3 secrets behind every successful fashion retail app

This is the second blog post based on research done in 2011 by Oyvind Henriksen, towards his Masters thesis for the MSc Technology Entrepreneurship Program at University College London

What do shoppers want in an app? To answer that, we need to work out what defines a mobile fashion shopper:

  • They’re impatient: Mobile shoppers are on the go and tend to shop whilst waiting for a bus, sitting on a train or grabbing a coffee. Bounce rates of people leaving a mobile website are very high. This is because they often contain too many links and are slow to load.
  • They expect a fast, smooth mobile experience: Apple has built a closed system with iOS, which provides a very responsive and seamless user experience. iPhone users are accustomed to this so expect to experience the same when browsing mobile websites. In conclusion, in the words of Matt Cockett, Commercial Director of Mobile Interactive Group: “It’s got to be quick and it’s got to work.”
  • They are loyal: Fashion shoppers, mobile or not, are loyal to their favourite brands. There is so much choice that when consumers find a brand whose designs and style they consistently like, they will stick to it. With a trusted brand, shoppers are familiar with the fit and quality of the garments. This is especially important for online fashion shopping as customers cannot try on the garment prior to purchasing it.
So what does this impatient but loyal customer want in a mobile app?

Our research has highlighted the 3 key aspects of every successful fashion retail app:

1. Push notifications about new arrivals or sales

Initial interviews showed that stores often have only a couple of items in the most popular sizes. Therefore, customers needed to get to the store quickly before their size runs out. Push notifications can be extremely powerful, especially when combined with geo-location. If a shopper gets a message about a time-limited discount on an item they have previously looked at, exactly when she or he is in close proximity of the store, the likelihood of buying is raised by a few hundred per cent. They are also more likely to buy that item through the app if not near a store.


2. Easy browsing of products

Providing an app allows consumers to window-shop and daydream about what they’ll buy in future. High-res pictures from different angles are at the centre of any digital shopping experience. Always keep in mind that your customer cannot touch the garment or try it on. Great images are essential! A good browsing experience will lead to more sales via your app.

3. A shopping experience on their mobile phone

Macro trends show that more people are shopping using their mobile phones and according to the Centre for Retail Research and Kelkoo, mobile commerce sales in the UK are set to reach £4.5bn by the end of 2012. Apps which are glorified digital catalogues do very poorly in the App Store, with 1 and 2 star reviews. Your customers want to buy your products, not just look at images of them.

These three aspects are the minimum requirements for an app to be attractive and functional for fashion consumers.

Based on new insights and technological advances, this list could be extended with features that are becoming more common and essential. For example:

  • Geo location: store finder, especially for larger brands
  • Bar code scanning to get more product information – can also be advanced with augmented reality features
  • In- store advice from a digital sales clerk in the app
  • Line dropping with in-store payment
  • Social and sharing – links with Facebook/Twitter, or a gallery of other customers wearing products
But the basic three requirements will always be the same – the ability to shop, notifications about offers and coveted products, and a quality browsing experience based around images. Get these right and you’re on the way to successful mobile commerce.


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