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The Need for Omnichannel Integration in Apparel Retail

The apparel sector might be a fast-growing e-commerce category, but brick-and-mortar stores play a vital role as well. Apparel shoppers make the optimum use of the integration of the online-offline stores as it offers the maximum convenience to them. As retailers look to achieve customer loyalty, they should know providing an omnichannel experience to customers today is of utmost importance. On one hand, there are millennials who are quite fond of the online medium. The Gen-Z shoppers on the other hand, have their justified preference for physical stores. There is also the popular tendency of showrooming prevalent among customers. Therefore, the integration of online and offline stores is very important.

When it comes to apparel retail, both online and offline have an even role to play. The following segments will validate this fact.

Customers who eat, breathe, and sleep ‘Online’

There is a major set of customers who have grown up in the age of the Internet. These customers are popularly known as the ‘millennials’. They appear to be quite content with the immediate convenience of online shopping. They may consider a trip to the physical store occasionally but, certainly won’t make a fuss about enjoying a one of a kind in-store experience.

A lot of shoppers in the US, prefer online shopping of apparels and accessories. In the third quarter of 2016, the average apparel cart size was US $95.21 (Criteo). The average unit price was US $31.25. The other striking thing is that a lot of these e-commerce transactions happened via smartphones. The smartphone is very popular among customers today. The average item price of apparels in Q3 of 2016 were slightly higher than that of desktops. The following illustration by Criteo, depicts all the above.

apparel purchasing data

(image credit: Criteo)

And then the Gen-Z customers…

The Gen-Z consumers have a tremendous economic power and they are not shy of personal spending. Moreover, they have a huge influence on household purchases as well. The same can be said in the case of apparel purchasing. 55% of Gen Z customers in the US spend their own money on clothes and 60% say that they influence household apparel purchasing. (Uniquely Generation Z, The NRF, IBM).

The Gen Z customers have almost been subject to digital media and smartphones too much from when they were born. For this reason, they tend to value in-store experience. They quite enjoy shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. They might spend a long time online, but certainly don’t shy away from shopping at physical stores either. According to the IBM Customer Experience Index Study – 2017, despite of 74% of Gen Z customers spending free time online, 98% still shop in-store. The following illustration by Criteo further explains the Gen Z’s love for physical stores.

gen z purchase

(image credit: Criteo)

Omnichannel Retail: The Best of Both Worlds & the Result of the Integration

Retailers find it very difficult to establish customer loyalty on a particular medium. As we now know, customers have their own reasons for preferring a particular medium over the other. Some buy the convenience and nonchalance that online shopping has to offer. Others fall prey to neatly devised merchandising strategies or enhanced in-store experience provided by physical stores. Also, there are plenty who spend a lot of time in a physical store just to make the purchase online, and vice-versa. For this reason, retailers should look to integrate online and offline to provide the best of both worlds to the customers.

The importance of omnichannel experience can only be elucidated by the increase in the modern-day delivery techniques such as, ‘Click and Collect’ and ‘Click and Ship’, etc. Click and collect has been a part of retail for quite some time now. A lot of the customers who visit the store to pick up their online ordered items tend to give in to impulse purchases in-store. The Click and Collect facility is quite a popular one among customers for a lot of reasons. The following illustration depicts a few of them.

in-store pickup

For this reason, more and more retailers should look to enable this particular facility. Retailers are coming to terms with the fact that a lot of customers exhibit showrooming tendencies, where they check out items in-store and buy them online. More retailers are now offering ‘click and ship facilities’. The point is, that these facilities are only possible because of the integration between online and offline.

Omnichannel integration in apparel retail is all set to skyrocket in the years to come.

About Shakuntala Sarkar

Shakuntala is a marketer with 15 years of experience in Marketing Strategies & Operations, Brand Communications, Customer Relationship Management and Corporate Communications. An economics graduate from St Xavier’s college, Kolkata and a IIMC she, has worked across different industries like IT & Retail, with consumer marketing in both B2B and B2C segments. Before joining Tickto, she was the Head of Customer Relationship Management at Spencer’s Retail. Prior to that, she has been a part of the Global Marketing & Communications team of Satyam Computer Services.

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