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Omnichannel Retail – Fusing the Physical and Digital Fashion Experience

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The pandemic gave a major boost to D2C brands as customers chose to shop from the safety of their homes. 2020-22 saw D2C brands grow at a rocketing 40% year-on-year, even as fashion brands focused on physical retail scrambled to build their online muscle. With no way to grow physical outlet sales, brands were forced to quickly come to terms with new shopping behavior and customer paradigms.

With the easing of restrictions, however, the dice flipped the other way. Physical retail boomed once again as customers stepped out and larger brands quickly rebuilt or expanded on their physical presence in malls, with retail chains, exclusive stores, and multi-brand outlets. D2C brands realized that their absence from physical retail was hurting their sales trajectory and the rush to set up physical retail outlets in high-footfall shopping zones began. Zivame, FabAlley, Fable Street, Souled Store, Bombay Shirt Company and many more fashion brands have embraced the fact that their physical presence is needed to attract larger audiences.

The reasons for these are manifold:

- Physical presence gives customers an opportunity to experience the brand hands-on, creating a stronger bond as compared to the digital ecosystem where a multitude of brands compete for attention

- Brands are able to create a more fulfilling experience for customers while being able to gather more information through the interactions

- The overall cost of customer acquisition (CAC) is lower with physical retail, especially in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the next battleground for growth where D2C brands have to compete with established physical brands

- Customers have shown an inclination to continue buying from a brand online after having experienced the physical store. New store openings have led to jumps in digital buying from those locations and cities due to the increased on-ground visibility.

This has led to the growth of omnichannel retail – bringing together the physical and digital retail experience for customers in order to funnel them into a single database where tracking buying behavior gives a rich insight into customer mindset and allows brands to better address the customers’ needs.

Using digital technology, both physical and digital-first brands have been enhancing the customer experience in stores in order to ensure customers have the entire range and choices they would get online. With the additional in-store brand experience, this makes for a heady combination where both customer and brand benefit from the increased touchpoints and exposure to each other.

Fashion brands have been engaging with a number of technology service providers to enhance the physical retail experience and create unique customer journeys that allow them to browse online and shop offline or vice-versa. Tools such as endless aisles, smart-fit evaluation mirrors, and more make the physical store a gold mine of customer information gathering while allowing the brand to also use the physical presence as a brand experience point. We talk about this in our previous article on the fashion tech stack extensions for retail.

In addition, these stores help in improving operations by creating a fulfillment and warehousing facility in that geography to shorten the lag time between orders and delivery for online customers. Increasing urbanization lends credence to the trend of more digital-first brands going for a physical presence and more opportunities to create a true “phygital” omnichannel retail ecosystem.

So is your fashion brand ready to build its omnichannel presence and tech stack? Our next article will help you understand how to evaluate your readiness for omnichannel expansion, so stay tuned.

Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding, and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business, and IT processes to early-stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.

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