A few years ago, the idea of buying fashion online was anathema but Australians have embraced it with gusto.
The NAB Online Retail Sales Index report, July 2014, found that national retail spending is valued at around $15.6 billion.
The Iconic was one of the first pure play Australian online retailers, but they’re taking tentative steps offline. A new initiative, The Collection Bar, allows buyers to have their items delivered to Broadway Shopping Centre where they can try them on and return items straight away.
The Iconic CEO, Patrick Schmidt, says it addresses key gripes with online.
According to a Coredata survey on behalf of Parcelpoint, 76.1 per cent of online shoppers avoid returning items because of prohibitive shipping costs, while 51 per cent don’t return unwanted purchases because of the hassle.
“You never miss a delivery and sometimes you do need to return an item, so you can do it on the spot,” he says.
“It takes all the little potential problems with online and avoids them.”
The Collection Bar launched three months ago and is currently serving 100 customers per month.
Schmidt says it is still in trial mode and if it’s successful, may be rolled out to other centres.
While he doesn’t believe it’s necessary for The Iconic to have a physical presence, he does acknowledge that e-commerce is changing.
“There will be so many different ways to buy and to deliver items soon, including Twitter and other social channels,” he says.
“A couple of years ago a there were few other choices, you had to wait and get it. Now we have a three hour deliver service during the week and we are trialling a Saturday delivery.
“You need to push the boundaries to make it more convenient for customers.”
Convenience is key, especially for returns. Rather than pay return postage for unwanted items, retailers are increasingly allowing customers to return online purchases in store. Mix Apparel products can be returned to any Coles supermarket, even if they don’t stock the range.
Broadway Shopping Centre manager, Justine Saltmarsh, believes online and retail can coexist.
“The collection bar is a meld of on and offline, it’s meeting the needs of a modern shopper,” she says.
“It’s an opportunity to introduce new customers into the centre and also provides an opportunity for customers utilising service. Some people are picking up their item and then going into the centre to compliment the outfit that they’ve bought. On the flip side, if hasn’t fitted or suited, they can go into the centre and purchase something.”
When it comes to differentiating themselves from the competition, online stores are increasingly banking on exclusivity.
General Pants Co design director, Pip Edwards, say exclusive collections “are really the foundations for our business.”
“We work with personalities and brands like Candice Lake, Bambi Northwood-Blyth and Anna & Boy to create GP designer collaborations to further add to the exclusive offering,” she says.
And the product is not enough. Behind-the-scenes photos and videos, interviews and styling tips create another reason for shoppers to click on their site.
“We not only collaborate with designers, we have worked with musicians like The Presets and like to think that we not only curate fashion trends, we collaborate across music and art and culturally relevant areas to make sure our target market feel like they know what is trending in all areas,” she says.
This story was first published in Shop Smart, The Sunday Telegraph, on September 28, 2014