The Future of Apparel Shopping

Online apparel shopping seems to be having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. According to eMarketer, 2013 online apparel sales were $44.7 billion, accounting for 17.6% of all U.S. ecommerce sales. Even better, consumer confidence for apparel etailers has never been higher, and it’s easy to see why. Everyone from Nordstrom to Levis has a sleek online store, packed with exclusive deals and loyalty rewards, backed up by efficient shipping and generous return policies.

But while the big guys are setting the trend, it’s easier than ever for start-up brands and smaller retailers to offer a comparable shopping experience, especially when partnering with a third party logistics company to handle shipping and returns.

Modern tools and knowledge at your fingertips.

Newcomers to the world of ecommerce have never had it easier; there are a plethora of tools out there to make the process simple for both buyer and seller, and plenty of market data to inform sales tactics and best practices.

Paypal, Google Checkout, and other apps provide a seamless checkout process, and give skittish shoppers peace of mind when it comes time to whip out the credit card. Furthermore, there’s a wealth of data out there regarding how online shoppers make decisions, and understanding this process can make a tremendous difference in the rate of conversion from browsing to buying.

It should come as no surprise that the attention span of the average online shopper is low. In analyzing consumer behavior across 11 million online transactions (representing $1.2 billion in sales) market research site HookLogic determined that apparel shoppers generally follow a short decision cycle when purchasing online. They decide they want something a few weeks before purchasing, but once they start shopping, the purchase is made within a few days.

By understanding this purchase cycle, you can designate protocols to retarget customers that browse the site without purchasing. Shopping cart abandonment — the process of flagging customers who fill a cart, then click away to another site — is down to a science. Retargeting one of these customers with a reminder or discount within a few hours can reinvigorate their purchase power, and turn a lead into a sale before they buy from a competitor.

Logistic partnerships streamline the heavy lifting.

A solid online shopping experience is crucial, but customer loyalties are fickle, and powerhouses such as Amazon have set high standards for shipping times and order accuracy. Perhaps the most powerful resource available to online apparel retailers is the help of an established third party logistics partner. This eliminates the need to store any product in-house, meaning online apparel shops can be run from a small office, or even an apartment!

A reliable logistics partner changes the game for importers/exporters as well. For example, if you’re looking to launch a website selling authentic French sailors’ sweaters, you need a better solution than requesting product directly from France every time an order is placed in the US. But if you order a variety of sizes and keep them stocked at a warehouse in the States, you can be ready to fulfill orders with a fraction of the shipping time. Your website’s checkout portal can simply send the order details to your logistics partner, who can pick it, pack it, and ship it straight from their shelves.

Obviously, the viability of these partnerships comes down to choosing the right 3PL to handle the orders. As we said above, consumer standards for shipping times and order accuracy are at an all time high, so your customer retention and market share rely heavily on your choice of logistics partners.  Westset Logistics handles apparel in their La Mirada, CA warehouse, and utilizes state-of-the-art design and technology to ensure accuracy and expediency of orders. Their Southern California location puts them adjacent to the major ports in Los Angeles, putting them in the perfect position to handle domestic, import and export orders of any shape and size.

With the right site design and partnerships, selling apparel online has never been easier. These days, customer satisfaction seems to rest on the shopping experience just as much as the physical product, so make sure your site design and logistics chain are all poised to provide a reliable flow comparable to any “big box” online retailer.