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Fashion ecommerce remains one of the most lucrative markets

Digital Native vs Bricks and Mortar: Successful Fashion Ecommerce Sites

In order to glean an idea of where this success is coming from, we take a look at two successful businesses, with differing USPs and business models.
7 min read

Fashion ecommerce is one of the toughest markets to break into due to fierce competition in what is now a highly saturated market.

It remains, however, one of the most lucrative markets and new fashion websites continue to spring up and reap the rewards.

In order to glean an idea of where this success is coming from, we’ll take a look at two of the most established and successful fashion ecommerce businesses with differing USPs and business models: Marks and Spencer and ASOS.

Drawing inspiration from these two companies, we’ll also make a few suggestions that could help you when moving your own fashion business online.

ASOS — making the most of mobile

With a business model centred on producing heavily discounted clothing in the style of the latest fashion, ASOS is a digital native. Currently it has a market value of £5.8bn and sales continue to rise exponentially.


Global ecommerce and investments in digital trends such as mobile platforming are largely to thank for the rise in ASOS’s success.

ASOS said it now counts some 9.7 million customers across the UK, US, Australia and European markets, up 11% year-on-year. Their websites attracted 98 million visits during June 2015, compared to 71 million in June 2014.

And that mobile platform investment is paying dividends, according to CFO Nick Beighton:

Customers using mobile, particularly smartphones, who engage with our proposition continued the pace. We are now at nearly 60% of the overall direct sales represented by mobile.

M&S — making the most of click & collect

Where businesses like ASOS rose as the digital revolution unfolded, bricks-and-mortar powerhouse M&S struggled to keep up.

In contrast to digital native sites, M& has come under scrutiny for issues ranging from failure to capture new markets through digital media to usability issues hindering customers from making purchases.

However, in the past 12 months, following teething problems after leaving their Amazon platform, M&S has begun to see successes from its new online site. In July 2015 its online sales were reported to have grown by more than a third compared to the same quarter in 2014.

In addition to sales increases, traffic, conversion and customer satisfaction have all grown. The decision to extend free click and collect to more than 100 of its Simply Food outlets is a fundamental part of this success. David Walmsley, director of M&, claims that:

Store collection is incredibly popular, with over half of orders picked up from our stores.

This service is proving popular as it is not only free, it allows customers the freedom to collect their order at a time that suits them without having to take time off work to wait for an order — which happened previously.


Alongside its click and collect services, M&S has invested heavily in social media marketing, website design and promotions. Although it was initially slower to react than some other fashion retailers, the digital future looks bright for M&S.

As it remains the only large food grocer not to offer an ecommerce service, expansion into this market could further increase its profits.

What to remember when going online

Whether you’re a straight-to-internet retailer like ASOS, or a long-established bricks-and-mortar business trying to break into ecommerce, there are several things that will make a big difference when you are migrating your fashion business online.

Make your graphics great

Style is extremely important for fashion ecommerce. Investing in a good graphics team will pay dividends.

Use pop-up windows

Pop-up windows offering discounts are a great way to capture customers’ email addresses — and this allows you to retarget customers with promotional material such as newsletters that feature relevant content. Here’s a great example from Urban Outfitters:


Be inspired by others

‘Aspirational inspiration’ — take inspiration from the brands that inspire you. If you think it’s a great idea for ASOS to offer a 20% off one-day-only blanket sale, then replicate the idea in your own store.

Remember that social media is key

Research conducted by TK Maxx shows that social media is a crucial channel in the fashion world:

  • 37% of Brits said that seeing what others wear on social media inspires them to try something new;
  • 29% credit social media with helping them to decide what to buy and how to wear it;
  • 18% said they always ensured they looked stylish for social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter;
  • 28% admitted that they buy new clothes just to avoid being multi-tagged in the same outfit.

There’s more to be seen

Remember, the market may seem competitive, but demand is still growing. A recent survey from the Office for National Statistics showed that ecommerce sales grew by 20.6% in 2014 and trends suggest that this growth will continue.

Although it may seem as if we have seen it all from the fashion industry, there is still more to be seen.

Although it takes time and financial resources to get to the level of the major retailers, having a clear, functional site with updated images to best represent your brand is a great start to get customers and keep them coming back.

And remember: although clothes are seasonal, style never goes out of fashion.

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