In today’s highly competitive fashion world, delivering a consistently good customer experience is the critical factor for retailers. Increasingly, retailers are turning to new technologies, approaches and service models in order to differentiate their experience. But are these innovations the best way of winning customers over?

To find out, we surveyed 500 fashion retailers from across Europe on how well they are delivering on the fundamentals of retail – from returns to delivering on promise; we then compared this to their attitude and approach towards innovation. The findings show that many fashion retailers are prioritising innovation despite worrying gaps in the basics of a good customer experience.

Here, in a precis of our full report, we cover 3 basics that every retailer should master before embarking on an innovation programme:

1. Delivery on promise

Delivery on promise is a key principle of retail success; yet worryingly many retailers are failing to ship and deliver on time. On average, retailers report that only eight in 10 online orders are shipped and delivered on time; these figures are fairly consistent across markets and company size.

What percentage of your online orders are shipped on time? 81%. 
What percentage of your online orders are delivered to the customer on time? 78%.

And those retailers struggling the most to deliver on promise are often being side-tracked by innovation. Seventy per cent of retailers that ship on time less than half of the time view innovation as a priority for their business (compared with 54% of all retailers surveyed). In addition, these retailers are often investing more resources into emerging technologies than others. For instance, 40% of retailers that deliver on time less than half of the time are already using virtual reality, compared with 23% of retailers overall.

Rather than focusing on innovation, these retailers should concentrate on optimising the basics in order to ship and deliver on time more reliably – whether this means reviewing their delivery proposition, streamlining back-end processes, or building better relationships with delivery partners.

2. Performance during peak trading

Peak trading periods, such as Black Friday and the Christmas holidays, are some of the most stressful – and potentially lucrative – times for retailers. Many retailers report, however, that they cannot trust their website to run reliably during such periods, with 83% of respondents experiencing some sort of website issue.

Those retailers experiencing the most serious peak trading issues are also the most likely to prioritise innovation in their organisation. Seventy-four per cent of retailers whose site ‘frequently crashes’ during peak periods view innovation as a priority (versus 54% of all retailers), with 69% planning to invest 10% or more of revenue into their innovation programme next year.

The focus of their innovation programme is largely on improving the customer experience (43%), with a strong focus on emerging technologies. For instance, 59% of the poorest peak trading performers are already using virtual reality (compared with 23% of all retailers).

Whilst innovation might help to improve the overall customer experience, in order to really address performance issues the focus should be on ensuring back-end systems and processes are well equipped to handle increased traffic volumes.

3. Size availability

Having the product in the size your customers need is a retail fundamental that 27% of retailers admit as an area needing improvement. When we compared this to retailer focus on innovation, we found that 57% of those who reported “improve size availability” as one of their customers’ top suggestions for improvement see innovation as a priority for their business.

In terms of the focus of innovation, 18% of these retailers are looking at product innovation, with customer-facing technology coming in a close second in terms of focus.

While size availability is a challenge, we would suggest it can be improved through planning and forecasting optimisation rather than by innovation streams. Another option for improving this is through the use of a retail order management systems, which can surface a single view of stock across all locations. 


By Eric Fergusson, director of retail services at eCommera

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