There's No Stopping India's Online Fashion Boom

by Sohini Bagchi    Jun 15, 2017

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The phenomenal growth in India’s e-commerce industry is driven by the changing consumer buying behavior and preference. The trend has not only given rise to a plethora of e-commerce startups in recent months, but has also forced a number of offline retailers to move online. Many of them have even launched dedicated online stores in order to adapt to the changing customer preference. While the shift from offline to online has been witnessed across product categories, the growth in online fashion has been remarkable in recent times.

The Offline To Online Shift

In the fashion retail industry, the transition from offline to online however was relatively nascent. While books and consumer appliances were the preferred products bought online, it was in 2013 that Flipkart officially forayed into the online apparel business, with an advertisement tagline – ‘Fashion has a new address.’ It was in the very same year that Amazon too made its debut into fashion and lifestyle with the launch of fashion jewelry and watches.

Soon after, other stalwarts of the Indian retail sector also spotted this trend and hence, we see big names like the Aditya Birla Group, Reliance, Arvind Mills, Tata, Vardhaman Group, Raymonds among others, joining the bandwagon.

The niche startups include Snapdeal, HomeShop18, Jabong, Voonik, among others also created disruption with their product variety, service delivery and design innovation. Collectively these players started to open up significant opportunities for themselves and for their buyers.

Needless to mention then that the online fashion market started gaining traction much to the apprehension of many who thought that Indian shopaholics who love the touch, feel and fits of their favorite piece of garment, may dissuade from buying online garment. However, miraculously Indian online apparel sites managed to break this barrier to become the fastest growing category in ecommerce.

Online Apparel: The Fastest Growing Category

The growth of online fashion sites is backed by strong smartphone penetration, improved logistics infrastructure, easy payment gateways, and above all, digitally enthusiastic online shoppers.

In a country where 64 percent of the total population falls in the working age group [It is also this age group that is fashion conscious, looking for a good mix of ethnic and corporate dressing] and at the same time, uses the mobile and the internet to make purchases – the fashion etailers are playing their cards right.

As Usha Seetharam, a corporate trainer and a shopaholic comments, “Most young office goers like us are struggling for time. This is driving a majority of consumers towards more convenient shopping options. Reputed brands in the online space are making this option handy.”

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The Amazon advertisement where a young daughter tells her mother that she is ordering her wedding saris online rather than spend time in the stores sums it all up, she said.

Also online fashion retailers is no longer limited its reach to big cities but has also extended to the tier II and III cities and towns, reaching even a larger mass. With a wide variety of brands to choose from, at an attractive price point people across the country are in for it; the recent examples being Amazon’s Great Indian Sale and Flipkart’s Big 10 sale in May, which invited hundreds and thousands of buyers to grab their favorite offers.

The Digital Influence

While online retailers often need to rely on strong technology backbone and digital marketing dexterities, consumers look for innovative services that can help them comfortable about the fit, comfort and how the fabric actually feels. To cater to their needs, brands and retailers are trying to create a workaround, so that customers can feel more confident while selecting their online apparel.

Renowned online apparel brand Blackberrys’ latest collection – termed as Linen House Collection – aims at giving a unique experience to its potential customers. For their spring summer 2017 collection that comprises of breezy and stylish linen shirts, trousers and jackets for men, the company is undertaking a digital campaign for driving engagement on social media. Under this, they are developing an Instagram microsite called Linengram that will be an Instagram collection catalogue.

The catalogue containing a series of posts by Instagrammers, talks about its Linen House Collection and offers voucher codes to viewers that can be used for availing discounts while buying from the Blackberrys website. According to the company, while the campaign is on, Blackberrys will also organize a contest with prizes such as Gift Vouchers for the winners. Viewers will be asked to stay tuned on its social media channels to know the details of this contest.

Several other companies are already turning to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram to give shoppers a better idea of how their dresses will fit. In Instagram for example, the idea is consumers will be able to more easily see themselves in a certain dress if that’s being shown on a live person through Instagram Stories versus viewing it on the retailer’s site.

The Road Ahead

Going forward, the use of artificial intelligence, robotics and analytics will continue to alter the landscape of fashion etailing. For instance, analytics is being used in marketing, supply chain, merchandising and stores operations by various companies to improve the customer experience and bring to them what they need and when they need it.

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According to a joint study by the global Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Facebook, India’s online fashion market is estimated to reach $12-$14 billion level by 2020 from the current $70 billion, where online contributes 5 percent at around $4 billion. The study stated that while online fashion shoppers will more than double to touch the 130 million mark, fashion e-commerce will constitute 11-12 percent of the total domestic fashion market, which is pretty large as compared to the current 55-60 million consumers buying fashion products online. [Read the full report here]

Of course the industry is and will continue to face challenges such as skilled manpower, legal and environmental concerns and infrastructural challenges, not to discount issues related to technology integration and adoption. However, on the whole, one cannot deny that the online retail fashion industry is booming as an increased number of customers are becoming fashion conscious and have less and less time to go shopping. And there’s no stopping this growth.