Here's Why Consumers Are Flocking to Amazon for Apparel Purchases

Amazon  (AMZN) is widely recognized as a global force in the ecommerce industry, especially in the U.S., where the company generated about 60% of total online sales growth last year.

As more consumers do their holiday shopping online, for instance, spending a record-breaking $3.45 billion on Cyber Monday alone this year, many are wondering just how big a role Amazon is playing in the Internet shopping boom.

Although the company hasn't released official sales numbers yet, it did say it was on track to have its best Cyber Monday in history in terms of sales. Considering that it generated 36.1% of all Cyber Monday sales last year, Amazon has clearly had a great start to the holiday season.

Amazon is considered a major threat to retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart, but it is rarely thought of as a viable competitor to individual fashion brands.

Apparel companies should keep an eye on Amazon this holiday season, as more consumers view the marketplace as a go-to destination for buying clothing, according to the results of a recent survey we commissioned at Onestop Internet.

Of the 57% of respondents who said that they plan to purchase apparel online during the holidays, 64% said that they intend to buy apparel from Amazon.

That is a substantial percentage of shoppers, and we are advising our entire portfolio of premium apparel companies to adjust their holiday strategies to encourage as many shoppers as possible to buy direct instead of via Amazon.

One might wonder why it hurts a fashion company if a consumer buys products through a marketplace such as Amazon instead of directly from the brand's website. A sale is a sale, right?

To an extent, yes, and in the competitive retail climate, companies don't want to miss out on sales, so selling on Amazon makes sense. The company has done a great job of building an extremely loyal customer base especially among its Prime members, and those that don't sell via Amazon risk losing out on that entire segment of shoppers.

That said, there are still several reasons that apparel companies want shoppers to buy direct.

For starters, Amazon charges a 99-cent fee per item on every sale for sellers that don't pay a subscription fee. That might not sound like a lot, but when one considers the volume of purchases made during the holidays, it can add up quickly.

Next, if a consumer buys through Amazon, he or she isn't necessarily exposed to that brand's full inventory, which can result in lost sales opportunities.

For example, let's say a shopper goes to the 7 For All Mankind website planning to buy a pair of jeans for his sister. Once that shopper is on the site, it is possible that he will explore other merchandise and buy additional items.

Because that shopper is on the 7 For All Mankind website, all those items are guaranteed to be that brand. If that same shopper makes that purchase on Amazon, it is still possible that he will buy additional items, but they won't necessarily be 7 For All Mankind.

Finally, fashion brands want consumers to buy direct because it helps bolster brand loyalty.

At Onestop Internet, we build and maintain digital storefronts for many premium fashion companies, and there is a lot of thought going into every single component of an ecommerce site. When consumers visit a brand's website, they are fully immersed in the DNA and unique aesthetic of that company, which they don't get from a marketplace such as Amazon.

But instead of ignoring Amazon and pushing exclusively for direct sales, companies should learn from the online giant and work to offer shoppers the same kind of compelling experience that keeps them coming back.

First off, companies should make sure that inventory is priced competitively.

Per our survey results, 44% of shoppers who prefer to buy apparel online said that they value the ability to compare prices.

This means that companies can't assume that shoppers will make a purchase as soon they find the items that they want. There is a good chance that consumers will do a price comparison first to ensure that they are getting the best deal.

Not only does Amazon price its inventory competitively, but it also clearly communicates when a product is available at a lower price from a different seller.

Speaking of deals, brands that offering discounts should be sharing them on social media.

Fully 55% of survey respondents who plan to purchase apparel online this holiday season said that they would be much more likely to make that purchase if they saw a discount promoted on social media. Amazon regularly promotes deals and special offers through its social channels, and individual brands should be doing the same.

Amazon has changed the ecommerce game for good. There is no denying that.

Apparel companies must recognize what the company is doing well, and strive to offer shoppers an exceptional shopping experience that fosters the same kind of continuing relationships that have made Amazon so successful.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned. 

7 For All Mankind is a Onestop Internet client. 

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