A range of technologies is driving the fashion industry’s growth. Companies that harness this tech effectively, stand to benefit
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The internet came into the public domain less than three decades ago. Its advent has changed lives drastically. One of the biggest disruptions has been the transition of goods and services markets from the physical to the virtual world. The fashion industry has greatly benefited from e-commerce opening up global markets and providing customers access, anytime-anywhere. Asia-Pacific is the fastest growing market and is bound to overtake Europe in sales volumes by mid-2020s. The Indian online fashion market occupies a small fraction of global sales. However, like its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, the Indian online retail industry is growing at an astonishing pace and will emerge as one of the biggest markets in the years ahead. The online apparel market in India is expected to be $9931 million in 2019, and the country is presently ranked #8 in the world. The access to affordable internet has helped the industry penetrate rural and semi-urban markets including tier II, III, IV cities. Smartphone proliferation has made geographical distances irrelevant by bringing Indians all over the country together.
While core technology development has benefited the industry, other factors have also boosted the apparel market in India. Logistics infrastructure has greatly improved including the availability of multiple modes of cashless payments as well as cash-on-delivery. Cashback and discounts have made buying fashion online, very attractive. Sizes, colours, and other options are humongous and buyer-friendly returns/replacement policies also boost buyer confidence. The ability to preview the product in various colours and fits builds added appeal.
Before the smartphone invasion, access to social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube was low and restricted to those owning personal computers or those visiting cyber cafes. Today, FB and “Insta” are major platforms for people who not only wish to connect socially but also those who wish to shop. The number of FB users crossed 300 million in January 2019, making India the number one country in the world in terms of FB users. With 75 million active Instagram users in January 2019, India is now placed second in the world (behind the United States of America). The two platforms have greatly influenced online apparel sales in India. Both seamlessly allow photo-sharing as well.
Both Facebook and Instagram keep tweaking their algorithm, on which they are based. The emphasis is on promoting content contributed by niche users who share interesting and interactive content. Such users – known as ‘Micro-Influencers’ – have a niche or dedicated social media following. When it comes to day-to-day wear, a significant portion of the consumer audience takes cues from what their online ‘friends’ and influencers wear. A cool slogan on a t-shirt or the stylishness of a hoodie worn by a ‘micro-influencer’ plays a big role in making friends and followers buy the same or similar designs. Hence, micro-influencers successfully drive a lot of ‘conversion-ready’ traffic to online fashion websites and apps. These influencers may also offer ‘discount coupons’ or ‘personal codes’ which help their followers get exclusive deals.
Online fashion retailers, especially those offering high-quality, trendy apparel that has mass appeal – to leverage technology and social media. The future is definitely online, and it promises massive opportunities!