For a designer who would have put up a fashion boutique for her ethnic wear brand eight years ago, things would have looked pretty much in place – only with substantial footfall, adept inventory management, and the brand getting an exposure through word of mouth marketing, together with other conventional methods. But if the brand had to catch up with the growing trends, things had to be diversified in the next two years. To stay in the competition, apart from having a brick-and-mortar store, an online presence and smart usage of digital space would be deemed imperative – for brand building, for reaching out to larger demography, geography and finally to make larger profits! 

During the last decade, the retail sector, one of the most rapidly expanding sectors, has undergone a dramatic change world over. ‘Digitization’ has redefined the aspect of almost all businesses. Fashion & apparel, food & beverages, pharmaceuticals, which occupy a major chunk of retail business, have weaved digital inclusions into their marketing models. The offline and online characters have seamlessly merged by creating ‘omnichannels’ for their products, i.e. a diversified sales approach where the customers can have a hassle-free shopping experience from a desktop, mobile device or even in a conventional store.

Fashion and Apparel, a rage amongst youngsters, comes up with new trends, themes, and styles, every so often. With hundreds of thousands of brands and offers filling up the online and offline segments, the customers are getting smarter, they research on the most sought after brands, most affordable brands,  never miss out on the budget sales, read up reviews and compare different brands, and stay abreast with all the news in the fashion industry. With these and so much more for the brands to offer their customers, the competition is really tough out there. Today, having an online store is as important as the physical set up itself, the range of options that it provides for daily casual fashion wear, work wear, current trends; seasonal highlights, ‘seasonless’ styles and so much more, it is considered an indispensable part of a fashion business. According to a report by Retail Week’s ‘Connecting with Today’s Fashion Consumers’, more than one-thirds of all age groups discover new fashion products and trends online, more than a third of 18-44-year-olds engage with fashion brands on mobile devices, more than half of the youngsters share their pictures through various in mobile apps and engage with the brands on social media sites.

Who has done it all right?

A classic example of a fashion brand imbibing technology into the DNA of its working would be ‘Burberry’, a fashion & lifestyle brand – considered to be the pioneer in digital augmentation. “Technology is an intrinsic part of most people’s lives, all we’ve done is to make sure we weave technology into the fabric of the company and this is how customers live, they wake up with a device in their hand and life begins,” says Angela Ahrendts, CEO of the brand. The brand joined Facebook in 2009, and the fan following it collected in the next few years was nothing short of surprising because of its campaigns, ‘making of the photoshoot’ videos, uploading of their milestone videos, etc. The brand took to other social networking sites in the following years to stay connected with its customers including, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube where it gained a lot of traction.  In 2009 the brand launched an independent social-networking site called ‘Art of the Trench’, where trend-spotting Burberry lovers would snap and share trench looks from the street. This was not all, the brand later launched a unique concept called runway to reality, where VIP clients were given individual I-Pads to watch the catwalk in their flagship stores and the apparel could be ordered right away with the touch of a button which would be delivered to them in a matter of 6 weeks! This was later extended to the general public as well. ‘Burberry Bespoke’ was launched in 2011 via, whereby users could develop a unique trench coat online, by choosing their choice of fabric, colour, style, embellishments and heritage details if any. 

Their most significant digital undertaking has been the launch of their London boutique on Regent Street, where, as customers walk through the stores, the offers become increasingly specific as they “click through” the world of Burberry. Floor space is divided between Bespoke, Acoustic, and Experiences, just as digital space is divided on

Do we have to say more to prove that it is a quintessential brand having merged online and offline experience very tactfully?

The other fashion brands which have also excelled in digital marketing include John Lewis, Next, Marks & Spencer to name a few. 

So, what are the opportunities for fashion enthusiasts?

Today customers call the shots and everything is dependent on how they perceive the brand and their emotions attached to it. While connecting and engaging with the customers has become fairly plain sailing due to social media, the call to action and response time from the brand can decide the fate of the brand; with a lot of CRM(Customer Relationship Management) tools available, this task is also taken care of, if put to use at the right time. Of course, without brand quality and satisfying customer needs, no amount of marketing can help a brand sustain in the long run.

The digital capabilities help even the conventional retailers tackle challenges like, in-store customer engagement and workforce efficiency, reducing shrinkage, and streamlining inventory management and checkout processes, says Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces.

However, the management of ‘big data’ is critical for any digital-commerce business. The range of selection that is presented to a customer makes him spoilt for choice in the first place, although huge collection can be an advantage to a seller, the customer might be swamped with the quantity; hence the management of this and bringing it down to the ones only relevant for the customer plays a key role;  management of the colossal inventory efficiently is another important factor for long-term sustainability; Logistics supervision, which helps on-time delivery of the products, thereby satisfying the customers which can establish brand loyalty is yet another crucial factor for a brand growth. 

With so many platforms to reach out to the target market, the nascent and growing designers and brands have a galore of opportunities waiting. Only with a clear understanding of the strengths of the brand, market needs and pricing factors, a brand can be pushed to the next level. 

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