In the recent past, the world has embraced the internet tool at levels never seen before. As a result of the reliance on internet in making transactions, the concept of e-commerce has gained momentum amongst the world citizens. The United Kingdom is one of the leading countries in the use of e-commerce as evidenced by the projected growth to 60 billion pounds by 2019 (Bones & Hammersley, 2015, pp 16). In particular, the fashion industry has seen the most growth in the uptake of the e-commerce concept. As thus, many fashion companies have joined the bandwagon in setting up ecommerce websites that lead the other countries. Moreover, the online fashion market in the UK is the largest in the world and was estimated at 10 billion pounds in 2014 (Trim & Lee, 2015, pp 401). The choice of the e-commerce fashion industry was therefore a simple decision to make in this report as it has continued to record high growth rates in recent years.
About a decade ago, no one would have imagined that customers and fashion lovers would purchase fashion online. Today, many fashion companies have realized that a larger percentage of their products are being sold online that in their physical stores. Many of these companies have therefore embarked on improving the efficiency of their websites by making the interface as much user-friendly as possible (Gray & Zappala, 2006, pp 47). The result is that customers have streamed into online stores where they are able to prospect before eventually deciding from which store they want to buy. In October, 2015, ASOS website recorded visits totaling 3 million. In addition, the online stores are better places to window-shop before eventually deciding what one wishes to buy. It is estimated that about 82% of internet users in the UK shop online on a regular basis. This percentage surpasses all other European countries making UK the leading country in the use of e-commerce.
The fashion industry is very vibrant and is ever changing due to the changing needs of the customers. London, the UK capital is home to a large number of fashion companies that bank on the growing fashion industry for their sustenance. Credit cards and debit cards are the most used form of payments for online purchases (Akali, 2005, pp 72) and companies therefore strive to ensure that their websites are safe for the users’ transactions. Lyst and Nuji websites have options for this kind of payments. Moreover, the transactions are usually free as can be evidenced by ASPOS website. In addition, PayPal is also a favorite among UK online shoppers perhaps due to its safety in making transactions.
Leading companies in the UK online fashion industry include ASOS, Farfetch, Lyst and Nuji. These and other companies have websites that are highly interactive to aid in the engagement with customers, most of who use their tablets to login to the websites. Farfetch, one of the leading online fashion websites records visits of about 700 thousands every month. Of this figure, about 35% result from web searches while another 26.98% are from referrals. Moreover, laptops and phone are increasingly used by UK customers in visiting the fashion websites.
In the websites, the customers have access to the products at disposal including the various brands that the company stocks. To do this, the companies have set the products in sections to reflect the various needs of the customers. For instance, a company may have a tab for the kids section and another tab for the men’s section. Most companies’ websites have the option of creating an account so that each customer has a unique account for making transactions (Qin, 2007, pp 42). Other companies prefer to incorporate customers that do not have to open accounts on their websites. In addition, the customers can search for a particular fashion product thus prompting the website to display either the specific product or an array of similar products that match the customer’s search item. Moreover, the customers can make orders via the website and even make their wish-list for future purchases.
In addition to engagements within the websites, the companies provide platforms in the social media for interaction with the customers (Plunkett, 2009, pp 61). Here, customers can give feedback on certain products and the service they were accorded including the website experience. All the fashion companies have social media accounts that are linked to their websites. These platforms include Facebook, Twitter and blogs. In addition, the customers can make enquiries about certain fashion products including their availability.
Email services and offline media are also regularly used by the companies in engaging with their customers (Mahle, 2002, pp 94). Farfetch for instance emails list of purchases to customers before approving the transaction. This is a normal procedure to ensure that the customer knows that their account is being used to make purchases. Moreover, the company uses the email service to send newsletters and updates to their customers. For instance, customers who had made enquiries about certain products are notified through their email addresses. Confirmations of sales are also sent through the email to which customers must respond for them to be approved. Offline media such as television and radio are mainly used in making advertisements and general notifications to the customers (Langer, 2007, pp 108). In most cases, offline media is used in marketing the products that the companies have in store and their competitiveness. Moreover, it can also be used to make notifications of offers in the price of the products that they stock.
The websites run by the fashion companies have impressive features that are meant to make the customers’ visits more enjoyable. Some of the features include search engines, customer tracking, order processing, returns handling, security and fraud detection among others. These features are structured in a way that they can manage orders as well as manage the stock within the company. Navigation is made easier through the provision of search options and the arrangement of the products in many sections based on customer preference (Jervis, 2002, pp 59). In addition, the websites may have email marketing tools and promotions to target repeat customers. After purchasing products, the company keeps track of the customers through the customer tracking features. In most cases, repeat customers may be accorded discounts to encourage them to keep shopping and increase their loyalty to the company. In addition, the customers may receive an email from the company thanking them for shopping at their stores and asking for feedback on the experience that they had.
The customer shopping journey is becoming more complex with the availability of many touch points including laptops and smart phones (Lee, 2011, pp 37). At ASOS, a leading online fashion store, they have made the journey quite exciting. The website packages its products as needs giving the customers no choice but to purchase the same. This trend is universal among the online fashion stores and helps the customer discover the product for the need. Advertisements at Farfetch reflect products that solve the customers’ problems. For instance, warm clothes are thoroughly advertised during the months nearing winter to encourage customers shop for them. Whenever a repeat customer opens the website prompts a greeting calling the customer by the name they have provided. The greeting makes the customer feel appreciated and welcome. This is no different from Farfetch website that welcomes their visitors by their names. In addition, new customers are prompted to register and accounts with the website opened for them.
The homepage at Farfetch displays all the latest promotions and this is the first thing that customers want to see. This trend helps the customers in their evaluation process and provides a form of bias in the customers mind. In this way, Farfetch is able to dictate what the customer buys, at least to some degree. ASOS have programmed their website to categorize products in terms of brands, product styles or types and even what celebrities have worn. After choosing the category, the website then provides a selection based on such features as shape, length, size, color or brand of the product that the customer wants. At Farfetch, the customer can also select products based on their prices thereby saving them a lot of time.
Another important functionality is that the website provides a video function for the customers. The customer is then allowed to put the products they have selected in the shopping cart to either buy them right away or save them for future purchases. Moreover, the options of the payment and shipping method are also provided for the customer to choose from. After making the payment, a thank you page is portrayed and the customer receives a confirmation email too. Farfetch, as well as ASOS provide a platform for customers to make returns and get refunds for goods delivered erroneously and those of the wrong sizes.
It is no doubt that online purchase are increasing in the UK with every passing day. Most customers find it more effective because their privacy is guaranteed and they do not have to go through the tedious procedure of buying from physical stores. In addition, making purchases online saves the customers more time that they can use in doing other things. The success of fashion companies in the online platform is dependent on how they adapt to the changing needs of the customers (Granger, 2012, pp 126). Companies need to improve the customer experiences to remain as competitive as possible. This can only be achieved by having better customer care and after sale services.
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