How can premium fashion retailers stay ahead of Amazon

Online retailer Amazon has long been a favourite amongst consumers, and as its latest earnings indicate, there are no signs of the mega retailer’s popularity dwindling. Renowned for delivering consistent customer service, it’s the customer-centric approach that has been the driving force behind its establishing such a loyal following. With this has come impressive revenue growth and the chance to take on new sectors. 

Whilst expansion into the grocery market may have initially been considered a risk, it’s now posing a huge threat to the big four supermarkets in the UK. The recent launch of Amazon Fresh, offering same-day grocery delivery to Amazon Prime customers in specific London-based postcodes is causing waves throughout the sector. Not only does it add another discipline to Amazon’s portfolio, but it also proves yet again that the brand understands what its customers want.

The Amazon Fashion offering may not have reached such heights yet, but surely it is only a matter of time before it does, with ambitious growth targets in place. With recent ONS figures showing that the clothing retail sector continues to underperform, there is a window of opportunity for Amazon to establish itself in the fashion world. The e-commerce retailer is already refining the direction of Amazon Fashion by introducing new private label fashion brands complemented by ‘Style Code Live’, a new fashion and beauty TV show. Added to this is the certainty that Amazon will offer customers something that fashion retailers have not yet thought of – whether it’s more convenient delivery or a way to make their experience more personal to them – both of which should provide a warning to other brands.

For premium fashion retailers from Burberry to Ted Baker, it has never been more important to review what they are offering their customers and how they can do more to drive devotion to their brand. Amazon’s customer-centric approach has delivered impressive results, so what can other fashion retailers learn from them in order to prevent them from losing revenue to the ever-dominant online giant?

Syncing the in-store experience with the online world

Consumers are increasingly looking for a superior shopping experience – and never more so than from premium fashion retailers. Brands that can deliver a high-quality, personalised experience to the customer, whether they are online or in-store, will drive greater loyalty from that individual and encourage them back again. It comes down to consistency and harnessing customer data to communicate with them in a way that makes them feel recognised and valued when they walk into a store or log onto the website. Greeting them by name, re-calling the specific sizes or colours of items purchased previously and remembering payment and delivery preferences are all part of this – and is what the Amazon brand has been built upon. Consumers now trust the brand to recognise them making their shopping experience more simple and seamless, which naturally encourages them to make repeat purchases and become loyal advocates.

Building a meaningful, personalised relationship

Integrating a virtual shop assistant and providing styling tips to match items being browsed online can help to add value to the customer’s shopping experience and replicate the in-store environment. Amazon sends regular recommendations to customers based on their previous shopping behaviour and this is something that clothing retailers can easily replicate. In capturing a customer’s purchase data, retailers are able to make personalised suggestions for new season items they might like based on their previous shopping behaviour in addition to indicating which stores local to them stock the items in their size. This relevant communication is not only likely to encourage the customer to engage but also reassure them that the retailer is using their data in the right way to build a meaningful relationship. 

Prioritising VIPs in store

More consumers are opting for premium services that give them access to brand privileges, whether this is next-day delivery or the ability to pre-order new products before everyone else, in the case of Amazon Prime. This premium experience translates well to the luxury fashion sector where the broader experience is as important as the product being purchased and offers a way for brands to truly differentiate themselves. Understanding what types of premium services and experiences fit with the brand, but more importantly resonate with the individual customer is crucial. Implementing priority tills, VIP changing rooms and inviting them to preview evenings are all options to consider. Rewarding regular customers with tickets to events, whether this is a special cinema screening or even a day of F1 racing for premium luxury brands will surprise and delight individuals, creating an emotional connection to the brand, which drives loyalty.

The fashion business has always been a competitive sector; finding ways to drive customer loyalty and advocacy requires more innovation than ever before. Amazon has proved how valuable a customer-centric approach is – no matter what sector it is operating in – which fashion retailers should take note of. Brands must get closer to their customers and be prepared to adopt riskier, but more dynamic strategies that make customers feel valued every time they interact with them. The threat of Amazon is getting increasingly real; it’s never been more important for retailers to put their customers back at the heart of their strategies.

By Jason De Winne, general manager UK, ICLP

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