Faster fashion with new e-commerce technology

Stylematch and Stackla share secrets behind latest consumer engagement trends

With the online fashion space saturated with content, the pressure is on retailers to find innovative ways to engage effectively with consumers.

At Australian e-commerce site, Stylematch, adopting a ground-breaking way to leverage content aggregation and curation as well as data and technology smarts is not only helping with customer engagement, it’s also driving purchases.

The e-commerce platform aggregates more than 6000 brands and roughly 250,000 items from leading global fashion brands and retailers globally such as ASOS, Matches Fashion, Neiman Marcus, Macey’s, TopShop. It will also launch a partnership with David Jones shortly in Australia.

According to CEO and founder of StyleMatch, Adam Green, the challenge around content aggregation has been how to effectively curate it in a way that is digestible, easy to use and understandable from a consumer perspective.

“We give five different shopable styles to our curation - shop fastfeed, shop fastfashion, shop premium, shop luxury and shop boutiques – and any one of those options gives you the ability to curate the brand for different styles of shopping,” he told CMO.

To help better curate street-style content specifically, Stylematch has become the first website to implement the new Shopspots feature developed by Stackla. Shopspots allows retailers to take user-generated images from social media onto their website and tag the products.

Green said Stylematch is using the widget so customers can take a snapshot of their favourite street-style looks. These images then appear on what they call the 'shop the look' fashion wall. Consumers that click on the items pictured will be taken directly to the point of purchase.

“That’s another way of curating content, to enable people to find items they want to buy to create or match that look,” he said.

Stackla co-founder and chief product officer, Pete Cassidy, said the power of the technology lies in creating a direct link from a product featured in user-generated content, to the purchase process. While Stackla has done this broadly in the past, the technology can now pinpoint multiple products and exactly where they sit on an image, linking them directly to the point of sale.

“We’re giving the retailers or the e-commerce brands the ability to recreate that social validation, right at the point of sale,” he said. “We’re utilising the content existing customers are creating, and using that to give consumers more confidence for people browsing the website that this product is right for them.”

Alongside aggregation and curation, the third pillar of Stylematch’s business model is consumer engagement, and how the business can be a primary destination of choice, given the vast options in the fashion industry.

“The first part of that is becoming a destination for variety and the best place for fashion, which is that aggregation model – you come to us and find everything you need in one location,” Green said.

“The second part of the destination story is having the world’s largest flash sales on our site, where you can get items up to 50-80 per cent off, so you can get a great deal on a great brand, whether it is a Gucci dress, or a pair of shoes, you can see some amazing sale items. So we want to become a destination for sales as well.”

Augmented reality allows try before you buy

To further interactivity with customers, Stylematch has also implemented a ‘try before you buy’ solution through its app, which allows people to see using augmented reality how an outfit will look on them. The app has the ability to shop through it as well.

“The other feature of the app that has really benefited us is the concept called a ‘fashion best friend’,” Green continued. “If you download the app and use it, you become a destination for fashion, so you can actually become creative and empower yourself to digitise your wardrobe, create outfits, try on clothes.”

According to Green, one of the biggest challenges in selling fashion online is addressing how confident a consumer feels about wearing the clothing. The interactive nature of Stylematch’s app was born out of this realisation, he said.

“People have seen the tangible benefits in that they can visually see themselves in real time using the change room, or they can take a selfie and overlay images,” he said. “Moving forward, I definitely see with 3D computers on the horizon, the opportunity of rolling out innovations around seeing items on you as well.”

Keeping customers engaged in the fierce fashion world

When it comes to engagement in the fashion world, Green said it is more than just about searching and finding clothes, but about how to keep customers on the site and interacting with its brands. One of the things Stylematch found successful was street style and celebrity style looks, so it pushed both trends out on social media.

“Then you can click on our site and you can engage with our fashion wall,” he said. “That has had a huge success rate so far, we have managed to increase our average time spent on the page up 144 per cent to 4.5 minutes every time a customer comes to that page. That’s a huge increase in time and that’s a really good engagement model for us. If anyone is spending over 4.5 minutes on your site, I think you’re doing really well. So we’re really happy.”

According to Cassidy, another key to remaining competitive for retailers is looking at innovative and create ways user-generated content is associated with their products. Content being created by customers around their own purchases is influential to the purchasing decisions of other customers, he said.

