Fashion Retailers Have No Reason To Fear Digitalization

It isn’t an either-or situation, and it can be a lot less complicated than you think.

Fashion Retailers Have No Reason To Fear Digitalization
Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Singapore fashion retailers are going digital at a pace like never before, driven by government incentives as much as the constraints of the pandemic. But the journey can be confusing, frustrating, and sometimes result in missed opportunities.

Retailers who are new to the game often struggle to define what digitalization should look like. Those already underway with it start energetically but can find it hard to maintain the pace. They are overwhelmed by the varying costs of implementation, and the pressure to get to grips with data and analytics. But it doesn’t have to be difficult, and the right e-commerce partner can make all the difference.

 A simple setup changes everything

In fashion, products can change hands in seconds, and retailers have a hard time keeping up with their inventory, not to mention responding to inquiries manually across different platforms. This is where omnichannel retailing comes in. The term sounds daunting, but it becomes less so when you realize that it essentially means controlling everything including inventory, payments, owned online channels, physical stores, and social media assets, from a single dashboard. Taking this step can reduce manpower costs as well as errors.

As much as possible, retailers should aim to automate their processes. Many of our clients decided to come to us after operating independently for nearly a decade. As their business grew, they could no longer keep up with manual inventory updates and found they lacked the necessary manpower to fulfill fast delivery orders.

In one example, we helped a retailer build brand awareness while building a platform to manage customer information and orders and enable easy purchases. Where operations had been scattered and fraught with delays, the all-in-one platform made things easy and intuitive, which is key to running and scaling a sustainable business. Another customer streamlined business by using our platform to run smart advertising that shuts off as soon as a product sells out, as well as unifying orders through live selling, making order fulfillment Scmuch more efficient.  

Live stream shopping tools such as SHOPLINE Live have proved popular because their AI technology helps merchants crunch performance statistics such as viewer counts, viewers’ actions of adding products to shopping carts, and the number of live sales. Live commerce is growing rapidly: SHOPLINE Singapore saw transaction volume grow 20-fold in the first five months of 2021.

Of course, digital tools can only get you so far. You often hear creativity is the key to success, and I say this is especially true for fashion retailers. Merchants play an important role in differentiating one brand from the next. An inspiring brand story, well-designed catalogs, and an understanding of visual merchandising can make a huge difference.

It’s also important to remember that retail is a people business, and no one is an island. It pays to learn from others, and it’s never been easier to access resources such as free webinars with Q&A sessions. Keeping an eye on what merchants in other parts of the world are doing can be a big source of inspiration too.

Merchants often assume shifting online means guaranteed revenue. But the investment does come with a certain level of responsibility. The most versatile merchants are those who are open to adopting an integrated approach, meaning they are willing to spare a part of their budget on digital marketing like social media advertisements. Merchants should also look into fresh approaches when pushing out new products to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In addition to their day-to-day tasks, monitoring consumer data is important as a means of predicting and managing inventory.  

Finding the right partner defines the journey

Working with local fashion retailers on the ground opens our eyes to their specific needs. Sometimes, I find myself chatting with merchants who think it’s an either-or situation when it comes to going digital. They pick between setting up an online website, opening a store on a marketplace like Shopee and Lazada, or opening a social media account to sell their products, not realizing that these channels can be integrated in some way and that they can all be managed at the same time, as long as they understand how it works. The best part? All of this can be done at a low cost!

To put it more simply, I would say a good smart commerce enabler should be able to offer merchants ease and comfort throughout the digitalization journey. It should help them to manage their own sales channels in an organized and cost-efficient way, providing the same benefits of large-scale logistics players and marketplaces without having to work directly with them.

It is estimated that the Southeast Asian e-commerce market nearly doubled in 2020, from US$38 billion to $62 billion. This trend shows no signs of slowing down. The region is growing increasingly competitive, and it’s advisable to compare and contrast the various digital solutions out there and speak with the representatives on the ground to find one that matches your needs. The cost will always be a barrier for merchants on their digitalization journey, and solutions providers have a duty to price their services fairly and explain clearly what people are paying for.

Ultimately, omnichannel retail need not be overwhelming. It is here to stay and, with the right approach, technology and partner will prove to be a great ally for fashion retailers.

Founded in 2013 and a member of the Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups accelerator in 2014, SHOPLINE is Asia’s biggest smart commerce platform, with offices in Hong Kong, Taipei, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur, Shenzhen, and Singapore.

SHOPLINE always prioritizes its customers and aims to support brands of all sizes to achieve local and international growth together with an omnichannel presence. To date, SHOPLINE has helped over 250,000 merchants open their online stores, including well-known brands such as Durex, Bee Cheng Hiang, and Hiwalk.