In case you ever doubted, the hot-off-the-presses Fashion Flash Report from digital performance marketing firm Criteo reveals that mobile websites and apps account for 33 percent of sales in the fashion and luxury vertical.
According to Criteo chief revenue officer Mollie Spilman, a good number of apparel and accessories retailers are taking a "mobile-first" approach to their digital strategies, given that to date their mobile payoff has been greater than in other verticals. "With mobile's share of fashion sales 8 percent higher than health and beauty sales and 17 percent above home decoration, fashion retailers will get the most return on their mobile investment," she explains. Overall, global mobile sales growth is up 18 percent year over year in fashion, and up 37 percent in the United States alone. The report is based on data from 278 million transactions from 832 fashion and luxury retailers in 12 countries, including retailers of apparel, shoes, accessories, lingerie and/or luxury products.
What's more, consumers are becoming more comfortable spending as much on their phones and tablets as they are on desktop. For every $100 spent on traditional computers, shoppers are shelling out $94 on mobile platforms, says the report. However, despite the positive mobile news, retailers can't afford to ignore desktop, at least not yet. "Fashion shoppers are device-hoppers, so while they might purchase on their phones, 43 percent use multiple devices (including desktops) on the path to purchase," Spilman says. "The brands that will win today are taking a cross-device, cross-channel approach, meaning they're engaging with consumers in multiple places.
"Consumers have so many online shopping options, and being omnipresent is the only way to stay top of mind," she continues.
The essential question: app versus website
One particular thing that helps with shoppers is not just a dedicated app, but a great app. While the average fashion app drives 54 percent of sales, high-performing best-in-class apps in the top third overall account for a whopping 78 percent of transactions, according to the report. The best apps stand out for their flawless execution and obsession with urgency, and are defined by such characteristics as:
"Developing a great app, as well as re-engagement with consumers and driving new users to the app environment, is a big opportunity for retail brands," notes Spilman.
User focus: Top apps routinely receive four and five star ratings in their app stores
Need for speed: Limited-time offers and quick and streamlined checkout drive impulse purchases
Handy reminder: Productive apps enable shoppers to save items, add them to wishlists and transfer them seamlessly to a shopping cart
Social capabilities: Consumers appreciate apps that are socially connected and enable them to share products and more on platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter
Fashion websites, and not just apps, still matter, though, with these e-commerce platforms accounting for 46 percent of sales, and one hand seems to wash the other. "We actually see them working in tandem – app purchases peak in the morning when shoppers are away from home, time is scarce, high-speed connectivity isn't guaranteed, and limited-time offers are expiring," explains Spilman. "On the other hand, shoppers use the mobile web to make purchases predominantly in the evening."
Smartphones overtake tablets
To date, retailers have focused on optimizing the tablet experience, but the latest data shows that consumers are transacting more than ever on their ever-present smartphones. "The shift from tablet to smartphone has already happened as the introduction of larger screens on the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy make smartphones a more convenient way to complete purchases," Spilman says.
"Our recent Mobile Commerce Report found that while tablets are still a large part of consumers' buying journey, the majority of fashion retailers' mobile transactions, 65 percent, now come from smartphones. In other parts of the world, smartphones are seeing even more commerce activity and the U.S. is quickly catching up," she adds.
Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal reinforced the idea that smartphones will only continue to eclipse tablets, indicated that iPhone 6 Plus customers won't be quite as likely to buy an iPad mini, given that the Plus offers a good balance in terms of functionality, screen size and portability.
Looking at loyalty
While retailers might look at loyalty as a key indicator of business health, consumers tend to be impulsive by nature, especially when it comes to fashion. For example, 60 percent of sales happen on a shopper's first visit to a fashion website. Loyal, repeat purchasers make up 13 percent of a retailer's total consumer base yet drive more than half of total revenue. Even more revealing, however, is that shoppers with more than four repeat purchases under their belt are but a tiny portion (3 percent) of customers yet account for nearly a quarter (22 percent) of sales.
On the other hand, though, these loyal, heavy repeat shoppers actually are the ones most likely to browse several competitive sites than casual consumers, according to the report.