You are right to think that starting an online fashion marketplace is a challenging proposition. The best online fashion marketplaces are not the ones that have the most brands or largest visitor count. In the world of fashion, catering to your niche is the overriding imperative. Everything must cater specifically to your target audience.
Relating to your target audience is a relatively wide statement and can range from the type of Fashion you’re selling to the values that your marketplace ensconces. Marketplaces can stand out by focusing on specific segments such as specifically street wear, high-fashion, party fashion or just jeans, or for specific values such as independent brands, co-ops, second hand clothing or sustainable manufacturing. The more precise you are with your positioning and target “tribe”, the more successful you’ll be in acquiring and growing a customer base.
And this is a great time to start. In a recent Round Table interview with McKinsey, Boris Ewenstein of Zalando stated, in response to the boom in online sales driven by the Covid19 lockdown, “But after March 30, the landscape changed again. People who would have bought offline before are now moving into online. Of our 32 million active customers as of March 31, 17 percent are new (year over year). We sold one million items just over Easter via our direct-to-consumer partner program, which is up more than 100 percent from last year. Similarly, new sign-ups to the Partner Program were up 150 percent from February to March.”
This week, in our ongoing Spotlight Series of articles where we focus on specific industry niches and provide advise to new startup entrepreneurs or existing businesses in the sector who want to launch and online marketplace, we are taking a look at the specific challenges of creating a Fashion marketplace. You will learn what customer needs you should really focus on and how a to accelerate your go to market with a PaaS Marketplace Platform. Plus, you’ll see what the best in the business is doing, and why it works.
The Types of Online Fashion Websites
When looking to launch an online marketplace, where the need to create the network effects are critical to success, first identify precisely what your positioning will be and evaluate if there is a sufficiently large Total Addressable Market in your segment, for your marketplace to be successful. Remember the closer the shared interest between your vendors (sellers) and buyers, the more network effects it generates – i.e. more sellers attract more buyers and vice versa, which will ensure organic growth of your marketplace.
Broadly speaking, fashion vendors can be broken down into anywhere from five to ten segments.
The value market is the lowest on the ladder. Essentially, brands in the value market focus on volume sales. Their products do not need to meet high-quality standards, but consumers expect to get something affordable. Fast-Fashion falls in this segment and there is a large and growing collection of marketplaces and brands that meet the needs of this sector.
Fast Fashion is however seeing push back in countries where customers are recognising the impact that cheap fashion is having on the environment as well as the terrible conditions in which producers of Fast Fashion clothing operate – especially in countries such as Bangladesh and Sri-Lanka where a large volume of these clothing are produced.
High street brands: mass market, mid-level, and high-end. Without delving deeply into each, high street brands are those that have a specific aesthetic and cater to a defined group of consumers. These brands can span the gamut of price and value, but the defining characteristic is their core customer profile, which reflect interest in the latest fashion trends and an age range that skews towards teenagers through to early-stage professionals.
The number of brands in this category are in the thousands and include both owned brand department stores like H&M, Uniqlo and M&S through to designer labels such as Chloé, Furla, Max Mara etc. We’re simply not doing this category justice in naming brands, as this is widely considered the largest sector of the fashion market.
Luxury fashion and the haute couture segment follow high-end mass market brands, with a focus on designer labels, premium production and exclusive distribution, usually through top fashion retailers or direct to consumer channels.
In many cases brands in this category do not showcase their pricing online in the retail channel, but are regularly featured in the second-hand resale fashion marketplaces, where top brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada and the like are regularly sold. Marketplace such as Vestiaire Collective (https://www.vestiairecollective.com/), Cocoon Club (https://www.cocoon.club/) and Edit Second Hand (https://editsecondhand.com/) are examples of marketplaces that provide a secondary market for people to sell prized high-end luxury fashion and accessories.
The handmade market segment is one of the most popular on some online marketplaces, such as Etsy. Prices can vary widely among handmade vendors and the quality of products depends on the source.
Lastly, the bespoke fashion segment is one of the fastest growing in the online fashion marketplace scene. Although the term bespoke typically indicates high-end products, there are many vendors who specialise in affordable bespoke clothing. Examples of bespoke brands or made-to-measure fashion include Indochino (https://www.indochino.com/) and Sumussura (https://www.sumissura.com/)
Picking a Marketplace Platform Solution to Meet Your Customers’ Needs
Now that we’ve looked at the different types of segments in Fashion, primarily based on Fashion type, rather than the aforementioned “Values” proposition, and you’ve identified the specific segment of customer based that is large enough to sustain the marketplace, let’s look at what you need to create a winning one.
