If anything, the virulent coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the potential of e-commerce to the world. A higher penchant for online shopping can already be seen amongst the customers, which is expected to rise even further in the coming months. As a result, an Omnichannel route has become an indispensable part of fashion, more now than ever and even the most prosperous of brick-and-mortar stores have now been forced to experiment with digital channels.
But surviving in the e-commerce industry is not easy as it seems. E-commerce is an innovative, dynamic, and fiercely competitive industry whose sole essence of metamorphosis has been sustained innovation. Disruptions are quotidian episodes of this industry, and only the technically proficient and innovative succeed and survive the cutthroat competition. While it might be intimidating, this actually offers a great opportunity to learn from these mavericks.
In these special feature, we collate 5 of the most innovative, e-commerce fashion retailers and brands to help our readers build on these proven success stories.
Stitch Fix is the newest name to create a ripple in the global e-commerce world. Named ‘World’s Most Innovative Retailer in 2019’ by Fast Company, the company’s claim to fame is its innovative exploitation of AI and data science to win in today’s retail industry. Launched in 2011, Stix Fix focused mainly on a data-driven approach that helped it stand out among the hordes of digital retailers that exists today. Today, the company boats of an active user base of about 3 million consumers.
Although digital retail had an edge over traditional retail formats with features, it still had numerous shortcomings — consumers still had to browse through endless inventory options through a plethora of websites before they can actually make a purchase. What Stitch Fix initially focused on was easing the discovery process leveraging on data and algorithms. The company hired a pool of 100 data scientists and focused all its efforts on harboring as much data as possible. The data collected helped Stitch Fix to not only send personalized offerings to its consumers at a regular interval but also helped it provide feedback to its partner brands on improving their products. Consumers loved the convenience and its partner brands were overwhelmed with the feedback that came from Stitch Fix’s data driven approach, which enabled them to ameliorate their overall offerings.
Perhaps the most innovative part of the operational philosophy as well as its success is its willingness to think of itself as an “AI machine combined with human curation”. Also, to stay at the top of the game, the company also continues to push innovation across its app features. App features like Style Shuffle, that quickly became notorious as “Tinder for Clothes’, allows just anyone to rate their products – this has helped the company garner immense data beyond the feedback they’d get from customers through buying alone. This feature alone has aided the company to acquired more than a billion data points — and most importantly, it gave them a glimpse of not just products people buy, but products they want to buy.
In today’s digital age when every company is leveraging on data to identify consumption pattern, Stitch Fix used data to lead the company and that’s all that made the difference.
With rising concerns about textile waste, renting is the new black and consumers are slowly gravitating towards the modern fashion philosophy of renting instead of buying and lending instead of discarding. Catalyzing this shift is a company called CaaStle that wants to build a new economy for apparel. The company helping retailers and clothing brands create their own rental services. A logistic platform, CaaStle integrates with companies’ inventory systems and manages the entire rental process on their behalf, from warehousing and cleaning garments to gathering feedback from customers about how an item fits. The flatform also builds and manages all aspects of the subscription model – the website, databases, algorithms and analytics. If that was enough, CaaStle’s Account Managers, Merchandisers and Marketers chaperone fashion brands along the way with their subscription model expertise and retail industry experience.
CaaStle is one of Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies list for 2019 for powering clothing as a service for traditional retailers. Brands that have hitherto joined forces with this unique subscription model include Ann Taylor, Rebecca Taylor, New York and Company, Gwynniw Bee, Vince., Express, American Eagle, Haverdash, Fashion to Figure, banana Republic, Scotch&Soda, Bloomingdales and Loft.
A new trend that has emerged lately in global fashion discussions is reselling. Although mainstream adoption is expected to happen overtime, like with any emerging trend, resale has registered an overwhelming response among millennials and Gen Z consumers, who have been adopting secondhand 2.5x faster than other age groups.
As a forerunner in the sphere of used apparel, ThredUp, which offers a wide selection from Old Navy tees to Gucci heels, has disclosed that it received about 100,000 items a day from would-be sellers in 2019 and processed its 100 millionth garment for the site. What stands out about the platform is its unflinching efforts to find and initiate more and more people into this circular economy that promises immense benefit to the environment.
ThredUp has initiated secondhand sections in nearly three dozen JCPenneys and worked with Macy’s to create secondhand sections in 40 of its department stores. In a bid to propel the circular fashion trend among traditional retail brands, it also has partnered with a long list of brands to urge their respective consumers to send ThredUp used clothes in exchange for shopping credit at their stores.
The company leverages heavily in AI to process incoming products via image recognition that enables automated visual tagging and assigns attributions based on necklines, patterns, label name, color, fashion edginess, and more. Of late, Gap Inc. became the largest clean out participant to date in ThredUP’s Resale-as-a-Service (RAAS) program.
The Bombay Hemp Company, popularly known as BOHECO, has been pushing the envelope to help reimagining the future of Indian agriculture and sustainable living with hemp. The company’s fashion arm, B Label, offers cannabis fibres stitched into chic and trendy basics. The brand’s product basket encompasses a wide range of modern day essentials – right casual button-down t-shirts and light summer shorts for men to skater skirts and kimono tops for women.
For the uninitiated, industrial hemp can be put to many different uses, which includes producing paper, biodegradable plastic, health food, fuel, and textile. Hemp happens to be an all-rounder plant which not only has significance in the world of medicine, but also the world of fashion.
Another homegrown brand that has made its mark in the sustainable fashion sphere is Arture, Chennai based a lifestyle accessories brand. A PETA certified vegan brand, it offers a wide collection of wallets, handbags, laptop sleeves and travel accessories for both men and women. What sets the brand apart is the fact that all products are made from a fabric made from 100% natural cork imported from the Mediterranean. Cork harvesting, as we all know, comes from the bark of cork oak, which are harvested without any harm inflicted on the trees.
Taking their quest for eco-friendly fashion a notch higher, Arture has recently launched a new collection called ‘Reminisce’ entirely made from fabrics made out of Cannabis Hemp and Himalayan Nettle—both incredibly sustainable.
Hemp and Nettle are both lesser water intensive than cotton – requiring 400 times lesser water to grow and are carbon negative in nature i.e., that they consume more carbon dioxide than they release. Moreover, both hemp and nettle can be grown without the use of pesticides.