If there’s one thing everyone has in common, it’s their clothes. No matter where you are in the world, you more than likely wear clothes, which is why the industry that produces them saw worldwide sales exceeding $ 1.9 trillion in 2019.
It’s safe to say that the market also offers more diversity of options than ever before, with tens of thousands of physical locations in the United States alone. And there are countless brands online that benefit without the overhead associated with a physical storefront. It has become easier for small businesses and freelance designers to launch their own products online.
But despite the ease and accessibility of shopping online, the in-store experience still trumps e-commerce, with people in the United States spending $ 268.7 billion in person in 2019 compared to $ 110.6 billion. dollars online, according to Statista.
It might come as a surprise amid the decline of malls and apocalyptic photography of abandoned malls with legends like Elizabeth Taylor reportedly shopped here. Sifting through clothing shelves might have seemed like a thing of the past, but entrepreneurs Elisa Yip of SSKEIN and Patricia Markevitch of Alicia Peru, two high-end fashion suppliers based in Bellevue, said customers still have a strong desire to discover the clothes in person. .
Markevitch co-owns Alicia Peru with his mother, Alicia Rodriguez, who started an iteration of the fashion label in the 1990s. After Rodriguez retired from modeling, she began importing alpaca wool and sell custom designs at trade shows, as well as consult with customers at home to design custom knitwear.
Rodriguez and Markevitch officially launched Alicia Peru as a knitwear brand in 2008 and spent several years selling wholesale fashion and household goods and at trade shows before opening a storefront on Bellevues Main Street in 2018. About 70% of what they sell is their own coats, capes, sweaters, cardigans, throws and scarves and 30% is other like-minded clothing and house brands.
Markevitch said the vast majority of their sales are generated through in-person purchases. Before COVID, she estimates that 1% of their sales were online, and now around 15%. Those numbers could be due to the fact that most of their customers are women in their 40s and older, she said, an age group more likely to buy clothes in person.
Markevich thus prefers. She said she liked having a personal connection with her customers and that there were personal calls to let them know about new merchandise.
So even though Markevitch doesn’t spend a lot of time cultivating an online audience through Instagram, a platform seen as key to fashion marketing, she still sees it as a business staple.
What I love about social media and the website is that it gives the client insight, said Markevitch. In 2014-15, we had to have a website. Now her social media. It is a discipline. (Instagram) is all about having a color scheme and offering all of these videos. Now you have to speak to the screen and talk about yourself, but ultimately its sales. It’s easier to do it in person.
Yip, on the other hand, launched its luxury knitwear brand online in June 2020 with a strong social media and online presence. The website has an almost experiential magazine feel to it. Fullscreen photos of beautiful women wearing SSKEIN jumpsuits, jumpsuits and sweaters dominate the site, but they don’t just pose against a background. Theyre the world wearing SSKEIN designs.
Yip also has a behind-the-scenes blogging page explaining why she uses the highly durable alpaca wool to create SSKEIN clothing. Yips’ experience as a fashion influencer and designer at Nordstrom will come as no surprise after clicking through the pages of her website. SSKEIN’s online presence feels like a hybrid of the personal influencer model that relies heavily on a balance between personal reality and organized beauty and an online store.
She said 90 percent of SSKEIN’s sales are online, which is supplemented by wholesaling to online and physical stores, and in-person salons.
Everything we do, from product design to marketing campaigns, we think of social media as one of our primary sources of communicating with our audience, Yip said. We create stories to take our audience into the world and the lifestyle of our brand, and that ranges from our products to photoshoots and video content. Social media not only allows us to share with our audience, but it also transparently helps us convert sales.
Jaeil Lee, professor and chair of the Apparel Design and Merchandising Department at the University of the Pacific in Seattle, agrees that having an online presence is now a crucial part of running a fashion business. The frequency of online shopping and who buys what can be somewhat generational, Lee said, but everyone is checking a computer. Everyone uses Amazon.
I never thought people were buying underwear or shoes online, she said. Do you know the Zappos company? When they started their business, a lot of people laughed at them. The shoes are complex. You want to try it out before you buy it, but they do just fine. Consumers are well educated and informed about what they can get online. If you have tried to buy shoes online, this website will ask you what your shoe size is and will compare to other brands so that they can offer you the perfect fit. It really is another era.
SPU’s fashion program was previously more focused on success with a physical store, but as part of the curriculum now, students need to create online marketplaces and social media platforms to support them.
Lee said online shopping versus in-store shopping is not mutually exclusive. Most fashion businesses and clothing stores are a mix of e-commerce and in-person, and so the whole experience should feel connected.
In some ways, customers expect more from the brands and companies they buy from. They expect a seamless and beautiful experience online and in person. When asked if SSKEIN would have been so successful if it had been exclusively online, Yip replied: No.
It wouldn’t, especially for a new brand, she said. We have to slowly build trust around the brand and the product with our customers.
Fashion is so tactile, Yip said. People need to touch it. I used to shop in stores more often because I love to touch and smell materials, she said of her own shopping before COVID. I love the experience of being excited about a product you can touch, an emotion you can only receive in person rather than online.
The three women seemed to agree that the in-person shopping experience is here to stay.
Nordstrom rolls out new in-store concept on the east coast
In their most recent in-depth report, Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Co. interviewed Nordstrom co-chair Pete Nordstrom about his latest omnichannel adaptation.
The 120-year-old department store opened its seven-story flagship store in Manhattan in 2019 and is deploying Nordstrom Local outlets across the city to support online pickups, returns, changes and personal style. Nordstrom tested this model in Los Angeles a few years earlier and found it helped improve the omnichannel experience.
Physical stores provide a better online experience rather than having to return items in the mail, Nordstrom said in the 2020 report, (and that) creates trips to a physical store, so you have the option to sell ( to customers) something else if they return or change it.
Nordstrom, well known for its customer experience, wanted to make it easier to visit a store in-store, but also wanted to create a more seamless connection between the digital and physical worlds of stores. And, eventually, people started spending more money.
It’s unclear whether this model will expand into the Pacific Northwest, but Nordstrom appears to be keeping an eye on its performance in New York City.
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