We will be following a structure in all our Showcase articles when discussing functional requirements of a marketplace for a specific sector:
1) The Hygiene Factors – these are the requirements that you simply cannot live without and should not compromise on. In most cases these functional capabilities of your marketplace will also align with general best-practices when developing a high-performance, UX optimised website.
2) The Winning Factors – These functionalities will differentiate you from the pack and is where your selected platform on which you choose to build your marketplace must support customisation and extension
3) The Cream on the Cake – This is where your innovation comes in – based on your experience in the sector, working with vendors in the industry or simply a functionality that will draw a large number of users, both vendor side or buyer side, to your platform.
The Hygiene factors
Here are some of the basic Hygiene Factors that fashion consumers want from an online marketplace:
- Simple product listing and navigation.
- Faceted search – the ability to search everything and have filters that are relevant to the category that they are viewed
- Fast search with instant lookup – remember, customers all approach search differently, some prefer to browse hundreds of category pages searching for what they want, while others want to get straight to the product or brand they are looking for
- Category pages with the ability to add category descriptions, critical for SEO
- Human readable URL’s – a URL structure that uses the category names and hierarchy to display the categories so that it can be crawled better by search engines
- Beautiful, informative and usable product pages. If there are unique aspects of the products on your marketplace, consider using iconography to highlight which products deliver on these specifications. This could include Organic, Cruelty Free, Co-Op produced, Supports fight against modern slavery etc. Do not forget that your customers will want to quickly get to products that match their values and buying requirements, so make it easy for them
- Reviews and ratings that are immediately visible to customers
- The ability to easily configure their intended purchase with size, colours etc with an accompanying size chart for every product to minimise the chance of customers buying the wrong size and having to return the product
- The ability for customers to immediately see who is selling the product
- Beautiful seller pages that showcase the seller’s differentiating factors as well as their products on one page
- A fully integrated online payment solution with the ability to use multiple payment methods including local payment methods around the world.
- A streamlined onboarding process for your vendors, to allow them to onboard, get verified and start selling easily
- Social media integration for sharing
- Quick and easy product listing for approved sellers.
- Effective messaging channels between buyers and sellers.
- A friction-free order system and comprehensive analytics.
- Responsive online shopping – without a mobile-friendly marketplace, you will have a serious uphill battle reaching fashion vendors.
- Reliable uptime – missing out on sales during an important product drop because a site is down can mean crippling losses for a vendor in the fashion space.
- Perhaps most importantly: the ability to turn traffic into revenue
Top 5 Key Features That a Marketplace in Online Fashion Needs to Have to Win
Surprisingly, many online fashion marketplace websites fail to identify crucial elements of success in the industry. And it stems from a failure to marry some traditional concepts of fashion with their counterparts in the multi-vendor eCommerce store space.
Here are five features you cannot do without if you want to succeed:
1. Extremely high degree of customisation. More so than in other industries, merchants in fashion need to constantly update their product offering and marketing approach. And it is worth considering the scaling issue from the start. Note however, that the more complex you make your personalisation for your buyers, the more effort is required from your sellers to create configurable or customisable products on your marketplace. It is better to support this than not – and you need to ensure that you provide sufficient help guides to your sellers to guide them on how to setup highly customisable product listings.
2. Accessible product catalogue. In the world of fashion, product catalogues change by the hour in some cases. Merchants will want the freedom to modify their product offering easily. Consider integrations with the retailer’s own stores – ensure that your marketplace platform can support API integrations with top eCommerce platforms to allow your vendors to integrate and sell their entire catalogue on your marketplace.
3. Analytics from day one – Integration with Analytics Platforms such as Google Analytics with the ability to also track with GTM for advanced analytics. GTM and advanced eCommerce Analytics from Google in crucial to provide step-by-step conversion tracking for your marketplace. Ensure that these are configured from day one, so you do not miss tracking data that tells you how your marketplace is performing.
4. Integrated shipping and logistics: One of the biggest elements of marketplaces that we see missed when determining the features and functionality is integrated shipping. In many cases your marketplace vendors will have their own carriers, however, to provide vendors a complete solution, providing integrated carriers is critical. This allows Vendors to onboard more easily and utilise either the marketplace owner’s shipping solution or sign up for their own and use the marketplace to perform all their shipping for marketplace orders. For integrated vendors, the orders will be passed back to their eCommerce store, from which they can fulfil using their existing 3PL or freight providers.
