015 and 2020. Despite experiencing slower growth, global digital sales for women’s luxury fashion are predicted to grow from 3% to 17% of the total market, totaling $12 bn according to McKinsey.
Customer Support Chat to Optimize Sales
As online fashion continues to grow while brick-and-mortar diminishes – especially in the luxury – fashion retailers need to adopt new technologies to keep their brands competitive in this customer centric market. Coinciding with Facebook’ bot campaign, many high-end fashion brands started employing bots as modern-day concierges. Perhaps in fashion more than any other retail sector, we look to friends, family and shopping buddies to reenforce our purchasing decisions. When we’re shopping alone, we turn to a helpful store associate, dressing room attendant, or concierge to be our human mirror, providing the affirmation we need to make a good purchasing decision. Incorporating this human presence into a brand’s online identity through customer support chat is indispensable in the digital age.
As China continues to be a major player in the online fashion industry, with a whopping 70% projected growth in 2017, looking to mobile trends in the East can help retailers in the West develop customer care strategies. Designer brands including Longchamp and Burberry already successfully sell their goods through flash sales on WeChat, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram rolled into one app. Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Dior are also testing the platform for future sales. Although it hasn’t released specifics, the mobile live chat services app Whatsapp is working on integration that will allow businesses to interact with WhatsApp users – a tool that will prove useful for many online retailers.
New Technologies to Address Pain Points
The rise in global digital fashion is making a clear and urgent call to retailers: now is the time to adopt new technologies – including live chat services into online branding strategies. Online retailers face a handful of pain points in the transition to digital. Most of these arise from the customer’s inability to physically interact with goods before making a purchase. Written product descriptions that include specific product details such as fabric content, descriptive words like ‘dry-hand feel’, and sizing recommendations play a small role, but consumers are social creatures that need product information communicated through real-time interaction. Fashion retailers can regain lost revenues from returns and problems of fit by giving the consumer the opportunity to ask a trained live chat service agent specific product information before making a purchase.
Although many customers prefer desktop purchases for ease of use and perceived security, many consumers are turned away by non responsive websites. In 2016, over half of web sessions for the fashion industry were from mobile devices, but those sessions only accounted for one third of online sales. These insights point to the added value of integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies into an interactive digital interface that makes the fashion consumer experience prescriptive, predictive, and personalized. By machine learning and AI to develop insights into consumer preference and behavior, bands can enhance consumer experience by filling the physical-to-digital divide.
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