E-commerce is a necessity now in fashion. 5 questions with Thomas Zanzinger, CEO, inriver


December 29, 2020

Consistency in content and combining your online and offline shopping experience is key.

*This article first appeared in Fashion United on November 16, 2020 in Dutch.

In today’s ever-shifting retail climate, it is safe to say that every interaction counts. With the outbreak of the global pandemic, the importance of digital commerce was thrown into sharp relief. For many fashion brands and retailers, the onset of COVID-19 only highlighted the difference between their sales channels and solidified the vital need for a consistent omnichannel approach.

Leveraging data, technology, and content to help drive sales and increase brand loyalty is part of what inriver strives to do. Working with leading retailers and brands around the world, inriver’s product information management (PIM) solution helps clients build better buying experiences. Designed to help retailers increase sales by delivering accurate, consistent, and engaging product information, inriver works on a global scale, seamlessly across marketplaces and channels. To learn more about how inriver continues to support brands and retailers during these unprecedented times, we spoke to its CEO, Thomas Zanzinger.

1) How does inriver facilitate brands and retailers developing a better connection with their customers?

“We help them create a better connection by bringing their product offering and content online. What we are doing now, and what we are extending our solutions to do is to combine that with ‘searchandising‘ and real-time analytics. By augmenting search techniques with data and automation, retailers will be able to create a seamless, personalized, and unique product search experience. We are making the first-in roads here through our latest financing round.”

“But the foundational structure in building better connections with consumers lies in bringing them relevant content. Offering generic content does not work. For example, suppose a consumer searches for a product online. In that case, an effective omnichannel approach will allow retailers to measure time spent on the website or channels looking for this product, what terms are used for search, offer up relevant and timely offers, supporting product information like reviews or unboxing videos, and enable past purchase history to influence additional products or replacement parts.”

“The better and more comprehensive the product content is available online, the easier it is for a consumer to find what they are looking for. And, this improves a retailer’s ability to convert and finalise a sale. A frictionless path to purchase is expected today. If there is insufficient or inaccurate product content online, then retailers may lose buyer trust, miss out on a sale and any future opportunity to connect with the consumer.”

2) Brand loyalty is vital for a brands’ success – especially during these uncertain times. What are some tips you have for brands to help increase brand loyalty?

“This may sound basic, but it is still significant for any brand or retailer to succeed – and it is consistency. Understanding the different channels or marketplaces where your customers may be reaching out to you is very important. For example, if they are searching for a particular piece of clothing, such as a shirt, and find different product descriptions in different channels, then this creates some confusion. Brand loyalty is supported by consistency in brand storytelling across all channels. Consistency in content and combining your online and offline shopping experience is key.”

“One of our clients, for example, is thinking about how their online shopping experience can influence their physical stores because their clients are so different across the globe. One of their main markets is China, where consumers are very well versed in shopping online. When China went into lockdown, many Chinese consumers were online shopping in the United States. However, they were disappointed because the shopping experience online in the USA greatly differed from their online shopping experience in China. The difference in visuals, services, and overall offerings did not resonate with them. So consistency is very important when it comes to shopping channels and catering to your needs buyers and preferences matters. Product information can help drive that consistency that buyers need.”

“One of the main challenges faced by retailers now is that brand loyalty may be decreasing due to increased competition. However, this may also open up an opportunity for a brand to improve offerings when it comes to customization and personalization. It also may be an opportunity for them to explore options with sub-brands.”

3) COVID-19 is changing the way consumers shop for good – what types of digital transformations do you see taking place?

“What we have seen is the need or necessity for a strong online presence. It’s not an option anymore; it’s a must now. While I do foresee more physical concept stores opening, this will be combined with an excellent online experience. Online as a brand or retailer, you have much more depth in terms of what you can share with consumers. Although people are becoming much more educated when it comes to the products they want, many will still want to touch and feel the goods in person and have a shopping experience.”

Online shopping showcases products in new channels and marketplaces

“What we also foresee is an increase in the use of 3D visualization for online shopping. 3D technology can really help retailers create a different product experience going forward for consumers, especially in the fashion industry, when it comes to sizing. Managing online returns is already an issue for many retailers because many people do not know which size will fit them best. Many times, consumers will order the same item in two or three sizes to guarantee the best fit and plan to return the others.”

“But good use of technology and product information can help solve this issue and minimise the frustration for the consumer and high costs of returns for retailers. We predicted the further development of virtual reality and augmented reality which will help retailers tackle these issues. This, together with a more seamless shopping experience between online and offline channels and better delivery solutions, such as locker or curbside pickups, is likely to occur within the near future.”

4) How do you think retailers and brands can successfully differentiate themselves from their competitors online?

“Customers typically buy items with specific needs in mind and make purchase decisions based on key criteria. Some retailers focus more on mass-market, or fast fashion while others focus on luxury or bespoke fashion. So how do you stand out from your competitors within your segment? Brand storytelling and DNA. For example, one of our customers started focusing on sustainability when they first started. They communicated the types of materials they use, the factories they work with, the conditions their products are made in, and the impact they have on the environment – to great success. By focusing and sharing more detailed eco-focused product information with consumers and aligning it with their brand values, they have managed to stand out from the competition. They are providing the information their buyers seek. And this is something we see more and more.”

“More brands are committed to creating a more sustainable product offering, whether it be by using recycled materials in the product itself, or by using less plastic in their manufacturing process. Today’s buyers make purchase decisions that align with their political, social, and ethical beliefs. People, especially younger generations are more aware of the impact their buying choices have on the planet, which did not exist 15 years ago.”

5) What are some tips you have for retailers or brands looking to start selling their products on a global scale during these times?

“Do your research before you start reaching out to new markets and expanding. It may sound very simple, but especially in these times, you have to get your market entry right. Ask yourself if your offering is right for that market. Is there a demand for your products? And in addressing a new market, you can sustain it over time? Choose your battlefields carefully.”  

“Even for smaller brands, no matter which platforms you work with, you need to be consistent and have a unified presence online. We encourage brands and retailers to find whichever platform works best for their needs now, with room for growth in the future to enable this. Focus on having the right processes in place to create a coherent and consistent brand experience – no matter which markets your consumers are shopping from. When it comes to retailers succeeding or failing, this is what it tends to boil down to a lot of the time. And this is where inriver can help, by bringing retailers and brands this consistency through our solutions.”

To learn more about inriver and how we help retailers, please contact us.