SEATTLE, United States — It’s no secret Amazon has bullish fashion ambitions, ramping up its presence in the market with private-label products and initiatives like its Prime Wardrobe service. However, according to new data from trend forecasting company WGSN, the e-commerce giant is still lagging behind established US retailers in the minds of womenswear consumers.
The company's Barometer survey — which launched this March and monitors public perception of brands by interviewing at least 350 consumers every day — found that, when unprompted, only 6 percent of those surveyed named Amazon as a destination to buy women’s clothes in the US. In contrast, JC Penney and Macy’s both came in at 35 percent. Francesca Muston, head of retail at WGSN, says that the data indicates Amazon “still has a long way to go” in conquering the US womenswear market. “People are going to Amazon for something specific, but they’re still not habitually browsing Amazon for fashion,” Muston tells BoF. “Fashion is about lifestyle and aspiration, it’s an emotional purchase.... The current [consumer] associations with [Amazon] are more transactional.”
According to WGSN's findings, sales conversions are higher on Amazon than any other e-commerce site: in August 2017, 35 percent of consumers surveyed that visited Amazon.com purchased something. However, brick-and-mortar still tends to convert more people. During the same period, 43 percent of consumers surveyed that stepped into a Walmart — and 39 percent that visited a JC Penney — bought something, suggesting that physical stores continue to play an important role in the US retail landscape. “Retailers that have a store portfolio do tend to have much more awareness,” Muston says. “It is a way of reaching a lot of customers and talking to them about your brand in a space that you control.”
Amazon is in a prime position to explore physical retail — and potentially make gains in market share — via its recent “store-in-store” partnership with department store chain Kohl’s and its acquisition of upscale grocery store Whole Foods. These partnerships allow the e-commerce giant to experiment with physical branding and to better understand offline consumer shopping habits.
To be sure, retailers should not underestimate the threat Amazon poses to the traditional sector. “Ultimately it's about consumer choice and convenience, and that’s what Amazon does very well,” Muston says. After all, despite its lack of fashion authority, Amazon accounted for 28.6 percent of all online footwear and apparel sales in 2016, a figure expected to grow 1.7 percent this year, according to Euromonitor International. “I think they are well placed to start tackling [the consumer perception] issue,” adds Muston, “but it’s not going to be an easy win for them.”