INTEGRATING THE ONLINE AND OFFLINE WORLD – SOCIAL COMMERCE MORE AND MORE IMPORTANT FOR THE FASHION INDUSTRY
While many retailers in Western countries are still finding it difficult to cope with the aftermath of the pandemic, China and other Asian markets are in the forefront of the industry's next digital revolution.
Social commerce has seen a huge boom in the last year or two as consumer demand for online experiences has grown significantly in times of store closures. Retailers in the APAC region have taken advantage of this development and have started to cross the boundary between the physical and digital worlds to increase their sales. Studies have shown that almost 40% of retail executives believe that online channels will play a crucial role in the customer experience in the future. More than 60% of those surveyed intend to further expand the connection between offline and online, which also indicates that social commerce will soon be part of everyday life.
Social commerce – the next mega trend?
Live streaming is one of the most important examples of so-called shoppertainment. Here, retailers (often together with an influencer) host a video in real time to engage with their clients and present their latest products. The trend already started in 2016, and three years later, Chinese livestream revenues reached over 60 billion US dollars, with forecasts for the future already four times that amount. Social commerce has been gaining so much popularity in recent years that other international markets are rapidly following the trend. For example, Shopify has explored artificial intelligence (AI) technology to support digital fitting rooms that help consumers visualise how items would look on them. One study found that conversion rates for items supporting 3D models in augmented reality (AR) increased by 250%. Ralph Lauren and Snap Inc. have collaborated on the development of branded clothing for virtual avatars, introducing another innovative digital solution to increase sources of revenue in the fashion industry.
Social Commerce – The Future of Shopping?
The innovative concept of social commerce works so well precisely because it has a temporary character. Influencers with millions of followers present a multitude of offers that need to be accepted almost immediately, leading people to purchase out of fear of missing out. The trend certainly benefits larger suppliers working with major influencers, but also offers a new approach for smaller, emerging businesses.
Is Europe ready for shoppertainment?
A study commissioned by AliExpress showed that while "shoppertainment" is still developing in Europe, customers are "open to new trends and technologies that can enrich their shopping experience". The survey, which involved nearly 15,000 people in France, Poland, Spain and the UK, shows that 70% of the respondents expressed interest in social commerce. In this context, almost half of the respondents said that they had consumed more virtual shopping experiences during the pandemic. "There are good opportunities for sellers and retailers who manage to strategically use this trend," explains Vita Chang, Head of Content Operations Ecosystem at AliExpress. "When looking at opportunities for the European market, it is essential to consider the differences between countries in order to develop the right promotional messages for the different consumer groups in each country." A key point because UK shoppers, for example, tend to prefer entertaining content suitable for mobile screens, while consumers in France rather go for content recommended by influencers. Shopify – a sales platform with a high market share – is also trying to bring shoppertainment to the western market. Various news services, including live streaming, were announced, as well as a partnership with TikTok to broadcast and expand the trend from the APAC region to other countries.
Live Shopping – an opportunity for fashion retailers?
Leading European fashion suppliers such as Engelhorn, Gerry Weber, About You, or bonprix have already been offering their collections in the setting of live shopping events for some time. Compared to traditional online shopping, this concept offers the opportunity to see the looks on real people, to be inspired by different combinations and to ask questions about quality or delivery options in a live chat. In addition, the influencers appear "normal" and likeable and do not conform to the size zero model stereotype. Many shoppers can identify well with curvy or plus-size models, which increases their willingness to buy.
In view of the initiatives that companies from the Asian region have undertaken to open up the European market and with regard to the activities of European fashion suppliers in this area, it seems obvious that social commerce in the fashion retail sector is becoming an integral part of the near future.
Sources: K3, Engelhorn, Gerry Weber, About You, bonprix