Convenience is no longer a competitive advantage for fashion retailers online. The only real way to stand out is by fostering an emotional connection - and personalisation is the key
Retail may be a millennia-old industry that every human interacts with on a daily basis, but most of the evolution in the way people experience it has occurred in the last couple of decades through digitalisation. The biggest segment of retail, fashion, has historically relied most on fostering an emotional connection with consumers, leaving marketers facing the greatest obstacles in emulating the feeling people get when they enter a store, but online.
Whereas, previously, convenience was the main battleground for achieving competitive advantage in the fashion economy – trying to make it as easy as possible for consumers to find and buy the clothes that demonstrate their personality – that is no longer the case in a digital world where consumers can discover and buy anything from anywhere at any time. Instead, brands and retailers now compete on the emotional experience that drives loyalty.
“Fashion is about feeling good when you’re making that purchase,” says Ivan Mazour, CEO and founder of Ometria, a customer data and marketing platform that powers the marketing of hundreds of retailers. “You paint a picture in your own mind about the person you will be once you’re wearing that item of clothing. That is the competitive landscape for fashion retailers today. It’s no longer about being able to create a product or supply a product. It’s about being able to create an experience, a memory and a future vision of the individual.
“A memory is created when something special happens or makes us feel understood and validated. In the physical world, back in the day, that would happen because your tailor, for instance, would know you and remember what you like. That experience feels good because you have a sense of being heard and singled out. Through the transition to digital, fashion retailers have had to figure out how they can create that kind of experience online.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has only served to accelerate this landscape, with lockdowns showing fashion retailers, many for the first time, what it’s like to operate in a purely digital environment. The most successful companies pivoted quickly, turning to technology to provide insights that previously came through in-person interactions. What do people want to buy? What do they look at but don’t end up buying? What are they returning and why? In a digital world, this spreads further to what emails are being opened and adverts clicked.
All of these different touchpoints are a window into the minds of digital customers, but retailers have to be careful how they go about it. An obtrusive pop-up that asks people what they’re interested in is not a good experience. Instead, consumers expect brands to simply learn from their online behaviour, in a GDPR-compliant way that doesn’t abuse their privacy, and then use that information to create a personalised experience that is tailored to them.
“That is absolutely possible in today’s world, fully digital and fully online, and it’s already happening,” says Mazour. “Not only are the top fashion retail brands increasingly doing it, but it is now becoming the requirement to survive and thrive. It is the competitive landscape. Either you do that or nobody will come to your website and nobody will click and buy again.”
Ometria is a customer data and marketing platform that allows retailers to connect the dots, from understanding the customer all the way through to creating a memorable experience that gets them to come back. It enables companies to increase customer revenue by sending personalised, relevant marketing messages throughout the customer journey.
The platform is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), which is crucial given there is no longer a way of creating memorable experiences online by relying on manual logic and legacy systems. A typical legacy approach created a small number of semi-demographic data segment audiences and sent a slightly different message to each one. Instead of 10 million people seeing the same message, 10 groups of a million people saw slightly different ones.
This approach does not achieve the outcome that fashion brands want to create today. Crucially, it’s not what the leading companies are now doing, which means there is no pre-AI world that a fashion brand can go back to if they want to survive. Only a piece of AI that can translate a brand vision and objectives into 10 million different unique experiences can deliver on the competitive advantages necessary to thrive in the digital
Human marketers still have to be in charge, however, because only they know what the brand identity, strategy, values, vision and objectives are. They may not have the ability to translate all of that into millions of personalised experiences across dozens of digital channels, navigating laws around the world, but they must always be in the driving seat.
“It is now on marketers to make or break the business because if they don’t create that experience, their brand could be in trouble,” says Mazour. “They are the pilot but their co-pilot is a machine that does 95% of the heavy lifting – a reliable piece of AI that provides full transparency and visibility as well as the ability to jump in and take control of any element. Marketers need that sitting next to them as their co-marketer, continually reinforcing those experiences, creating memories and getting customers to come back.
“We believe by 2030 that’s how every single retail marketer will be running, with Ometria as the co-marketer that powers that. We do the whole thing, from understanding each customer, all the way to the creation of experiences across dozens of
For more information, visit ometria.com