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  • Madeline Caris

What You Need to Know from Vogue’s Future of E-Commerce Conversation

“Thanks Gerald!” I yell out to my Australia Post mailman, who I’ve seen more than my Mum since being in lockdown. He’s come by, packages in hand, almost every second day it seems, to bring all the goodies that I may or may not have remembered purchasing in the middle of the night. And judging by this article by the ABC, I’m not the only one, with online fashion deliveries up an incredible 203 percent! Going off this, the future of e-commerce is most definitely a landscape that is going to be completely different from the one before C19.

As I listen to Vogue’s Global Conversations held recently, the knock-on effect that this crisis has had on the industry is huge with many so uncertain on how to navigate through this unprecedented time. But phew, thankfully Anna Wintour and the Vogue team are on the case to gather industry leaders together to discuss the best way forward.

The session held on Day 3 “The Future of E-Commerce”, seeks to shed some light and get the conversation flowing with panelists such as Virgil Abloh of Off-White and Louis Vuitton Men, Stephanie Phair of Farfetch, and Remo Ruffini of Moncler.

Moderated by Vogue China’s Editor in Chief Angelica Cheung, the esteemed panelists discuss for an hour on what changes they have made in their own businesses and what they see in the future of fashion. But to save you time, I’ve listed below the key points I took away from the evening so that you have more time to learn how to play that new piano of yours or purchase that red lipstick you heard about today. (Tom Ford lipstick in Shanghai Lily anyone? Trust me, with red lipstick on, ain’t nobody looking at yesterday’s pajama top you wore on Zoom!)

1. Dual Teams

Ruffini echoed the same sentiment that many around the world are already saying which is that this event is “the best restart”, and we “must be flexible and ready for our new customer” out the other side of this.

He goes on to say that a new way of strategic thinking needs to be applied, as you need to be able to think long term and not just focus on how you are going to generate revenue in the next few months. He introduced the notion of TWO teams in his business: one team that “cares about tomorrow morning”, and the other team that thinks about the long term strategy.

That was an interesting idea that stood out to me, and perhaps it's not necessarily dual teams in business but perhaps a new mindset for us all. Is what I’m doing RIGHT NOW - for Team Tomorrow Morning or Team Long Term?

2. Customer Brand Loyalty becomes Self Love

The future of e-commerce now more than ever needs an increased focus on the customer and hearing what they have to say. “You have to be where the consumer is,” states Phair, “it’s not about selling, it is about actually creating that human connection.”

It’s not about selling, it is about actually creating that human connection.

Abloh agreed and states the whole approach will change and brands will “listen to the consumer first” and respond, instead of the previous model where brands were “projecting ideas that hopefully took hold.”

In my opinion, this shift is HUGE, to say the least. If I reflect back to my days as a luxury fashion buyer, I would at times look at a product and wonder if it was pushing the boundaries a little too far into Avant-Garde Land. The thing is no matter how “out there” something was, it would sell because the Love of Brand was there. But is the Love of Brand now shifting to Self Love in our Covid-19 Times? In this time of isolation, is the consumer more aware of what they want outside of campaigns, peers and trends?

Is the Love of Brand now shifting to Self Love in our Covid-19 Times?

3. How Will Social Media Change in the future of E-Commerce?

Based on the above new approach, this will invariably change the way we communicate in social media and online. And if there was one point that all three panelists were 100% in agreeance upon, it was the notion that the future of e-commerce is all about engagement with the customer.

“Direct to consumer is a trend that has been happening for a while, but now it is not just transactional but it’s about having a conversation with the customer and having that two-way engagement.” - Phair observes from being at Farfetch.

It’s about having a conversation with the customer and having that two way engagement.

Ruffini echoed the same sentiment, advising this is ‘the time to connect with the customer on an emotional level,’ and with his honest Italian flair stated ‘now is not the time to be showing another jacket or another model’. Businesses need to ‘change the tone of our communication’ in order to ‘be close to our customer’.

Now is not the time to be showing another jacket or another model

In the future of e-commerce, we need to ‘be in tune with your customer but now in totally different ways & with totally different values... raise your word, not your voice” Ruffini points out.

Cheung asked Abloh directly how will his approach to social media tone change, he answered with “authenticity and dialogue”. With communication to be more heartfelt and “reflect more humanity, rather than a projected idea of a campaign” in order to “relate to the world at hand”.

This is very much in-line with what a majority of online resources have advised in handling communications during this time. It is truly about being there for your customer, hearing what they have to say, and stripping back all the gloss from your brand and revealing your true authentic self in order to build trust with your customer base.

4. Speak to Your Local Consumer

“More domestic attitudes is the key for today” states Remo, he continues to say that brands must still have “a global vision, but to be as domestic as we can”.

More domestic attitudes is the key for today

This jumped out at me, because OF COURSE with the travel lockdowns you cannot depend on the tourist component of your business because quite frankly they can’t get on a plane to visit.

So although everything has been globalized, the future of e-commerce will see brands adapt and “concentrate on the different markets with different time” Ruffini states, as he validly points out that every market will be in various states of lockdown or recovery, and you should adjust your communications and focus accordingly.

5. The Shift to Online is Definite

The future of e-commerce, as a result of this crisis, will invariably see growth. Phair, being in Farfetch a medium so close and in direct contact with customers, emphasizes that post-Covid ‘we WILL see a shift to Online’. As out of necessity people have been forced to purchase online due to lockdown laws. This has seen consumers who wouldn’t have normally purchased online, to now not only transact in this channel but will have gotten USED to buying online during this crisis.

6. Omni-Channel Importance

Despite the shift to online, Ruffini states that “omni-channel is very important, to use different channels and use different approaches”.

Phair also agrees and believes ‘the most effective businesses will be those who know how to merge both’ (online and offline). Circling back to the customer-led approach, the customer should be in the middle and experience the brand instore but be able to complete the transaction online stating that it doesn’t matter where the sale is finalized.

The most effective businesses will be those who know how to merge both online and offline

Until the time when we’re allowed back in stores and the consumers run free, we should bridge the gap and help facilitate the instore experience to an online customer by using technology. There have been a ‘lot of developments around size and fit technologies, virtual fashion and augmented retail.’ Phair advises.

7. The Future of Fashion is Collaboration

Cheung closes out “The Future of E-commerce” conversation with a question directed to Abloh, and where he thinks the future of fashion, in general, is headed. He hoped that fashion would change from ‘pure vanity to humanity’, and ‘this is the time for our industry to really have a coalition’.

Phair agreed and advised that some of the young designers of the British Fashion Council have “already jumped into being open-sourced, and sharing their patterns and thinking about how they can collaborate. The young designers are the ones leading the way, I think, in that collaboration aspect, and we need the bigger brands to also work that way,” she said. “It will change the face of fashion.”

The Future of E-commerce comes in C’s

The hour ended with the panelists answering viewer-submitted questions such as how can small brands survive this challenging time (short answer: do something not done before).

There have been a number of ideas here to reflect and implement with regards to the future of e-commerce, which fall under the below themes:

  • Customers - what they say goes, focus being on local consumers

  • Communications - holding honest two-way conversations on socials

  • Channels - providing an instore experience to online consumers to succeed

  • Collaboration - across the whole fashion industry is what is needed

I, for one, know I will be implementing a fair few of these strategies into my day to day - how about you? For more in-depth details or to watch the session yourself head over to Vogue, and catch the panel in action.

And perfectly in line with the last C - ‘Collaboration’, you have got to watch this space to see how Style Arcade is reinventing collaboration for the fashion industry #TheRangePlan - coming soon!

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