Fashion E-Commerce in Global Markets Lives and Dies by Seasonality
To survive in international markets online, apparel and accessory brands must understand their customers’ season-driven shopping.
Now more than ever, fashion brands and e-retailers are complementing their expansions into global markets with localised, in-market websites. It's a smart play that generates results-after all, marketing messages in a market's native language are the "table stakes" required to ignite local interest and sales.
However, website translation alone isn't enough to deliver meaningful in-market growth. A nuanced understanding for the local market-from culture to climate-is critical. This is especially important in fashion e-commerce, where knowledge of a market's "seasonality" can make or break a retailer.
Indeed, not understanding an international market’s unique seasonality—meaning, its predictable changes that occur throughout the year—alienates customers and reduces sales.
MotionPoint has helped fashion brands and e-retailers enter new international markets online for more than a decade. We've learned a lot about global markets along the way-particularly consumers' buying preferences.
"Seasonality greatly informs shopping habits," explains Eric Watson, a Global Online Strategist for MotionPoint's Global Growth team. "Retailers that adapt to a market's unique tastes and trends, by appropriately stocking preferred accessories, for instance, can win big in global markets."
Let’s take a look at how seasonality affects fashion retail in three global markets, based on MotionPoint’s exclusive data and insights.
As meticulous planners, Germans begin their summer shopping in March-far earlier than other consumers in other European markets. In contrast, our data indicates that French shoppers beginning shopping for summer apparel in May! Sales of flip-flops and swimming suits naturally increase steadily in Germany until July, and then drop until the following March.
Temperatures drop here much earlier than in other parts of Europe. Winter products begin to sell well in September, and peak in November. Wool products are big sellers in Germany; cardigan sweaters were a hit during 2015. Stock products accordingly.
"Here's a clever way to capitalize on German seasonal spending," Eric suggests. "Actively promote low-cost winter accessories. According to our data, German shoppers love these products-especially scarves. Try promoting these customer-favourite items during checkout. This smart, easy tactic should boost overall order values."
Localised holiday shopping events are another way to engage German shoppers. Germans are reasonably aware of "American" shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for instance, and visit retail websites looking for those deals.
"Localised sites that cater to these consumers come out way ahead," Eric says.
Indeed, we examined the holiday 2015 performance for a fashion e-retailer site we operate for the German market. This company savvily offered Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials; both days generated more product sales-and more revenue-than nearly any other that year.
"In the end, remember that Germans often do their shopping-be it for the holidays, or for a summer holiday-roughly one month earlier than many European markets," Eric advises. "Time your marketing campaigns accordingly to reap the rewards."
Despite economic fluctuations, Russia is still an attractive market for expanding fashion e-retailers. And savvy e-retailers already know that Russian fluency remains very high in neighboring countries such as Estonia and Ukraine. That means launching a Russian e-commerce site can-and does-serve online shoppers in those markets, too.
We’ve found that Russian fashion e-commerce traffic peaks between late December and early January, and again in July. Winters see the biggest traffic bump, but average order values are usually higher in the summer.
Why? Russians are decreasing their holiday budgets, according to Deloitte's New Year Spending Survey 2015. Additionally, they're less inclined to buy clothing as holiday gifts. (Russians prefer giving cosmetics, chocolates and books.) Our tip: If you want to boost orders, and order values, during the holidays, offer Russians more affordable gift-type items. These are a hit among shoppers.
"And thanks to the country's brutal winters, few Russians venture outside without a hat," Eric adds. "Retailers should stock accordingly. Shoppers are likely to buy knit hats between September and December. Here's another interesting tidbit: Russians seem to love holiday-themed hats."
Another intriguing insight: Like Germans, Russian love inexpensive add-in items. Lip balm is consistently one of the most frequently purchased items, regardless of season. We recommend optimising your Russian site's conversion funnel to promote these items during checkout.
Let’s now look at how a nationwide retail phenomenon can generate amazing results for online-savvy fashion brands.
For decades, the fashion industry has known of France's "Soldes"-the six-week-long nationwide sales events that occur each summer and winter. The store-wide discounts seen during Soldes-usually 30% or more-generate windfalls for brick-and-mortar fashion retailers.
“What’s less known, however, is that Soldes represents a very promising opportunity for online fashion brands and e-retailers,” Eric explains.
Here's why. In France, brick-and-mortar retailers can discount only what they have in-store during Soldes, Eric says. "But online retailers have far more flexibility," he says. "Offering Soldes-themed sales-especially when combined with free or low-cost despatch, to achieve parity with brick-and-mortar stores-is a great way to compete during the six-week event without drastically slashing prices on items."
This tactic really works. We analysed the 2015 performance of two French e-commerce sites we localize for two fast fashion retailers. One company successfully leveraged its French site during Soldes. The other didn't.
The first retailer launched marketing campaigns during the two six-week events, and saw astonishing results. On the debut of Winter Soldes (January 7) and Summer Soldes (June 24), the localised site's revenue grew 350% and 320%, respectively. These single-day increases alone generated hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue.
"And thanks to the retailer's promotion of the sale, traffic to the French site went through the roof," Eric says. "In fact, the first day of summer Soldes was the site's most visited in 2015. The first day of winter Soldes was the second-most visited."
In contrast, the second retailer-which offered no Soldes-related sales-saw comparatively meager conversions for those days. What's worse, June 24 (the first day of Summer Soldes) saw a year-long high in site visits from French customers. Lots of traffic, but few conversions. What a missed opportunity.
It's clear that French shoppers expect events like Soldes to apply to localised e-commerce sites. Companies that don't adopt such local customs and expectations will miss out on major revenue-generation opportunities.
"And here's a final tip," Eric advises. "If your company isn't already translating its e-post campaigns and newsletters, it's time to start. This is a great way to engage customers, and to promote sales like Soldes."