Thanks to the current 'see now, buy now' trend being adopted by high-street and luxury retailers alike, fast access to fashion is more important than ever to a brand's commercial success, especially for an up-and-coming label. Approaching the subject of e-commerce from a technology, fashion buyer, commercial sales and editorial perspective, Fashion Forward in association with Samsung held a lively panel discussion on when and how fashion designers should enter the online retail space. Moderated by Bazaar's Editor-in-chief Louise Nichol, the four panelists shared their expert insights on the future of digital commerce.
From L-R: Ramy Assaf, Paul McGregor, Maria Gold Knudsen, Abdo Chalala and Louise Nichol
Paul McGregor, Lecturer at the London College of Fashion
On the digital marketplace in Dubai:
"Shoppers still have trust issues in this region when it comes to buying online which is why a strong percentage of e-commerce is ordered with the 'cash on delivery' option. Despite this bringing up issues of cancellation and refunds, it's still a vital option for sales in the region."
How social media plays an important role:
"A few students at LCF and recent graduates have used Instagram as a sales platform for their brand with great success. Not only does this place you literally in the hands of your target consumer but it also cuts out the expensive overhead costs of renting out a retail space and cutting profits with expensive margins."
Abdo Chalala, Vice President of Mobile Division, Samsung MENA
On purchasing via mobile:
"Shopping via mobile is the fastest growing retail market. At Samsung, we sell online and offline and whilst there are benefits to both, one facet our consumers love about the online experience is reading reviews from other buyers about the product. Peer feedback is a key selling point for us and I would encourage even luxury retailers to add it to their digital platforms."
Using digital sales as a marketing tool:
"From the minute a consumer clicks on our website or searches for a device, we are able to profile where they are buying from, how they are shopping, their time on the site and a whole host of other factors that are indespensible when it comes to our marketing efforts. Digital buyers offer data you won't get in an offline environment."
Maria Gold Knudsen, Head of Editorial and Style Content, Ounass.com
On the most important regional markets for fashion:
"The UAE as a whole has a significant spend in the fashion industry, as does Saudi Arabia, one of our most important markets. It's for this reason that we launched the entire site in English and Arabic from day one."
Why you should have content as well as product:
"Regionally, our customers have had a great reaction to our editorial content online, engagement here is a lot higher than I had previously seen in the European market which highlights the need for lookbooks, curated product galleries and styling advice online."
Ramy Assaf, Founder, Zbooni
On how live messaging will change the e-commerce experience:
"Previously consumers would place items in their basket only to abandon them if they had even a slight query about the product. Now, thanks to messenger and chat options on websites, they can ask about delivery times, product materials and anything else to put their mind at ease and move forward with their purchase."
How Whatsapp is a viable option for luxury retail:
"For fast, high-street fashion, messaging apps are probably not an option due to a high frequency of orders, but for luxury consumers Whatsapp can provide a more personal shopping experience with someone on-hand to talk you through your purchase. Net-A-Porter even have a service that allows their most valued customers to order whatever they want via the messaging app, cutting out the website experience entirely."