Do you know what industry was dealt the heaviest blow during the COVID-19 pandemic? You guessed it. It’s the fashion industry. Clothing production in Europe decreased by 37% in 2020, and sales fell by 43% compared to 2019. Sounds catastrophic, doesn’t it?
The effects of the pandemic didn’t affect all fashion businesses to the same extent. You probably realize that I’m talking about eCommerce fashion businesses that have fared much better than their online counterparts. People worldwide had to shop mostly online for a considerable amount of time. This catapulted the revenue of giants like ASOS and Zalando to heights never before seen.
Few of you, if any, can compare with businesses the size of the fashion behemoths mentioned above. That doesn’t change the fact that you face similar challenges as a business owner. One of them is choosing an eCommerce platform for your fashion business. Whether you’re just getting started or you want to move to a different platform, you need to remember about a bunch of features that include:
- Payment options
- Technical support
- SEO features
- Third-party apps and integrations
No matter your budget and the size of your business, you’ll find a platform for niche players, growing companies, and the big fish.
Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento)
This open-source eCommerce platform owned by Adobe is home to some of the most recognized fashion brands in the world, including Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Fred Perry, and End Clothing. Does that mean there’s no point in building your online retail store on that platform if you're a new business? I’ll be honest and tell you that it can cost you an arm and a leg. To put that into perspective, Adobe Commerce handles over $100 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) every year. If you’re a small business, you can go for Magento Open Source, which is more affordable.
Adobe Commerce would be a perfect choice for those who want to customize their store a lot. The platform offers multiple integrations that enable you to connect your store to many marketplaces and social media channels, including Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Instagram among others. Adobe Commerce supports multiple languages and currencies, making it easy for fashion retailers to connect with global audiences. As far as upselling and cross-selling of products go, you can use a product recommendation tool powered by Adobe’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
If one of your goals is to get a lot of traffic from organic search, Adobe Commerce gives you access to preinstalled SEO features, numerous SEO extensions, and add-ons available on their marketplace. You can set up meta titles and descriptions for individual product pages to improve their ranking.
All the features you get come at a price. Depending on the pricing tier you choose, the costs can vary significantly. If you go for the Enterprise tier, you’ll start at around $22,000, but for large organizations, this can reach even $200,000. If you’re big on customization, it will extend your business’s time to market. Also, you need to keep in mind that Adobe Commerce is a complex platform, so if you don't have coding skills, you’ll need a team of developers to run things smoothly.
commercetools is geared toward the fashion and lifestyle industry, which is one of the company's main focuses alongside automotive and transportation, food and grocery, retail, and telecommunications. The company that invented and coined “headless commerce” is one of the main proponents of the MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native, and headless) architecture. These technologies enable fashion businesses to adjust to the ever-changing business landscape, making it easy to keep up with the latest trends.
Apart from the dynamic front end that allows businesses to be more flexible, you can also leverage progressive web apps and virtual try-ons facilitated by augmented reality (AR) integrations. Companies with a significant following on social media can also benefit from social commerce integrations. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, shoppers can buy products directly on social media. This helps create an engaging customer experience that today’s shoppers expect.
In their fashion magazine white paper, Brad Soo, Product Manager at commercetools, says, “The commercetools headless approach allows fashion brands to craft a digital identity aligned with their physical brand identity as well as use digital experiences to supplement their in-store physical experience. Our headless solution ensures customers a smooth transition from in-store, to online, to mobile, and back. The customer journey moves with them in the cloud and allows them to switch, circle back, and make purchases at any time. Regardless of channel, the experience is consistent.”
If you’re sold on the idea of headless commerce, you can use a 60-day trial to test the platform in practice. This unusually long trial period seems reasonable considering that the pricing is available upon request.
If you have a WordPress website and are thinking about launching an online store, WooCommerce is your best bet. In fact, you won’t be able to use WooCommerce on non-WordPress websites. With nearly 3.5 million live websites using WooCommerce Checkout, this open-source platform is the most used eCommerce platform out there. That’s because of its integration with WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system that makes up 26% of the web.
