After an unprecedented 2020, fashion retail’s shift online has accelerated in 2021. We don’t think the trend is going anywhere, and here’s why.
The impact of Covid-19
The Covid pandemic has resulted in the closure of non-essential high street stores, an unprecedented step that has had a yet unknown impact. As well as the lost sales, it remains unclear whether many of these stores will ever re-open, with many iconic brands shutting their doors for good.
At the same time, consumer behaviour is rapidly changing. The demand has not gone away, but those who looked forward to a weekend shopping spree are now spending the time scrolling on their phones. After months of buying online, whether the shoppers will flock to the shops once they open remains to be seen.
An e-commerce boom
As with any crisis, there have been winners and losers. In the last year, it has become clear that stores must embrace their transition to e-commerce if they are looking to survive the pandemic. To do so, they must be agile and give their online presence the strategic importance it deserves.
Retailers that have done their homework - developing a robust presence, optimising store listings and offering and taking the steps to provide an enhanced customer experience - are in a good place, riding the wave of change. Unfortunately, many others have fallen by the wayside.
The falling giants
The recent news about the sale of Debenhams and Topshop shook everyone in retail. Both brands had a prime brick-and-mortars position but didn't show the same commitment to their online presence. Their buyers, Boohoo and Asos, have grand plans for their newly acquired brands, but physical stores aren’t part of them.
Boohoo is planning to launch Debenhams as the UK’s largest online marketplace in the beauty, fashion and homeware categories. It’s a clever move: marketplace selling is a trend on the rise, with a shift in attitude towards marketplace purchases that a trusted brand can only accelerate. It’s also a way to connect with an older audience that would not otherwise engage with the Boohoo brand.
Asos has already announced that it will shut all stores, including Topshop’s famous Oxford Street flagship store in London, a go-to shopping destination that embodied the spirit of the brand and is now an emblem of a by-gone era. Asos, with its e-commerce and logistics expertise, will no doubt give the Topshop brand a new lease of life, making it more accessible to fashion lovers of all ages in all areas.
The future of retail
Demand for physical stores may well increase when we have some freedom again. At the same time, there is no question that some aspects of the way we shop will change for good. But just how the world of shopping is going to look like in a few years is still unclear.
Physical stores will no longer be the focal point of our high streets. However, as it has become abundantly clear in the last year, we all crave the presence of other human beings. Our town centres are primed to be the places where people choose to mingle in real life, but much will depend on the strategic vision for them.
With the increase in demand, e-commerce is likely to continue its rise, so competition online will also get tougher. Online stores that aren’t up to scratch and optimised for visibility may lose this fight. Customers will find what they are looking for elsewhere.
What you can do to protect yourself
Nothing stays the same forever. It’s easy to get comfortable if your listings are selling but being able to adapt and change strategy could be the difference between a store remaining open or going bust. The fate of Debenhams and Topshop are warning tales for other retailers.
To strengthen your business and future-proof it, make sure the basics are in place. Review the contents of your site: can you improve the descriptions of the items you sell? Is there scope to optimise the titles for search? Do you provide enough images, and are they good enough?
Understand the importance of being findable online. If you are in a marketplace, optimise your presence beyond the minimal requirements of the platform. On eBay, this means going beyond the Required Item Specifics. The fact is that more and more customers filter their search results using a growing number of values, and if your listing doesn’t specify them, you’re out.
The more you invest in building sound foundations, the better the returns. There really is no excuse but to have your store on top form. If you need a hand, Optiseller tools can help you identify the gaps in your listings and showcase your store in the best possible light.
Are you an eBay seller? Find out how Aspect Finder+ can help you with your Item Specifics. The tool is FREE until 30th June 2021, courtesy of eBay.