Customer Experience in 2021: What to Learn from the Best Performing Brands in the Fashion, Retail, and Apparel Industry

As a fashion consulting agency, we know customer experience (CX) is integral to – and often the driver of – brand recognition and success. Businesses have been refining their brick and mortar establishments for hundreds of years, continually crafting a smooth, comfortable, and effective browsing and checkout experience for all who walk in. The rapid rise of eCommerce has offered plenty of more touchpoints for more gripping engagements, and with no end in sight, continues to redefine the concept of shopping for both consumers and brands. In the relatively few years of eCommerce strategy deployment, web analytics have helped define who browsers and customers are, boosted isolated areas of a shopping experience in need of improvement, and have produced the sort of algorithmic advertising and social media visibility that increases brand awareness. Today, mobile browsing experiences, native apps, and extensive customer experiences have brought shopping directly into consumers’ hands, no matter where they are. 

In the world of fashion retail consulting, this newly digitized wave of customer experience (CX) has become just as, if not more, vital to direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands than physical spaces, notably in cases of consumer proximity and accessibility to store locations and health concerns such as the COVID-19 crisis. The aforementioned benefits of digital brand presence, such as web analytics and algorithms, have allowed brands to now become more present in consumer lives than ever before. It’s the rapid advancement of insightful market data and consumer behaviors that emphasize developing a fulfilling omnichannel CX. 

Customer Experience in 2021: What to Learn from the Best Performing Brands in the Fashion, Retail, and Apparel Space

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Through our work with some of the top-performing luxury, fashion retail brands and DTC names, we demonstrate the integral component of top digital retail strategies today: the marriage of embracing the aspects of the well-loved brick-and-mortar establishments that have defined a brand for much of their existence, and personalization—a key advantage the digital world brings to shopping. Going case-by-case, these projects demonstrate various strategies that implement this synergy of well-loved physical store aspects and tailored, approachable experiences for each customer.

Hermès: Identifying User Profiles for an Avant-Garde Customer Experience

A long-loved staple of the French luxury fashion industry, Hermès has been family-owned for almost two centuries and continually strives for new, contemporary knowledge and beauty. Thus, to have a fulfilling omnichannel customer experience (CX), its digital presence must match its history and the prestige of its brick-and-mortar establishments. The optimization of Hermès’ digital branding prioritized the clarity of product imagery and the shopping experience, ensuring that the user experience (UX) of browsing its site was as clear-cut and rewarding as an in-store experience and encouraged customer retention.

Simultaneously utilizing the history of Hermès as well as its present and future goals in its digital strategy were realized in the emphasis we placed on storytelling and clear presentation of products. Given how Hermès’ artisanal model stands out amidst the fast fashion of today’s world, it was emphasized in both the UX experience and marketing campaigns. In addition, we streamlined the site UX by providing clear-cut illustrations of the catalog for browsing and in optimized email marketing campaigns, beckoning consumers towards the luxury brand’s site. 

Customer Experience in 2021: What to Learn from the Best Performing Brands in the Fashion, Retail, and Apparel Space
Case study: Hermès presents forethought in its eCommerce shopping experience by furnishing its customers

Ultimately, Hermès’ well-established, family-owned artisanal history accompanies the brand into its embrace with the future, resulting in an omnichannel experience that puts its products and values front and center, promoting a simple and clear user experience (UX). 

Nike: A Paragon of Brand Identity Creates Community with Consumers

The athleticwear giant of today, Nike continuously strives to do better, pushing for a more inclusive and sustainable sportswear industry. Its relentless evolution is what makes it an industry leader, garnering the support of so many customers. However, with a vast consumer base, its customers may feel like such a popular brand can’t tailor to them specifically. Bridging the gap between the reach and resources of a large brand and the attention to granular detail and individual customer care of small businesses, we helped Nike evolve its apps’ eCommerce capabilities to create personalized experiences that build connections with consumers.