You can choose from 49 website themes and countless extensions in categories like shipping, marketing, payments, etc. Those of you who are heavily SEO-oriented won’t be disappointed, too. Yoast SEO is probably the most recognized plugin, but there are many more that will help you make the most of organic search. WooCommerce also has advanced order and inventory management tools, one-click refunds, and guest checkouts.
Even though WooCommerce doesn’t offer as many customization options as Adobe Commerce, you can still tailor your fashion eCommerce to your needs, including customizable storefronts. In one of our previous articles, we described WooCommerce as "A popular, free WordPress extension that enables a basic eCommerce website. Added features come as paid extensions. Billed as a platform for any size of business, it’s best for small stores with limited IT resources, especially because finding devs to use WordPress is not a tough task."
While It’s great to have so many extensions to choose from, the maintenance can get out of hand once you use too many of them. The fact that you’ll only get help if you submit a support ticket doesn’t help either.
Businesses of all sizes use this SaaS eCommerce platform. Small businesses can use the standard version of the platform, and larger companies can go for Shopify Plus, which labels itself as the “enterprise commerce platform.” Their point of sale (POS) system is a stand-out factor. It merges the online and offline customer experience using both software and hardware. Retail stores and pop-up shops can order card readers and other accessories that will help them offer an omnichannel retail experience.
Shopify comes in three different pricing plans:
- Basic at $29 per month
- Shopify at $79 per month
- Advanced at $299 per month
The basic plan is perfect for newly-formed fashion businesses taking their first steps in the eCommerce world. Growing companies will probably find more value in the Shopify plan, and well-established retailers will appreciate the Advanced plan equipped with an advanced report builder and third-party shipping rates shown at checkout. Its enterprise platform, Shopify Plus, starts at $2,000 per month. Higher volume businesses will have a variable fee.
Other features that will come in handy for fashion retailers:
- An inventory management system
- 50+ payment gateways
- Third-party apps you can integrate with
- A simple order management system
- Social media integrations
All of this is topped off with 24/7 technical support via phone, email, and live chat if you need any help with your fashion business. You won’t have to worry about SEO because Shopify stores are famous for fast load times. This causes fewer people to bounce off your website, which improves your rankings in the search results.
Downsides? The available themes are limited. Also, your team might need to learn Liquid, Shopify’s template language used to load dynamic content on the pages of online stores.
Similar to Shopify, BigCommerce serves small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and large enterprises alike. While all platforms mentioned in this article offer analytics and reporting, BigCommerce is the most advanced in this respect. They provide comprehensive sales reports, conversion rates, and reports specific to each and every sales channel. Speaking of sales, you can easily integrate your fashion business with other channels, including Instagram, and measure the performance of all your channels in one place.
You can choose between two versions of BigCommerce: Enterprise and Essential. The latter comes with three plans: Standard, Plus, and Pro. They’re priced at $29.95, $79.95, and $299.95 per month. The price for the enterprise version is available upon request. Even the Standard plan offers features that most fashion businesses just starting with their online store will be happy with. That includes:
- A mobile responsive website.
- Product ratings and reviews.
- Unlimited products, file storage, and bandwidth.
- 24/7 tech support, including phone, chat, and ticket.
When it comes to the look and feel of your online store, BigCommerce offers a library of 195 themes, with many of them available in four different styles. They also provide help in other ways. For example, suppose you need a hand with running your business. In that case, you can look up an extensive list of articles that cover general advice and more specific documentation on making the most of the available features.
The list of eCommerce platforms for fashion doesn’t end here
The five vendors mentioned above are the most popular options that fashion retailers can use to launch their online stores, but they can choose from a much larger pool of eCommerce platforms. Even though the rapid growth of eCommerce caused by the pandemic has slowed down, the future still looks bright for fashion ecommerce, with online sales predicted to account for 24% of total fashion market revenue by 2023.
Published June 10, 2022