The State of Fashion

Consumers have been mobile-first for a while now: mobile data traffic has surpassed that of desktop, and half of Millennials spend more than three hours every day on their devices. Consumers turn to their mobile phones for research, covering everything from inspiration to price comparison, spending an average of six hours per week on researching fashion on their phones.

Now consumers are also discovering the convenience of using their phones for transactions as mobile payments grow — whether on browser or in apps, through mobile wallets, or by paying through phones in stores — fashion companies will in 2018 begin to realise the opportunities this brings. For example, Tommy Hilfiger Farfetch have conceived “stores of the future” that allow for deep customer engagement through mobile, taking full advantage of digital wardrobes, pay-by-app and links to social media accounts. We will soon see more fashion companies follow suit.

For a look into the future, consider Asia, which sets the pace for mobile adoption and mobile transactions. In Japan and South Korea, more than 50 percent of e-commerce is done by smartphone or tablet. In China, more than 80 percent of online shopping is done on mobile-leading players like Alipay and WeChat are gaining global reach as consumers increasingly use these apps to buy goods in stores abroad.

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So far adoption in Europe and the US has been slow — only about 15 percent of smartphone owners use mobile payment technologies to pay for purchases. But mobile adoption is expected to boom, as apps such as Apple Pay are accepted by more and more fashion retailers. In the US, mobile transactions are projected to reach approximately $930 billion annually by the end of 2018. In Western Europe, they are expected to grow by about 23 percent each year for the next three years, reaching €148 billion by 2021.

But this clear opportunity has resulted in a crowded landscape of mobile payment solutions. Some 700 Fintech solutions are already available globally, and more startups will continue to emerge. How fragmented the landscape will get and who will emerge as winners will depend on the solutions and innovations delivered by different players. One potential disruptor is Bitcoin, a crypto currency which is becoming more prevalent in Japan and Estonia. A second is solutions for integrating mobile payments into the offline shopping experience. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip technology could help bring about a new stage of mobile transactions, with RFID-enabled scanners facilitating self- or auto-checkout. Mobile transactions in combination with other technologies have the potential to streamline the check-out processes: consider, for example Amazon Go’s checkout-free shopping experience, which is facilitated by computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning.

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Since consumers do most of their shopping research on social media, these platforms are developing features that make it easier for users to shop and pay. Pinterest has long had a buyable pin option that allows users to make purchases without leaving the site; and Instagram is currently partnering with BigCommerce and Shopify to build m-commerce capabilities. Meanwhile, Chinese social media giant WeChat’s payment solution, WeChat Pay, has 600 million active users.

With so many options, fashion companies will be expected to cater to consumers who are using their mobile device as their primary wallet. We will see more examples of retailers embracing mobile transactions to upgrade both online and offline purchase journeys. They will use mobile transactions to deliver experiences that range from frictionless check-outs online, to self-check-outs and the use of mobile wallets in-store. They will use mobile transactions to better integrate social media and call-to-action buttons. To achieve this, fashion companies will not only need to make strategic choices about the solutions they want to cater for, but also how, when and where they will be used. The decisions they face are made increasingly complex by the multiple standards, payment providers, technologies and solutions available, from device-based to cloud-based support, and the choices they make will have big implications on implementation challenges and the resulting customer experience. And regardless of which options they choose, security and privacy continues to be of great concern to consumers and these need to be safeguarded.

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This article first appeared in The State of Fashion 2018, BoF and McKinsey Company in-depth report on the global fashion industry. Download it here.