Never mind ‘you are what you eat’, we are what we wear. Fashion informs the way people choose to present themselves to the world and, as a result, it’s one of the more emotive retail sectors. But is this emotion being used to nurture lasting shopper relationships?

The current fashion market is certainly very competitive. Worth $3 trillion globally, retailers and brands have to fight for share of spend in an increasingly crowded marketplace – and the growth of online commerce is making the opportunity to lose business to rivals that much greater.

Indeed, it seems the fashion industry is lagging behind some other sectors in the loyalty game. When WPP released its BrandZ top 100 most valuable global brands in late 2015, only four fashion organizations – Gucci, H&M, Nike and Zara – made it onto the list. Contrast this with technology, which secured 6 of the top 20 spots, or telecoms, which occupied three.

This isn’t to say that fashion can’t do loyalty well; the problem is that there’s no consistency across the sector. Some organizations understand the nuances of handling a highly emotional customer relationship, and have developed sophisticated loyalty schemes that personalize their shopper relationships. We talked about some of these in our blog post on what drives loyalty in omnichannel fashion.

However, others are still trying to tempt customers through generic paper vouchers, blanket email campaigns, and loyalty cards that don’t marry up activity in the store with purchases made online. To be quite frank, these aren’t going to make them stand out from the crowd.

In order to rise above the rest of the market, fashion retailers need to convey a genuine sense of value and relevance within their loyalty scheme. It needs to have an air of exclusivity – even within fast fashion – to make shoppers feel as if they’re part of something special. Take the online fashion retailer that has just announced an A-Lister loyalty program as an example, giving high value customers extra perks and offers in advance of the general public.

Not only that, but the schemes being developed need to reward consumers based on their activity everywhere. Tracking and incentivizing purchases is much easier to achieve online than in the store environment, but how does it feel to be a high value ecommerce shopper who’s treated like a first time buyer on entering the store? Not great, according to research we conducted for our recent report, The Omni-Illusion; a quarter (22%) feel disappointed by the bricks-and-mortar experience after shopping online.

In order to capture consumers wherever they shop, fashion retailers need to embrace the device common to both channels: mobile. Early adopters of mobile-first loyalty schemes are already seeing the benefits in terms of repeat visits, shopper spend, promotional uptake and customer advocacy.

Being able to blend online and offline incentives through omnichannel loyalty schemes is only going to become more important, as an increasing number of fashion e-tailers are dabbling in physical retail stores. In the last 12 months, the mighty Amazon has announced both its first bricks-and-mortar foray and its own brand fashion label – how long before the two collide? Then there’ll be yet another forced to be reckoned with in the fashion sector, competing for establish brands and retailers’ share of the market.

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