Manfred Carsten/ Fashion shopping online

October 2017

Mr Carsten, in 2013 Oliver Samwer of Rocket Internet posited that (in the long run) 80% of offline retailers would not survive. (etailment). What is your view on this?

This question requires quite a precise answer, I believe. Specific industry characteristics play just as key a role as both changing market conditions and the individual ways in which companies are coping with the digitization of business processes. For example, the fashion industry is a segment in which emotive factors take center stage. The way these products feel against our skin, the haptics and the choice of material – these are the factors which ensure that consumers return time and again to make purchases in physical stores. One thing, however, is for sure: the rising online competition will continue to increase their market shares, because the quality of online shopping experiences is being improved continuously. Retailers which offer the best omnichannel experience can get ahead of the game in this respect.

It seems that the younger generation do not account for an overwhelming proportion of online shoppers on the German fashion market, with middle-aged and older German consumers shopping online for clothes just as frequently. The proportion of women who shop online is higher than that of men. What are your experiences of the sociodemographic profile of your online customers? Do they exhibit varying behavioral patterns?

As a designer of women’s clothing, the Betty Barclay Group targets an exclusively female clientele. Our broad brand portfolio covers the entire age spectrum and nearly all clothing needs. The interesting thing here is that even the more mature customers increasingly use their smartphones for shopping, meaning that mobile use is no longer the sole preserve of younger target groups. For us, this means that we must guarantee a seamless multichannel shopping experience in all aspects.

In your opinion, what are the differences between European countries? Or is Europe unified in terms of its online market?

Our experience from the five different countries in which we operate our online shop definitely reveals country-specific consumer behavior. For example, French women tend to return products much less frequently. This can above all be attributed to the fact that prepayment is France’s most popular payment method.

From your perspective, what are the crucial elements behind successful online operations in the fashion industry?

More than ever, the focus must be on the product. Any downsides in comparison with physical stores – for example, the lack of haptic experience – must be offset by exceptional product images. It is about ensuring that consumers are drawn towards special features and details of the product. Furthermore, appealing on an emotional level to specific customer target groups to encourage spontaneous purchases and to create a bond between the consumer and the shop over the long term is a critical factor for success. However, technological aspects must be taken into consideration as well: successful online shops must be both fast and secure in order to meet the increasingly exacting demands of consumers.

The media has been discussing the phenomenon of “shopping bulimia” in recent times. This apparently involves consumers buying huge quantities of products online before sending the products back straight away. Have you come across this particular consumer trend before? If so, would you be able to expand on this subject slightly? But if not, then what do you make of this phenomenon?

We can count ourselves lucky that we have a particularly loyal customer base for our online shop, meaning that we practically never observe this trend in our operations.

And to finish, a more personal question, if you don’t mind: could you tell us what types of clothing you prefer to buy online and which you would prefer to buy in physical stores?

I would typically look to buy shirts in store. I really appreciate the competent assistance and advice you can get from store employees.

Thank you for your time!