Fashion's New Faction: Shoe Clubs & Subscription Shops

It’s only recently that upstart celebrity-backed companies like @ShoeDazzle@ShoeMint and JustFabulous have started pouring money into advertising and winning thousands of subscribers. Unlike @BagBorroworSteal or @RenttheRunway (who have been quietly carving their own niche in a crowded fashion market for years), these companies don’t require you to go down the cumbersome task of returning your wares. Instead, you pay a monthly fee and their algorithms, buyers, designers, and partners shop for your next ownable item.

It reminds me of the wine of the month club the parents belonged to, or the music club my brother joined for a while — even the jewelry club I joined briefly… I wound up with about three boxes full of hoops and bangles and tacky odes to the 80’s. 

Whether it’s the future of fashion or a flashback to 1970s business models, shopping by membership should get the attention of retailers (and the US Postal Service). 

This LA Times article points to a widely-held belief: "We are in the midst of a reinvention of retail," said Kasey Lobaugh, a principal at Deloitte Consulting who follows online shopping trends. "Retailers are being forced to innovate the business model. If they don’t, there is now a long list of nontraditional competitors who will."

The Times piece goes on to assert, The member-only programs have quickly attracted hordes of loyal shoppers. The sites, subscribers say, are easy to use, are customer-friendly when it comes to returns and exchanges, and usually do a good job identifying what styles they like.”

It was around this time last year that I was chatting with the head of product at one of these companies about how they were planning to scale in the months ahead and what they needed to do, purely from a social media standpoint. It was during that conversation that I realized their success model hinged not just on the obvious overhead-swerving cost-savings they have over the brick and mortar stores, but largely the up they have from a CRM standpoint — and that’s the part that gets really interesting. 

Definitely a sector to watch this year, as incomes remain steady and shopper marketing hasn’t yet made significant inroads into malls and department stores, in terms of rethinking shopper engagement in compelling enough ways to rival what’s happening online. 

Lessons from the exhibition hall

eTail West, recently held in Palm Springs CA, had the highest retailer attendance in it’s 10 year history, and a optimistic outlook on the future.

Four full days of key notes, retailer presentations and panel discussions saw strong insights and experiences presented across key themes such as multichannel, search, email, mobile, social, analytics, customer acquisition and retention etc.

 One insight I gained from the conference about the state of the US retail industry when it comes to multichannel retailing was not from what was said, but from the change in who was exhibiting…and how that had changed over previous years.

 In previous years the show was dominated by vendors of core solutions. This year search and rich media vendors were thin on the ground; analytics vendors were absent completely. Was it they were falling on tough times? No, it was that in a conference focusing on the future, the new sale opportunities for core vendors changes.

 An exhibition hall is like match-making dance for singles. Where buyer meets seller and start a relationship. In the case of multichannel retailing in the US Retailers are all now customers of these core solutions; they are already in a relationship. So the vendors who made up the exhibition hall this year were new and emerging solutions, tackling future changes in technology and customer behaviour.

 The message from this was clear, the basics had been done…and the focus was on newer channels (mobile and social), better returns in existing channels through measurement and analysis (attribution, customer life time value), better targeting (remarketing, customer segmentation) and personalization. These were reflected the key themes and talks of the conference also; with an overwhelming, and I believe well justified, emphasis on mobile.

Paul Marshall 

Connecting the dots between the instore and online experience to meet the demands of the anytime/anywhere shopper is forcing CEOs to rethink how internal teams are aligned. 

This post explores how MBOs, bigboxes, boutiques, and monobrands are shaping their organizations to foster a “shared digital sensibility through the organization.”

It’s pretty easy to spout adages such as “omnichannel customer” and “cross-channel coordination”, but as any retailer knows, the much harder part is figuring out how the retail organization should be set up to make good on those mantras.

Read more at Shop.org

Beyond the brass tacks of hiring programmers and e-commerce specialists (and probably, social media marketers), I think there’s a real opportunity here for consultants and specialists to swoop in, and from a 30K ft level, help retailers operationalize the integration of digital and physical — from a shopper and enterprise perspective. 

Once those pieces are in place, such an objective outside vendor can also align with the retailer’s agencies to help craft the kind of breakthrough communications many creatives back away from, in fear that the online message will be unfulfilled by a dumfounded salesclerk or an in-store message will fall flat thanks to an unempowered customer service rep on the end of a phone or a Twitter handle. 

Expand

Alibaba Group, China’s biggest e-tailing company that manages Taobao, Tmall and Alibaba, compiled a nice infograhic summarizing the online shopping scene in China. Some key takeaways:

  • In 2013, the total online sales in China is expected to reach $265 billion, exceeding all other countries including the US for the first time.
  • China has 242 million online shoppers, 75 million more than in the US.
  • China’s online shoppers only account for about 40% of its entire population.
  • China’s online shoppers are more likely to buy clothing and accessories online, rather than home and personal electronics.
Local online store Superbalist has a new owner: eCommerce giant Takealot

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The homepage of Superbalist.com (Image source: Superbalist) 

The South African online shopping market might not be as massive as many of its international counterparts yet, but that doesn’t mean companies aren’t investing in it. 

TechCentral reports that etailer Superbalist (formerly Citymob) has been acquired by one of the country’s top eCommerce sites, Takealot. 

According to Takealot, the acquisition of Superbalist will help it target “millennials” – young people who reached adulthood around the turn of the century.

“The millennial generation is deemed to be the most powerful and relevant market on the planet and we have managed to acquire a business run by millennials, focused on millennials,” [Takealot CEO Kim] Reid said in a statement on Thursday. “They have a great team and we are going to have fun building the business together.”

Takelot now owns 100% of Superbalist, but the site will still be run independently. 

Loyalty Means Something Different Now

Great post today on PaidContent, What Publishers Can Learn From Online Retailers

Going beyond enhanced product descriptions, editorial content, and shoppertainment, I love the points made by CrowdTwist’s CEO:

Loyalty Means Something Different Now. “The traditional way of looking at loyalty doesn’t match the ways people engage with brands anymore,” said Irving Fain, CEO of brand engagement software company CrowdTwist. “People may engage for days, weeks or months before a purchase is made. Now all the interaction that people have with content is a transaction that has value—watching a video and seeing a product in action, or sharing a link.”

Rings true with the things I’ve been pondering lately regarding the end of impulse buying and rise of CRM. 

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