Apparel and Footwear Retailing in the Digital Era (Part 1): Exploring Innovation

Strategy Briefing

About This Report

May 2014

As the internet brings about sweeping changes in apparel and footwear distribution, this briefing pinpoints key innovations in selling fashion online, focusing on the areas of fit and sizing, impulse buying, affordable luxury, curation and personalisation. This report also analyses the performance of fashion-focused online start-ups, as well as the inroads being made regarding omni-channel retailing, as the boundaries between in-store and online shopping become increasingly blurred.

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Apparel and Footwear Retailing in the Digital Era (Part 1): Exploring Innovation

Fit and sizing remains the biggest challenge

The inability to try before buying is the biggest barrier to further growth in apparel and footwear internet retailing, and has led to the emergence of showrooming and reverse showrooming.

Content and context are key for selling fashion online

With the vast majority of apparel and footwear purchases being emotionally driven, showcasing products in a compelling online environment remains crucial, particularly to facilitate impulse buying.

Online offers unrivalled data-mining opportunities

Online retailers are able to track each stage of the customer experience, enabling extensive data collection and customer segmentation. This has given rise to the twin trends of curation and personalisation.

Affordable luxury grows

The cost-effectiveness of the online channel has inspired a new generation of business models, which target the price-yet-quality conscious consumer by offering high quality products at discounted prices.

Single category focus is a popular strategy

A number of successful online fashion start-ups have begun by focusing on a single category, primarily aiming to solve the issue of fit and sizing: be it with regards to bras, jeans or shoes.

Omni-channel rules are still being written

Despite the stellar growth of internet retailing, it is far from replacing in-store shopping. Consumers have different motivations for choosing each channel, and the biggest opportunity lies in seamlessly connecting the two.

Mobile is an untapped opportunity

Mobile devices facilitate impulse buying when out and about. However, mobile internet retailing remains underpenetrated, with consumers using such devices primarily to enhance the in-store experience.

What this report includes

  • Top-level strategic analysis of how major consumer trends will influence global markets
  • Consumer insight
  • Impact across all relevant consumer markets
  • Unique graphics and case studies
  • Key market snapshots
  • Accompanying presentation to synthesise main findings

Why buy this report

  • Identify factors driving change now and in the future
  • Understand motivation
  • Forward-looking outlook
  • Briefings and presentation should provoke lively discussion at senior level
  • Take a step back from micro trends
  • Get up to date estimates and comment


Key findings

Online Innovation Hotspots

Key innovation hotspots within apparel online retailing
Fit and sizing: Enabling consumers to try before buying online
Impulse buying: Context and content are key in fashion
Peers are top influencers for impulse buyers
Suggestions provide further impetus for impulse buying
Curation: Editors precede the editing
Personalisation: The retailing gold standard
Affordable luxury: Catering to quality-conscious online shoppers
Summary: Online Innovation Hotspots

Category-focused Strategies

Online drives momentum in the global “menaissance”
Menswear start-ups take a tailored approach online
Intimacy of online shopping underpins lingerie sales
Denim e-tailers cluster at the premium end
Footwear finds success, but sizing remains a hit-and-miss game
Time-strapped mothers support childrenswear sales online
Summary: Category-focused strategies

The Omni-channel Playbook

Physical stores maintain their importance
Reverse showrooming: Converting online browsers to buyers
Omni-channel retailing: Leveraging the best of both worlds
Omni-channel focus gives Gap Inc a competitive advantage
Mobile internet retailing facilitates on-the-go impulse buying
Mobile devices enhance the in-store shopping experience
The many faces of social media
Summary: The omni-channel playbook

Key Takeaways

Joining the dots for an omni-channel experience
Progress and prospects for innovation online – and offline


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