Online v/s Retail Sales in the Fashion & Apparel Industry

Yogesh Kabra, Founder, XYXXTechnology has come a long way in the last two decades and there is no doubt about that. From easier internet access to greater social media impact, technology has changed the approach of business in almost every industry. When it comes to the fashion and apparel industry in India, we have witnessed a major shift in brands from retail to online stores.

After a drop of 6.3 percent in its sales in 2017, the 169 year old high street brand - House of Fraser, decided to shut down 31 of its 59 stores across the UK, including its flagship London Oxford Street store. This is the sign of times that demonstrates how e-commerce is taking over the offline market in the fashion and apparel industry across the world.

Below are some of the major factors that have contributed in shaping this situation where the audience may be more inclined towards online stores.

Greater accessibility
With an increased internet access across the globe, it has become easier for businesses to adopt globalization and serve to potential clients from across the world. One can browse through the designs of a brand from any corner of the world without even visiting the store personally.

Faster processing
With the ultra cool speed of the internet, brands today are ready to serve their clients at the drop of a hat. From browsing of products to placement of the order and the delivery, the process is at full throttle, offering tough competition to other brands in the market. Hence, it has become very essential for the brands to be on their toes in order to survive in the market.

Popularity and awareness
The use of internet and social media has greatly hiked up in the last few years. With smart phones in your hand and inexpensive internet packages, every client has become a potential one. The apparel brands have to be up to date at all cost in order to survive the competition. Social media influencers are creating a remarkable impact on the apparel industry and its working in several ways. It is observed that on seeing their favourite social media influencer sharing an opinion on a particular brand, leads to increase or decrease in its sales. Social media and internet widely helps in spreading a word about the brand and its popularity largely depends on its presence on the internet.

Business on your finger tips
Internet has given access to users across the globe. An online business is available to its clients merely on their finger tips. With just a tap of the finger, they can make an order from the comfort of their home. This has helped in widening their customer base with much ease.

Offering online presence does not cut out all your competition, better services do. Online shopping provides a great deal of convenience to its customers. For instance, e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart offer free pick up of the order if the customer wishes to return the item. This convenience has helped the brands in coping up from the void of customer service.

Quick access information
Quick access to information like sale and discount coupons extensively helps when it comes to online business. For instance, a sale at a retail store in one city may attract a limited number of customers, however, an online sale will result into greater accessibility by customers from across the world. Such speed of information accessibility evidently helps in increasing sales.

Customer support
Customer support plays a vital role in today’s highly dynamic market. It is important for every brand to offer customer service before, during and after sales, in order to sustain the competition. Going online makes it easier for the brands to offer customer service to their clientele and follow up with them for future relations and feedback.

Elimination of hesitation
It is undoubtedly true that some of us do not like to interact socially. While it was impossible to avoid conversations with retailers and storekeepers before, it has now become possible to eliminate the hesitation associated with social interaction and unwanted conversation with the retailer at the store. With just the click of a button, you can simply place an order and avoid all the social drama.

Transparent policies
Online stores are far more transparent in terms of policies as compared to retail stores. This is mainly because their policies are not verbal and are written on their website. Hence, it becomes an impeccable process to offer good customer service. Unlike an offline retailer, an online brand cannot deny certain policies if they had already mentioned them before the purchase was made.

Stock availability and management
While you may not be able to find the right size or colour of an outfit at an offline retail store, it is almost impossible to face the same problem at an online store. Additionally, online stores do not have to maintain a stock, which eliminates the chances of over or under stocking.

Low investment
As an online store, you don’t have to invest in the facilities of an offline store such as location, brick and mortar shop, furniture etc. The cost of setting up a website and its running is not as much as that of renting/buying/setting up of an offline store.

Despite such innovations and technological advancements, the traditional offline retail shopping has not completely gone out of business. Clients still wish to grab that user experience before the make the final purchase. From the feel of the fabric to trying the apparel on, their personal experience becomes utmost important before they buy the product.

Also, despite the limited access and reach to the clientele, there are brands who are still flourishing with offline retail stores. Innovation has still not got hold of a significant part of the audience. There is still a dedicated audience that prefers to go to an offline store, irrespective of how much ever the technology advances.