5. A platform that supports customisation and extensions – Fashion marketplaces, if not customised to meet the needs of the specific segment that it is targeting, will inevitably become just another site on the internet from where you can purchase products. Software-as-a-service marketplace platforms are simply not sufficient for long-term, scalable marketplace growth.
Keeping in mind that according to Forbes, Amazon accounts for over 80% of all sales in the U.S. that leaves an already minor share of the fashion pie within which thousands of online retailers and brands compete.
To stand out and be different your marketplace must have a secret sauce. Here are examples:
- Allowing your customers to showcase their fashion ideas or create Look Books (like Fashmates – https://www.fashmates.com/)
- Integrate with Instagram to show off their new fashion
- Target unique selling methods such as flash-sales
- Provide buying opportunities from unique sellers or provide integrations with a whole host of other platforms
the ability to customise and extend the marketplace platform is crucial and should be a key determining factor when selecting which platform you want to build your marketplace solution.
Best Online Fashion Marketplace Examples and What They are Doing Right
The best marketplaces in the fashion industry have a few things in common. They are crystal clear about who their target audience is, and what those customers need to be successful. Here is a list of some of the top performers in the industry.
One of the biggest online retailers in Germany, Zalando accounts for around 1.6% of the fashion spend of the entire European Union. Although their partner marketplace is only a small part (10%) of their business, it is a small slice of a €6.6 billion ($10.8 billion) pie. Seeing the opportunity in the marketplace, Zalando aims to grow its partner revenue by 40%.
A prime destination for vendors who specialise in luxury brands. Over 3,000 merchants use Farfetch to sell their products and it has just about every type of fashion product imaginable. The business model for Farfetch was ambitious from the start, aiming to provide a platform for all luxury fashion brands across the world. Its success speaks for itself and it offers more features than most competitors.
A global leader in the B2C multi-vendor marketplace sector, ASOS focuses on peerless customer experience as a differentiating factor. The platform insists on free delivery and returns and risk-free checkout options. And its efforts have certainly paid off since it fields almost 100 million visits a month. Originally founded in London in the year 2000, the British fashion retailer now ships to every country in the world in addition to marketplace sales.
Myntra is a retailer from India that focuses on lifestyle and fashion that ended up expanding into a partner-based marketplace. With a strong focus on merchant satisfaction, Myntra invests in a painless onboarding process and many other vendor amenities to attract customers. It has peaked at over 40 million visits per month.
StockX is one of the most successful fashion marketplaces for high-end sneakers. Still relatively young, the sneaker resale website was founded in 2015 but it is already valued at over a billion dollars. A large part of its success was identifying pain points for both the average marketplace vendor and buyer. One of the main sources of consternation among sneaker shoppers is the shoes’ authenticity. So, the company guarantees every shoe to be authentic with a solid refund policy.
Although they do not boast the kind of numbers some global competitors do, Nineteenth Amendment carved out a space in a clever way. It allows shoppers to purchase items from independent designers at a pre-purchase price. Then, designers manufacture them on-demand with the help of manufacturing partners across the United States.
A thoroughly global brand, Lyst focuses on attracting as many vendors as possible and providing a massive catalogue of items. From their apps to their merchant onboarding, everything is designed to make the selling process frictionless. They represent over 2,000 merchants and carry over five million products all told.
Despite its success, Amazon is a good example of how a marketplace can get away with bad practices if it is great at generating revenue. Amazon’s product management is atrocious, Amazon competes with their own merchants on the marketplace, and the onboard is minimal. Yet, millions of merchants choose it to place their products because it reliably creates revenue streams for them.
Are you looking to start up and create a fashion marketplace?
Picking the marketplace software platform that is right for you, is about matching your requirements to the capabilities of the solution and the ability to support your long term growth plans.
Omnyfy’s Multi-Vendor PaaS Marketplace Platform is the ideal solution on which to build and launch your marketplace. We have developed Omnyfy to tick all the boxes required to start and launch a winning fashion marketplace. Check out our features and modules and case studies on fashion and retail marketplaces below, and if you are ready to proceed, book a meeting with us for a free initial consultation.
Check out our Marketplace features here and explore how Omnyfy can help create a customized marketplace solution for your fashion marketplace idea.