We are currently experiencing a mobile retail boom, according to the recent IMRG data the majority of UK online sales are finally coming from mobile devices.

The fashion industry is leading this wave, clothing being the most-searched-for retail category from mobile devices.

The trend is providing opportunity for many retailers, old and new. Online retailer ASOS’s sales grew 17% to £1.1bn last year on strong mobile growth, and the high street’s New Look, too, reported a “significant shift” to mobile.

Other retailers are starting to play catch-up; Burberry, which announced falling profits last month, is now planning to introduce an mCommerce app this year.

So what can it, and retail marketers everywhere, learn from the fashion industry’s pioneer spirit?

1. Speak and listen to your audience

mCommerce isn’t solely about sales, it can also inform product development. It can help brands better understand what consumers are likely to buy, before they have even been produced.

ASOS is already ahead of the curve. Its app includes a preview feature, showcasing yet-to-be-released designs – and inviting feedback in a straightforward, Tinder-style reply. Like the look of that revival 80s wild print dungarees? Swipe to inform ASOS HQ.

This feedback gives retailers real data to make informed decisions on pre-released products still under consideration. This reduces uncertainty and wasted costs, allowing brands to get their merchandising right and is something we actively encourage brands to offer.

2. Test and learn

In fast-moving digital media, nothing is set in stone; any feature can be tweaked and changed, for any number of users. Technologists are becoming used to concepts like A/B testing – giving alternative interfaces to two sets of users, to see which style converts best.

Something Very.co.uk, the second-largest dedicated online fashion retailer, does very well. Its “labs” team is continually trialling new user experiences, introducing different buttons, colours and features – just to test if it’s working as effectively as possible. Operating at the scale Very.co.uk does, even a 0.01% conversion uplift is a considerable boost to the bottom line.

3. All-in with omni-channel

Consumers now expect a joined-up shopping and customer service experience, no matter what the medium. They expect stock levels to be accurately reported online and in-store.

John Lewis excels by replicating its exemplary offline service reputation digitally, through a consistent experience across all channels, leading to a 34% bump in mobile sales last year. Channels are not mutually exclusive – the company says online sales increase in towns where it opens new stores.

4. Content increases sales

Your consumers have always read magazines. Why not make your own custom publication, increase brand engagement and control the content, all inside mobile?

H&M, though late to the handheld market, is catching up by hitting the right tone with its fashion content. The Magazine looks and reads like a glossy fashion supplement and its carefully curated lists of trending items are designed to get social media users triggers consumer footfall to its mobile store.

5. A picture is worth a thousand words

Nothing sells clothes like good photography. Customers need to see items in detail, especially on a device as small as a smartphone.

Clothing is unique among retail products, it’s something you can’t imagine without seeing it worn by someone: for online, the hanger alone won’t cut it. Large, detailed photos of modelled clothing are essential, which is why so many mCommerce apps are becoming image-led. No matter your retail sector, re-focus on your photo gathering.

6. Personalise

We need to create interfaces for the time-poor and the impatient. Customers don’t want to wade through listings for items they will never need or want. These days, consumers used to Amazon’s recommendations expect to see products that fit their expectations.

Net-a-porter nails personalisation with an app boasting a bespoke experience for each individual user. No wonder nearly half of its sales come from mobile.

Recommendations are easier for users to demand than for retailers to deliver. Giving consumers the listings they expect requires strong underlying product data and heavy lifting through processing.

Beth Wond

Beth Wond


Beth Wond is MD of Bijou Commerce.