The US fashion e-commerce industry has maintained a steep growth curve over the last four years. In 2013, apparel and accessories sales accounted for 17 percent of the total retail e-commerce sales in the US, and by 2016, it is predicted to become a 73 billion dollar market. The total revenues from the US fashion e-tail sector are expected to reach 86 billion dollars in 2018.
If you want to secure a lion’s share of the pie in this fast-growing industry, you cannot neglect your online audience. No wonder, from industry bigwigs to small luxury brands, all types of virtual fashion houses are striving to optimize their stores for new generation consumers, who are social media savvy, and essentially look into various online channels for inspiration.
The ‘optimum’ formula
Website optimization is all about enhancing your visibility among your target audience. As far as fashion sites are concerned, the task becomes doubly challenging for marketers, as they need to have an eye for fashion and a deep knowledge of digital marketing trends to be able to push products in markets that seem to get altered every six months.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM) are the two pillars of any fashion website optimization strategy. However, before delving deeper into the subject of fashion site optimization, it is important to keep the following aspects of this niche industry in mind:
• Fashion industry is seasonal
• Creating real-life experience is the key
• Trends change here regularly
• Fashion is in the eye of the beholder
As ironical as it may sound, 19th century author and poet Oscar Wilde’s famous statement – Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months – holds true even to this day, which is why fashion store optimization becomes an overwhelming task for SEO companies. It takes time for websites to achieve organic ranking on the search engine results (SERP) page. Sometimes, it may even take six months to feature in the SERP page. The reason: Fashion trends are extremely short-lived, and are guided by the seasonal needs, while SEO companies are expected to get your website rank on the SERP page in less than three months time. To be able to rank on the first page of leading search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing – by winter this year, when people will actually start searching for such keywords, companies have to start their SEO works at least three months in advance.
Given the unique nature of the industry, fashion SEO typically involves the following strategies for any given apparel category:
• In depth analysis of trend data to be months ahead of the industry with their optimization activities
• A lot of brainstorming to zero in on the right keywords, with an ability to predict the coming season’s top silhouettes, colors and product types
• Target keywords that are season-specific such as ‘Fall-winter fashion’, ‘Milan Fashion Week 2015’ and so on.
• Reference to fashion color report provided by Panton, the expert in color standardization
Bring In Real Life Experience
Online shopping is different from buying things in a brick and mortar store. In a real store, we can see and feel fabrics for their color and texture, or try clothes to check their fit. Fashion e-shops need to simulate these effects to present your product as realistically as you can. Recommend combinations to create a personalized look. For instance, if you are dealing with shades and glares you can use the virtual try-on facility, offered by some stores specializing in eye wear. The embedded software allows you to create a short video of your face, and then see how your chosen frame looks on you.
Optimize With Social Media
Reaching out to customers on social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can lead to massive increases in brand loyalty as well as in sales. Take a leaf out of fashion stalwarts including Burberry, Zara and Victoria’s Secret, who are capitalizing on the 400 million Facebook users and more than 22 million Twitter users to create ripples in the cyber world.
Below are a few inspiring strategies that top social media marketing companies are employing to enhance the viability of fashion brands:
Tailor your message for different demographics: Luxury handbag brand Michael Kors’ Instagram page boasts a combination of luxe product and lifestyle shots, while its Pinterest albums include topics like ‘style icons,’ ‘Michael’s style tips,’ and ‘history of American style’.
Provide an interactive experience: Burberry, the luxury couture brand makes it a point to unveil their collection on Twitter and Instagram before hitting the runway.
Tell an inspiring story about your brand: Christian Dior tried this by creating a ‘Secret Garden – Versatille’ storyline, painting a luxurious picture of its new collection.
Use stunning visuals:
Zara that boasts 9,000 fans across their social channels, places great emphasis on sharing rich images of their latest collections, especially on Pinterest.Provide real time customer service: Jeans and casual wear bigwig, Levi Strauss has really mastered the art of providing customer service in real-time.
“The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good, on you!” This statement by holds particularly true of fashion e-commerce website optimization. An impeccable fashion sense is not about following the trends blindly, but about taking cues from them, and tweaking them according to your looks and comfort to make a unique style statement. When you are optimizing a fashion e-commerce store, make sure you offer uniquely personalized fashion solutions. Remember, there is no one-size-fit-all dress in this world!
Sara is writes about the new e-commerce trends and strategies. She studies the marketing trends for various industry verticals.