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Mobile E-Commerce and the Apparel Retail Space

The mobile e-commerce boom is easily one of the most exciting IT trends currently occurring in the retail sector. By embracing this development, businesses have the potential to vastly improve their outreach efforts and customer loyalty levels, along with their bottom lines.

The advantages of mobile e-commerce are not limited to any one specific space within the broader retail sector. But while just about any firm can benefit, it's also true that this technology and its accompanying strategies may be more naturally amenable to certain industries than others. The apparel retail space is a case in point. As these companies are increasingly coming to realize, a proactive mobile e-commerce strategy can deliver a huge competitive advantage and major dividends.

"Clothing represents one of the two largest product segments for all global e-commerce."

Apparel online
To understand the value that mobile e-commerce offers in the apparel retail space, it is first worth examining how quickly this industry is shifting toward online sales. According to eMarketer, U.S. apparel e-commerce sales accounted for $38 billion in revenue in 2012. This year, that figure will likely end up just shy of $60 billion. And by 2018, U.S. apparel retailers will likely see $86 billion in revenue from online sales.

In fact, a recent report from yStats.com found that clothing represents one of the two largest product segments for all global e-commerce. The only competition comes from the consumer electronics category.

The growth of mobile
The yStats.com report went on to note that mobile, along with omnichannel, is playing a key role for apparel retailers.

Notably, many consumers will research apparel online before visiting a physical store. Others will avoid the storefront altogether and instead make purchases through their mobile devices or computers.

The power and potential of mobile e-commerce for apparel retailers was recently put on full display during the NCAA men's basketball tournament. As Re/code reported, one licensed sports apparel seller saw mobile sales for teams skyrocket the weekend that those schools moved on to the Final Four. For all four, mobile e-commerce accounted for over half of all sales for these teams' apparel. For the University of Kentucky, which at the time was favored to win the whole tournament, mobile devices were used for 66 percent of all clothing and accessories purchases during this time.

This surge in mobile purchasing makes a lot of sense. The source speculated that many of these sales came from people who were watching the games on TV and, feeling excited from the victories they'd witnessed, easily turned to their handy mobile devices to buy related apparel.

testBasketball fans turned to their mobile devices to buy apparel.

At the same time, Re/code emphasized that these figures represent a shift among American consumers. Mobile e-commerce is already very common around the world, and the U.S. is now catching up.

Mobile solutions
Given all of this, it's easy to see that mobile e-commerce holds tremendous potential for apparel retailers, but that many firms have not yet fully taken advantage of this shift. To achieve this level of performance, apparel retailers need to focus on both technology and strategy.

In terms of getting the technology right, among the most important considerations is choosing the best available software consultancy to handle mobile application development. There are a lot of options out there, and they are not by any means equally viable.

"The software consultancy should ideally be developer-run."

So, what should firms look for in a software consultancy? The best consultancies have the know-how to integrate mobile payment capabilities, intuitive design, inventory and other operations. With their previous experiences they can incorporate legacy systems, test the application and bring the application to market quickly. Not only that, they'll be on point as a partner to handle updates and upgrades.

The consultancy should have ability and willingness to work closely with the client throughout the development process. This helps to ensure that the final product effectively reflects the company's true business goals and needs. Additionally, the software consultancy itself should have experience in the mobile development space - a new startup will not have a proven track record of delivering success.

Just as importantly, organizations should look for a full-stack firm that can customize the experience for the client and end user alike.

To learn more about choosing the right software consultancy, click here to download our white paper.

The right strategy
To maximize effectiveness, apparel retailers must also embrace strategies that support their mobile e-commerce efforts.

Consider the boost that previously mentioned sports apparel retailer saw on its mobile platform that coincided with the Final Four. Thanks to its immediacy and convenience, mobile e-commerce is particularly well-suited for linking sales efforts with events as they occur. While the NCAA tournament is only relevant for a sports apparel retailer, there are plenty of other options. A firm could emphasize and market its mobile offerings while a well-renowned fashion show is being held, for example. The company could also send out mobile push notifications to consumers in the city hosting the show, taking advantage of geolocational data to further entice sales.

By combining easy-to-use, integrated tools and a mobile-specific strategy, apparel retailers will be positioned to see significant revenue increases and greater brand loyalty for years to come.