Online shopping has taken over the world in the past few years and has become a staple for nearly every industry. From pharmaceuticals to machinery, nearly all sectors of retail and wholesale offer virtual storefronts suited for cross-country purchases. The fashion and apparel industry was among the first to make this shift and lead the charge for retailers everywhere.
According to a recently released Fashion E-Commerce Report, the apparel industry in India experienced growth in order volumes of 51 percent in the year 2021 alone.
The e-commerce apparel industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of our economy, but that steady climb comes at a price. With this massive rise in online fashion sales, customer expectations and demands are also arising alongside it, especially when it comes to the delivery experience. So we’ll be taking a closer look at this gargantuan sector of e-commerce and some of the clever industry-specific mechanisms that have and continue to aid in its growth.
A Unique Industry with Unique Problems
The apparel industry has gained a huge customer base because it offers the utility of shopping at malls or local stores from the comfort of each customer’s home. However, it has meant that a greater amount of effort must be invested in creating a user-friendly storefront, customizable options for purchase and delivery (eg: selecting a size, color, delivery date), and provisions for a smoother delivery.
Since apparel is a product class that comes with numerous variations, customers may purchase products that are low-priced or high-priced, of varying levels of quality and quantity, and which they may choose to return. Apparel is also one of the few industries where customers are prone to frequently changing their minds or feeling buyer's remorse. And they have higher expectations when it comes to fulfillment and post-purchase experience.
Logistics Best Practices for E-commerce Apparel Companies
Having a nice storefront is a great way to pull customers in, but to ensure they become repeat buyers, you need to offer an exceptionally good purchase and post-purchase experience. You need to give customers the freedom to choose not only the items they are purchasing but also the items they do not wish to keep, as well as the process for handing them over.
At the end of the day, transparency is the key to building a foundation of trust with your customers. And that trust ensures those customers keep coming back to you for more. With that in mind, here are some of the best practices in logistics that are specifically designed to help e-commerce apparel companies thrive and prosper:-
Select Your Carriers Carefully - The first thing you need to ensure is that you’ve chosen the right courier partner to carry out the delivery. This covers areas like shipping fee, product attributes like price, size, nature, etc., courier partner performances related to SLA, RTO percentage, etc., and even customer attributes like frequency of purchase or return. Using a courier recommendation engine configured with business-specific metrics can help you with this. A common occurrence that provides a simple example of this is when you’re shipping a high-value good, you will be inclined to select a slightly pricey carrier that offers specialized handling. In case a customer has requested speedy delivery services, you would want a carrier that provides the same at reasonable rates.
Enable Display of Estimated Delivery Dates on the Website - One of the most important things you can do as an e-commerce fashion retailer is to enable EDD displays on your website. EDD stands for Estimated Delivery Rate. Make use of a system that calculates the estimated delivery date of the product using the delivery pin code submitted by the customer and prior data from carriers on delivery speeds to that location. Then display the same on each respective product page at the time when the customer is viewing the product.
This allows them to make an informed decision when placing the order, thereby reducing the likelihood of their minds changing due to slow delivery. Customers feel more secure making a purchase when they know the arrival date of the order. Some may need an outfit that arrives ASAP while others may be fine with a longer delivery time but simply want to ensure they are available to receive it.
Send Personalized Order Tracking Update Messages to Customers - Just because a customer is aware of the approximate time of delivery does not mean they are immune to buyer's remorse or purchase anxiety. In fact, because customers typically look forward to their deliveries with genuine fervor, they become more prone to facing post-purchase anxiety. This is where automated order tracking comes in handy. You can drastically reduce the anxiety and any consequent regret a customer feels while waiting for an order simply by keeping them updated.
Sending regular tracking updates on the order status through various modes of communication is extremely beneficial in this regard. It’s also important to maintain a tracking page on your website which also marks each delivery milestone the order crosses. Customers will typically check such a page at least twice while waiting for their order to be delivered. This also gives you an excellent opportunity to promote cross-selling.
Make Exchange Options Easier - Returns are an important part of the logistics for any e-commerce business, but e-commerce apparel companies have the added burden of making exchange options available. Customers often purchase incorrect sizes or have difficulties with the fit of a garment. These situations make it exceptionally vital to have an easy system for exchange as an add-on to typical return functions.
With a smoother workflow in place for handling exchanges, you can minimize the loss of revenue resulting from fitting or size problems. Instead of the order being returned, it is instead exchanged, keeping the original purchase intact and enabling the returned item to rejoin your inventory for later sale.
Handle Failed Deliveries Expertly - Failed deliveries are truly a bane for any e-commerce business but doubly so for the fashion industry, where customers tend to be selective and impatient. After all, clothes are a daily-use item that we often take for granted. A good delivery exceptions management system can help you convert any undelivered orders into successful deliveries.
When a failed delivery occurs, courier partners usually perform mandatory delivery re-attempts. However, relying solely on the carrier to complete the order often results in a high RTO percentage. This has a consequent negative impact on your profitability. In order to own this process of undelivered order conversion, you need a failed delivery management mechanism that systematically handles different types of delivery exceptions. You would also need a support team in place to coordinate with customers and carriers to get the order delivered.
The fashion industry has been around for decades, taking the world by storm with hot styles and new trends. This stylish trendy reputation of fashion and apparel companies has extended to the e-commerce sector, with major clothing brands sporting lavish and visually appealing storefronts to go with their chic wearable art. That same level of thought and creativity must also extend to the logistics functions of each e-commerce apparel enterprise.
As an industry that prides itself on uniqueness, that uniqueness has extended to encompass a wide range of logistical issues rarely encountered by other retail sectors. That’s why we have highlighted the major issues that may be faced while also providing quick and innovative solutions. These logistics best practices will help ensure all your customers are satisfied not only with the products you deliver but the way you deliver them as well.