The centralized focus in this endeavor was in creating an intuitive, eCommerce customer experience, which goes far in building trust between the brand and the user. Through a heightened concentration of personalization, users can find what they want, what they need, and what works for them as fast as possible, streamlining the browsing process and ensuring a satisfying user and shopping experience consumers are eager to enjoy again. 

Customer Experience in 2021: What to Learn from the Best Performing Brands in the Fashion, Retail, and Apparel Space
Nike's commitment to creating an ecosystem in which it controls all aspects of the customer experience carries its strong successes into the next decade

The next step for brands that shift from customer acquisition to customer retention is, in today’s digital world, an omnichannel approach that integrates personalization capabilities into a brand’s eCommerce system, a customer experience that can tailor to anyone regardless of preference.

Louis Vuitton: Translating Opulence Into an Immersive Omnichannel Experience

For a brand to have become synonymous with luxuriousness, it is both a blessing and a challenge. In the case of Louis Vuitton, the digitization of the lavish shopping experience would be the endorsement of the growing medium and a bid to make one of the most recognizable names in fashion and luxury keep up with the ages. 

Customer Experience in 2021: What to Learn from the Best Performing Brands in the Fashion, Retail, and Apparel Space
Louis Vuitton exceptionally translated the spark of browsings its boutiques with its online shopping experience

How Louis Vuitton digitized the luxurious experience of browsing one of their boutiques while retaining the benefits of a clear, clean eCommerce user and customer experience came about in two key ways: crafting a transparent, cleaner user experience/UX and emphasizing consumer needs and concerns. Helping with the integration of Louis Vuitton’s content management system (CMS), we ensured that nothing stood in-between a user and the products they browse, highlighting the luxury of Louis Vuitton itself. 

To assume that all a brand must do to formulate a stellar user and customer experience is creating an intuitive interface is both incorrect and a misunderstanding to the level of depth necessary to help facilitate the shopping experience. When it comes to augmenting the delight in every aspect of its customer experience, Louis Vuitton has gone to great lengths to ensure customers have the benefit of boutique browsing through salespeople—reflecting the kind of assistance users can expect when shopping online, as well. Instead of distinguishing the sort of information customers need from the products they view, a brand like Louis Vuitton needed to anticipate what users crave when browsing. It’s thinking like this that led the LVMH marquee brand to invest in its WeChat Mini Program, strengthening the holistic user and customer experience by educating consumers and creating a personal approach to users even online. For Louis Vuitton to have as loyal a consumer base as it gets, market testing was key in finding the perfect balance between a clean digital design and a digital strategy that is unmistakably Louis Vuitton. A giant driver of fashion culture, Louis Vuitton does not rest on its laurels. Its commitment to enhancing customer experience and adopting the technologies not yet embraced by equally influential brands demonstrates its importance over driving consumer retention.

Burberry: An Homage to Cherished History by Trailblazing Its Shopping Experience

An English luxury fashion giant, Burberry has found digital eCommerce to be an essential strategy for future success as part of its rebranding. Through a refreshing user experience that is indubitably Burberry, the British style icon invigorated their ways for a new age.

In upleveling the brand’s assortment of its classic trench coats and plaids while introducing modern hardware or textiles, Burberry’s eCommerce experience retains the serious, traditional tone the brand has always carried while newly emphasizing the consumer’s needs through an extensive review of a proper customer experience. We helped Burberry refresh its look to be bold and straightforward, reflecting the brand’s voice, making sure to recall the past to look towards the future. 

Customer Experience in 2021: What to Learn from the Best Performing Brands in the Fashion, Retail, and Apparel Space
Burberry celebrated 100 years of fashion excellence in embracing eCommerce with a bold shopping experience for today's consumer.

As a well-established luxury brand amid a rebrand, the key approach for Burberry was a refreshing and minimalist user experience. The perfect intersection of traditional and modern should be treated lightly upon. A bold, clear eCommerce customer experience highlights the products themselves, ensuring the success of the digital path of an omnichannel approach.

