Technology drives new era of fashion e-commerce
Data analysis reveals emerging trends, AI slashes logistics costs
26 June 2019 − Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the 26th Hong Kong Fashion Week for Spring/Summer will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) from 8 to 11 July. A seminar at the show on the afternoon of 10 July, titled “New Retail Era: ‘Fashion x E-commerce’ Strategies”, will see industry leaders come together to discuss the latest trends in fashion e-commerce and examine how the industry can identify new opportunities amid the global economic uncertainties stemming from the current trade conflict. Joining the discussion at the seminar will be Alin Dobrea, Head of Brand Partnerships at ZALORA; Eddie Lee, Regional CEO, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, ECMS Express; Edwin Wong, Founder & CEO, Cloudbreakr; and Raymond Yeung, Senior Sales Manager, Publications & E-Commerce Department at the HKTDC
Using data to identify trends
One of the ways e-commerce stands apart from traditional retail is through the vast amount of data gathered. This information can be used to identify the latest market trends which in turn can help to improve procurement processes and boost sales. Online fashion retailer ZALORA boasts a pool of more than seven years’ data that gives the company a definite advantage over newcomers in the Southeast Asia market. “These data give us a better view of the differences and similarities between the markets we are in as well as general consumer trends relating to what are the popular items, patterns, colours and brands in these markets,” said ZALORA’s Alin Debroea.
“Using data enables us to understand what consumers want, which brands they look for and when. This allows our platform to provide brands with expansive reach across the whole customer journey on ZALORA, with in-depth data insights and privacy-compliant targeting outside of ZALORA through channels such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and more. Through our platform, brands can reach millions of consumers based on ZALORA data across all Southeast Asia markets.
“The advantage of having first-party data is that we are not necessarily price-reliant. A lot of small shops offer generic brands and lower-priced items most of the time. Through data we can get a better understanding of what customers want, and it means we can offer superior products to what smaller shops can offer, helping us to attract more fashion-focused consumers.”
AI helping to reduce logistics costs
One of the keys to success for an e-commerce business is the cost, speed and reliability of logistics, which are now being elevated through technology, and specifically the use of artificial intelligence (AI). “Small-batch orders make up almost all of e-commerce business, which in the past could only be delivered in two ways: by courier and by mail. But neither was ideal to the consumer as the former was expensive while the latter would take a long time and wasn’t traceable,” said Eddie Lee, CEO of Southeast Asia Region of ECMS Express, a low-cost courier service provider.
“Courier costs were high because enterprises need to invest heavily in planes, warehouses and making the entire delivery process smooth and traceable. The latest cross-border logistics solutions, however, mean that tracking a package becomes possible even if the delivery process is outsourced to different suppliers, which means costs can be significantly reduced.”
Mr Lee added that logistics firms now offer full solutions to e-commerce companies to manage returned goods, which constitute a considerable portion of sales and potentially have a significant impact of profitability. “In the past, goods returned, especially from overseas orders, could be a pain for an e-commerce business. But today, logistics firms can help by setting up returns centres around the world to collect the goods, inspect and repackage them, or even directly send them to neighbouring countries from the centres to satisfy new orders,” he explained. “With new technology, retailers can do business in a place where they have no operations office and rely solely on remote monitoring, resulting in significant savings in money and time.”
Trade friction triggers e-commerce growth
The fashion industry has felt the impact of the trade friction between the United States and Mainland China, just like many other sectors, but one unexpected outcome has been that more companies have been prompted to develop the e-commerce side of their business. “E-commerce is hardly affected [by the trade friction] because any order below US$800 is tax-exempted. This has encouraged some traditional businesses to start an e-commerce operation – and they soon realise that the cost to do e-business in one market is not much different from doing business in several markets,” Mr Lee said.
“For example, one website infrastructure can cater for many different markets, from Japan to Taiwan and Singapore. While this new e-commerce business might only constitute a small proportion of a company’s overall revenue, say 5%, it may be the only sector that sees strong growth compared with the largely stagnant traditional markets, so it is natural for companies to allocate more resources to e-commerce. Traditional retailers such as Giordano have recently been investing substantial sums to promote their e-commerce business,” Mr Lee explained.
Impact of influencer marketing boosted through data
Influencer marketing is an important pillar of the marketing strategies for companies engaged in e-commerce, and it is important to ensure that key opinion leaders (KOLs) can raise the influence of the brand and in turn boost conversion rates. To achieve this, brands must choose the right influencer and tell the right story on the most appropriate social media channels.
“Using big data drawn from various online and social media channels, AI can help to analyse the most relevant topics based on what people post on their pages using natural language processing and image recognition. From brand matching, interest affinity, audience group, social performance metrics and content style, we can identify the most authentic and engaging influencer profiles,” said Edwin Wong, Founder & CEO of digital marketing firm Cloudbreakr.
In the fast-changing social media landscape, precision is required in storytelling even when the brand possesses the appropriate KOLs. “The brand can choose to use a mix of different content such as an instant video feed, short video clips, an image on a post or even a long video tutorial. Some great examples seen recently include video sliders using multiple images to grab fans’ attention and drive viewership. Instant video polling, before-and-after trials and full product tutorial videos are other good examples of how to boost fan awareness,” said Mr Wong.
However, the way people interact on various social media platforms can differ markedly. Mr Wong pointed out that fashion and accessory brands are highly appeal-driven and affected by peer opinions, which makes them inclined to give free samples to multiple influencers at the same time to drive an instant trend. “Ongoing appearances and association are more important in arousing fans’ attention than a single point of promotion,” he said.
Fashion seminars to share market intelligence
Other seminars organised by the HKTDC include “Fashion Snoops Looks at the Visionary Trends for Autumn Winter 2020/21 for Women’s & Men’s Wear and Accessories,” held on the first day of the show (8 July), and “Next Stop of Fashion Tech” on the second day, both of which are not to be missed by participants looking to keep up to date with the latest market intelligence.
Register now: https://bit.ly/31QVYit
Event schedule: http://tiny.cc/ckfs8y
Hong Kong Fashion Week for Spring/Summer: http://www.hktdc.com/
Please contact the HKTDC’s Communications and Public Affairs Department:
Agnes Wat Tel: (852) 2584 4554 Email: [email protected]
To view press releases in Chinese, please visit http://mediaroom.hktdc.com/tc
About the HKTDC
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body established in 1966 to promote, assist and develop Hong Kong’s trade. With 50 offices globally, including 13 in Mainland China, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a two-way global investment and business hub. The HKTDC organises international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to create business opportunities for companies, particularly SMEs, in the mainland and international markets. The HKTDC also provides up-to-date market insights and product information via trade publications, research reports and digital news channels. For more information, please visit: www.hktdc.com/aboutus. Follow us on Twitter @hktdc and LinkedIn