A question for you. What was 2012 London Fashion Week’s first offering to the world? Was it Stella McCartney, Burberry or McQ? In fact, none of the above. It was a report from The British Fashion Council on strategic growth. But before you get too disappointed, it did have a nice cover and (being a little more serious) made for an interesting read on the future of UK fashion. The British Fashion Council used the start of London Fashion Week to launch its “Future of Fashion – Strategic Considerations for Growth” report laying out its vision for the sector and identifying key areas where action needs to be taken in order for the industry to realise its considerable potential.

Whilst already contributing £20.9bn to the UK economy (2009 figures), the challenge, says the report, is to build on the success so far to achieve even more. Nowhere is this success more evident than in online retail. The report states that fashion ecommerce sales rose by an eye-catching 152% from 2005 to 2010. By 2015 UK online fashion ecommerce sales are expected to be worth a very stylish & sexy £7bn. In terms of fashion retail the report identifies 3 priorities: increasing sales to visitors from emerging markets, investing in the international rollout of the UK’s strongest fashion retail brands and to maximize the online opportunity.

To us here at Diligent Commerce these laudable objectives are all linked by one essential component – without which UK fashion retail will surely stumble on the catwalk – a smart, cutting edge fashion ecommerce offering. Such things as simplifying the buying process online, becoming smarter at selling, creating a buzz around new products on social media networks, presenting products in the most appealing and compelling way are all facets of smart and successful fashion ecommerce. The report also highlights the role of overseas shoppers – spending some £41m on fashion when visiting Britain. Whilst acknowledging the importance of this UK fashion should not wait for potential customers to come to Britain but instead go to them – presenting itself on screens across the world in an utterly irresistible (and of course, British) way. Why wait for them to visit Britain when you can sell them a bit of London Fashion Week at home? It’s not a hard sell either – fashion retail is perfectly suited for the digital medium with its easy on the eye end products and the passion those creations inspire amongst their fans.

Finding new ways to present such creativity and harnessing the power of social networks will be just 2 ways in which the industry will deliver its potential through fashion ecommerce. The report name checks some fashion retailers such as Net-a- Porter who are already leading innovation in fashion ecommerce and developing a loyal global audience. Burberry is another example of a brand thriving in the online environment – in Burberry’s case actually using the medium to reinvent itself. More UK retailers in fashion ecommerce need to follow their example.

For instance personalising the shopping experience more through better use of online data or by being smarter in the post purchase period by following up via email with relevant accessories or “how to complete the look” suggestions. Or by embracing the new possibilities for fashion ecommerce that technology such as augmented reality and NFC bring to the party. For The British Fashion Council to realise its ambitions it will need retailers to ensure they are employing the most effective fashion ecommerce. And that will mean being as creative and innovative as the collections they send down the catwalk. –

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