These four approaches to digital retail strategy—clear, personalized, luxurious, and refreshing user experiences, respectively—each focus on two foundational yet straightforward facets of the eCommerce experience: enjoyment of the browsing and shopping experience in discovering products and the fulfillment of the user. To ensure brand recognition today, it is vital to play to the strengths of the brand and what it is known for, and the strengths of the customer. As commerce becomes further digitized, cosmetics and novelties become burdens to the customer shopping experience. What is important to a consumer—finding what they’re looking for with an applicable CX (a luxury brand with an equally luxurious experience, for instance) – becomes what is important for a brand. In the coming years, the way brands implement such digital retail strategies will profoundly affect the direct-to-consumer fashion industry, likely leading to the greater accessibility of any product to any consumer. 

What insights are there to gather from the fashion retail consulting space about the state of customer experience and eCommerce today?

As a fashion consulting agency, the most noted trend we can assert will become a standard among the fashion retail consulting space is the integration of digital and offline channels to create a seamless customer experience. Already, we have seen luxury brands such as Chanel play both parts of the commerce gambit, with an acute understanding of how to play up to its exclusivity while providing customers the expedience of shopping online and in-person. 

We anticipate the fashion retail consulting space to continue innovating in the omnichannel department, delivering quality experiences that captivate their respective audiences through corresponding customer experiences. As a fashion consulting agency, the level of transformation we see at the high level for the most recognizable brands in the world demonstrates a clear move towards the enhancement of shopping experiences across all spaces, not just limited to the fashion retail consulting field. It takes the largest, most groundbreaking brands to commit to something and experience success for others to follow. With no shortage of advantages for the most daring and innovative brands who have adopted cutting-edge initiatives, we have confidence in saying we are only at the precipice of what will be the dawn of the new consumer age.

What are the most significant lessons from the fashion retail consulting space and how do those translate into winning customer experience strategies?

The most important lessons to learn from the fashion retail consulting space is that brick-and-mortar shopping will continue to exist, albeit in a much more modernized, streamlined approach, that eCommerce has and will become the driving factor behind the relevance factor for many brands, and that consumers will flock to those brands who show an unwavering commitment to elevating their shopping experience both online and offline.

As brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes can show, there is worth in augmenting the shopping experience to suit customers of every stripe. The convenience and level of utility of eCommerce has brought a refreshing experience for consumers and an exciting period of untapped opportunity and potential for all brands. While our experience as a fashion consulting agency has demonstrated the most storied and cherished brands in the world excelling with their adoption of eCommerce and spearheading customer experience, right now the playing field is extended for all who believe—as they should—of the endless advantages of becoming multifaceted providers of a shopping experience both in person and online. 

What was already quintessential to a fashion and apparel brand’s digital strategy, and what’s only now just becoming necessary?

By far, the most essential characteristic of any fashion and apparel brand is its ability to be flexible and sustain incredible pressure in the face of unfathomable uncertainty. The prevalence of opportunistic investments were numerous even before the pandemic, but only now can we see just how much this will contribute to the driving wedge between the largest, top-performing fashion brands and those who have endured troubled years and an even more agitating past twelve months. What has always been quintessential to a fashion and apparel brand’s strategy and will only become much more important is creating a consumer-centric experience. We’ve come to know by now that consumers want to buy from brands that can appeal to them in a personal way and deliver an unparalleled shopping experience. Such demands only reinforce the exigency for fashion executives to pursue a digital and omnichannel strategy suitable for the years ahead.

Why is it important for fashion, apparel, and luxury brands to invest in their eCommerce strategies?

It is not optional for fashion, apparel, and luxury brands to have a strong eCommerce presence. Consumer behaviors have indicated a pivot towards online shopping in the last few years and show no signs of slowing. Market analysis shows that brands that invest in their eCommerce strategies and consider them integral to their overall approach in engaging consumers have a clear advantage over their digitally feeble counterparts. 

To best engage with consumers today, eCommerce strategy for fashion brands must adapt their current methods for a more immersive omnichannel approach. The tide of digital innovation does not mean the extinction of in-store experiences. On the contrary, a brand must leverage the accessibility and convenience found in eCommerce approaches with that of the in-person interactions that build up consumer sentiment and affinity to a brand. 

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