“We talk about user-generated content and social content as being social reviews for a particular product or service that you’re selling and then integrating that in everything that you do,” he said. “From a marketing capacity, creating a catalogue of user-generated content customers can browse and find the products they like, and allowing them to then navigate to buy that product, can increase conversions. It is all about using the power of user-generated content to tell a brand story.”

User-generated content pushed out to a customer’s network of friends and followers gives content not only more visibility, but further validates purchasing decisions, he said.

“There’s an element of trust and authenticity in an Instagram photo that your friend posts, or an unbiased customer tweets,” Green added. “If brands figure out a way to harness that, it saves a lot on content creation but also lets the customer tell the story – and by doing that, they tell a more convincing, stronger and authentic brand by letting their customer tell it.”

Data-driven customer engagement

Engagement is one side of the coin; data is the other. Green claimed one of the most exciting things to come out of the digital world for fashion retailers is customer data, and the ability to analyse it. He claimed there is no longer any excuse not to find intelligent solutions for effective customer engagement.

“Gone are the days where you used to have to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to implement real-time analytical engines and implement big data solutions,” Green said. “You can get a lot of intelligence and insights now for free or very cost effectively.

“But it’s what you do with it that is really important, it has got to be linked to your strategy - what is the compelling proposition for your business why a customer will engage with you, what’s the number one reason you want to be famous and why are they going to keep coming back to your business.”

At first, Stylematch was going to solely represent bricks-and-mortar stores in shopping malls and shopping strips of Australia, but quickly changed tactic because it was both difficult and costly, Green said. On top of that, traditional retailers seemed reluctant to adopt new ways of customer engagement.

“They didn’t get technology,” Green said. “They had this philosophy that if I build a website, then everybody will turn up – but that wasn't going to work. So we decided to work with some of the bigger brands, to evolve our solution to what it is today.”

In order to succeed in today’s global fast-paced fashion marketplace, it is imperative to have a customer acquisition strategy that links back to a brand’s core business strategy, Green said. It is then important to work out a compelling proposition for your customer – and how to build that into an engagement model.

“Retail has the ability to really leapfrog other industries when it comes to customer engagement by embracing the digital medium and so many innovations out there. There really is no excuse to understand who your customers are,” he said.

“When paying online, a lot of stores still don’t even give you payment facilities through Paypal or Googlewallet. There’s so much research that shows you can increase your purchase success rate or conversion rate or decrease your drop out by offering those options.”

He pointed to a recent Stylematch customer survey that revealed an overwhelming majority wanted a store credit card. The retailer is now looking to develop using virtual shopping bags for multiple retail channels.

“That’s the journey we want to go on,” Green said. “We need to educate our retailers, but they seem somewhat reluctant to take part. There are obviously transactional costs, but as you increase transaction and conversion ratios, it is a no brainer. I think they need to be open to leveraging solutions, things like single sign-ons – it annoys me that on so many sites I still have to fill in a form, why can’t I click and connect via my Facebook or Twitter account?

“It is so simple, but that’s still something retailers are still not doing or not doing well enough.”

Stackla shares how Wanted Shoes is using its technology Besides Stylematch, Stackla is also working with Wanted Shoes. The Australian retailer has been using the vendor’s technology for the past two years and has seen conversion rates on its site rise as a result.

“People that navigate through Wanted’s street style catalogue are 30 per cent more likely to convert to shop,” Cassidy said. “Wanted is seeing it is driving better engagement, people are browsing on the website and looking at more pages and more products. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, you want to drive conversions.

“The fact that Wanted is seeing really tangible, uplifting conversions is to us the biggest validator that this is something that all online retailers should be thinking about.”

Looking to the future, Cassidy sees fashion as being predominantly custom content led thanks to the combination of smartphone proliferation, trends moving forward faster and social network expansion.

“The power of the customer voice is going to become more and more important with customers creating their own content – and in most cases already creating better content than brands themselves,” Cassidy said.

“Once upon a time, big retails brands had ambassadors or celebrities endorsing their brands. Now customers are the new celebrity – fashion bloggers are generating content and brands are starting to realise the power over that. Not only is it real time and cost effective, but it’s also authentic.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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