Fashion Retailers Focus on Flexible Services

Fashion retailers

Fashion retailers focus on flexible services to boost sales and drive long-term loyalty, research by parcelLab reveals

Fashion brands are pivoting to offer new, value-add delivery services and improved post-purchase experiences to enhance sales, encourage customer loyalty and protect margins, the latest data from parcelLab, the leading operations experience platform, reveals.

Original research of 150 of the UK’s leading retailers, including 79 fashion brands, in the ‘Operations Experience 2021: How Does UK Retail Measure Up?’ Report benchmarked performance across key operations experience metrics – including checkout, shipping and returns.  The report showed that rather than focusing on offering free fulfilment, with 8% fewer offering charge-free shipping compared to 2020, fashion brands are investing in new ways to evolve the delivery experience, building in new services around fulfilment and post-purchase engagement. 

28% of fashion retailers now offer delivery passes, up 6% since 2020 when just 22% of fashion merchants offered this format of fulfilment and compared to just 17% of other retail businesses.  With the rising costs of acquiring – and often reacquiring – customers online, this subscription-based model of delivery is a strategic step towards building loyalty into the fulfilment, rewarding fashion shoppers for loyalty and encouraging repeat custom.

At the same time, fashion retailers have also made moves to add convenience into the buying journey, with an explosion in the number offering flexible, alternative payment options via Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL).  Fashion was one of the early adopters of BNPL options, such as Klarna or Clear Pay, and now almost half of UK apparel brands (46%) offer this type of customer credit at the checkout, up 15% compared to the levels of adoption in 2020 and 5% higher than other retail businesses. 

And, once past the checkout, fashion businesses are also doing more to engage with shoppers beyond the buy button, improving post-purchase experiences; in 2020, just 1% of fashion retailers sent personalised communications to shoppers during shipping, rising to 4% in 2021. The number of apparel brands ‘ignoring’ the shopper after the checkout has also decreased by 6% year-on-year, but still remains high at 83%.  While improvements have been made, there is still much to be done to optimise the post-purchase buying journey and improve operations experience, as Tobias Buxhoidt, Founder and CEO of parcelLab, explained:

“Fashion has faced a double whammy over the course of the pandemic; lockdown not only took away the social occasions that drive demand, but it shuttered stores forcing what traditionally is an in-person buying journey to go 100% digital, putting extra pressure on ecommerce channels as the sole route to market.  This meant retailers had to re-evaluate how they could improve CX at each stage of the path to purchase.”

“Fashion is already seeing the green shoots of recovery, with like-for-like sales up 57% in March as consumers invested in post-lockdown outfits.  Those retailers who have doubled-down on investing in customer engagement initiatives that improve CX and drive post-conversion loyalty stand to bounce back fastest, fuelling their recovery beyond pent-up demand for the long haul,” he concluded.

For further information on how fashion retailers can optimise their operations experience – from checkout to delivery and returns – to create frictionless online buying journeys, download the full report: Operations Experience 2021: How Does UK Retail Measure Up.