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For the retail industry, the past few years haven’t been plain sailing. As the mobile first market thrives, a string of closures has hit some well-known high-street names and ecommerce has reigned victorious. The convenience of online shopping has secured sky rocketing figures in sales, and a trip to the shops is becoming a far less common habit. The fashion industry has done notably well online, with interactive social media making it a more engaging way to fill your wardrobe up with new styles.

With the help of designer denim suppliers Trilogy Stores, we’ll weigh up the current trends and decide how the industry will fare in an ever-digitising market. We will look at the dominance of the digital retail market and assess how physical retail is competing to keep up.

Splashing the cash

In 2018, online sales accounted for an astounding one in five pounds spent in Britain; a sharp contrast to the one pound in ten which was cashed in by ecommerce sales in 2013. This boom is not expected to slow down anytime soon, and in 2018, e-commerce sales made up 11.9% of all retail sales worldwide, and this is expected to reach 17.5% in 2021. The shift in consumer buying trends has been remarkable, as Generation X and Z take to the online checkout far more than those who came before them. The accessibility of online shopping is a further selling point to customers, as often, people unwind after work when the high street is closed, and order from a laptop or smartphone.

It seems that money is an underpinning factor for the recent surge in popularity of e-retailers, as the costs associated with opening an online store are considerably less than investing in a physical store. Many independent store owners have closed because of soaring rental rates, deeming their business as unsustainable. The store setting has been captured by most retailers, as they offer features such as size guides and FAQ’s, as well as rapid delivery for competitive rates. The old ‘try before you buy’ is on the way out, as shoppers favor a free returns label. Despite this, it isn’t all plain sailing for online shopping. Sustainability campaigns have targeted sites that offer such services, for their role in fueling fast fashion and ‘throwaway culture’, which retailers are being challenged to acknowledge.

The digital takeover continues

Many retail businesses have rethought the way they operate, in order to keep up with the growing digital market. In 2018, Marks and Spencer’s appointed their first chief digital and data officer to focus on maximising brand appeal to the digital audience. Retailers are interpreting digital in a way that suits their brands, weaving it into strategies to secure a digital presence, or even through using technology in stores enabling customers to order a product while in the store. It is fundamental for businesses who are not yet online to consider creating a digital territory, but this applies to the opposite scenario too as some previously online only stores are now opening physical stores, such as Bonobos and Dollar Shave Club. Bricks and mortar retail may not be expiring, as customer experiences remain one of the strongest aspects in branding. The hands-on nature of shopping is also a factor to consider, for example can you really find the perfect fitting pair of straight legged jeans by just looking on a website? While some shoppers welcome the modern way, others still find that the specificity of buying such items requires a trip to the high street to make the best purchase.

An avenue for securing success in today’s climate could therefore be to cover both offline and digital bases, maintaining both kinds of shopping experience for a wide range of customers. As demonstrated by Trilogy, having an established digital presence as well as a store for customers to experience products proves valuable in today’s market. Consumers demands have changed, but they are more diverse than ever before, and a lot of boxes must be ticked to meet modern shopping preferences.

Stay social

Fashion is more accessible than ever, and customers could order an entire new wardrobe in a matter of minutes from their smart phones. Back in 2018, Instagram announced the introduction of shopping features that would enable in-app purchases from featured businesses and influencers. Most major retailers have a presence on Instagram, using its visual nature to show products and partnerships with influencers have become a way of humanising their brand. New fashions feel more familiar than ever, with the days of catwalk show exclusivity becoming a thing of the past, as Instagram hosts a showcase of all elements from high end to high street. Instagram is also essential as a millennial marketing tool, as surveys found that over 70% of the 800 million active accounts were owned by those under 35 in 2018.

Retail has secured a presence on social media with the emergence of influencer partnerships, but even this has faced a few challenges. The dilemma for influencers on how to label their content, specifically the garments they feature in their posts, has caused some to come under fire. Affiliate marketing has therefore become a popular term used, to identify gifted and purchased items, or to ensure transparency on all influencer partnerships. It does however remain a strong form of advertisement, providing a digital shop window of some sorts.

Shopping: the modern way

The idea of the declining high street has plagued many UK shopping destinations, as ecommerce provides a new, convenient experience for customers. Some major retailers rely on personalised, quick responses to customers on sites such as Twitter. This in turn boosts brand perception, as a staggering 71% of customers who experience good social media service are said to recommend the brand in question to others, plus a further 90% of customers have already used social media to communicate with a business. This service takes a lot of the effort out of communicating with a brand, as they are instantly reachable and able to provide answers to personal queries.

Customer service has proven difficult for digital platforms to replicate, as automated services lack the sense of engagement which is captured by real-life store assistants. Customers appreciate feeling valued by brands, so 2019 continues to demand helpful, personal service which is not like the old days of being placed on hold. Studies showed that over 76% of people felt more likely to make a purchase from a brand that they’d felt connected to on social media than a competitor, which embodies the level of value which can be achieved by enhancing brand communication. 

It’s not all bad though, the digital platform has certainly brought prosperity to retail, providing an influx of new ways to appeal and interact with customers. Conservation for our age-old tradition of the high street is rising on the agendas of shoppers, which could spell a change in the tide for the retail industry in 2019.