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Web investment pays off for fashion retailers

Over the past few years it could be argued that clothing and fashion retailers have had a competitive edge when it comes to online sales, with the capabilities of modernised shopping sites helping consumers become more engaged with browsing and researching products.

Over the past few years it could be argued that clothing and fashion retailers have had a competitive edge when it comes to online sales, with the capabilities of modernised shopping sites helping consumers become more engaged with browsing and researching products.

We’ve seen great improvements since the traditional use of static images and basic text descriptions on retail sites. Refreshingly, advances in technology have enabled rich media tools such as video, zoom, 3D rotation and the capacity to personalise products to greatly enhance the consumer’s experience.

This is borne out by the fact that fashion retailers have maintained a higher than average conversion rate, despite a significant drop in online conversions among the rest of the etail market.

The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows that online conversion rates in the UK have fallen significantly in the past five years. However, fashion retailers’ conversion rates grew 0.5% between 2009 and 2010, and the rise has continued in the first half of 2011.

These findings prove that investing in innovative web design is a worthwhile and urgent necessity, although traditional best practice elements such as quality of product, brand and range are still very important.

But make no mistake, the growth in online conversion rates shouldn’t suggest that clothing retailers become complacent. It is still a competitive market, especially as more fashion sites appear and with increasing competition from overseas. Also, consumers tend to become more selective about where and with whom they will spend their money in the lead-up to Christmas.

To stay ahead of the game, the challenge for clothing and fashion retailers will be to retain existing customers and work out how to attract new ones.

David Smith is chief marketing and communications officer at etail trade body IMRG

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