Fashion and apparel dominate e-commerce sales in North America


It’s true that e-commerce growth is slowing amid reduced inflation and pandemic fears. But for the first time in history, U.S. retail e-commerce sales are expected to exceed $1 trillion in 2022, according to data from eMarketer.

One industry in particular is leading the way. According to the first e-commerce industry trends report from e-commerce platform BigCommerce (NASDAQ:BIGC), the fashion and apparel industry has been an e-commerce powerhouse in North America. so far in 2022.

BigCommerce surveyed the thousands of e-commerce merchants on its platform to determine which industries sold the most online in the first quarter of 2022. It found that fashion and apparel significantly outpaced overall e-commerce sales in America from the North – and that could be in store for a banner year the rest of the way.


The report first examines the global e-commerce landscape, where fashion and apparel remain strong. So far in the first quarter, gross merchandise value (GMV) for global e-commerce is up 3% year-over-year (y/y). But by the same token, fashion and apparel grew by 19%.

In the same year-over-year period, average order volume for general e-commerce increased 3%, but fashion and apparel order volume increased 13%. Quarter-on-quarter (q/q), overall e-commerce order totals were flat, but fashion and apparel stores saw 5% more orders.

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In North America, the difference was even more pronounced. E-commerce included GMV for Q1 2022 increased 2% from last quarter, while average order value increased 3% and total orders decreased 1%. For fashion and apparel, however, included GMV increased by 24% compared to the first quarter of 2021, while average order volume and total orders each increased by 13% on a quarterly basis.

Fashion and apparel has actually outpaced overall e-commerce in the United States for even longer. Between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, U.S. fashion and apparel digital revenue grew 25%. During the same period, overall e-commerce revenue in the United States increased by 19%.


Market sale

Fashion and apparel brands have turned to e-commerce marketplaces to introduce their products to as many consumers as possible. BigCommerce found fashion and apparel sales on Amazon were huge in the first quarter — included GMV grew 321% annually and orders increased 276%.

Meanwhile, inclusive GMV for fashion and apparel merchants on eBay increased 29% from last quarter and average order volume increased 44%. This is just one year after these traders recorded losses of 12% and 14%, respectively, in the first quarter of 2021.

social commerce

As consumers embrace the “buy anywhere” mentality, social commerce is another trend that has emerged. According to the BigCommerce report, nearly half (48%) of all respondents cited social media or social commerce as the shopping or technology trend having the biggest impact on their overall business in 2021.

For fashion respondents, it remained the top answer.

“Being able to offer checkout on Instagram and Facebook had the biggest impact on our business in 2021,” said Oklahoma-based BigCommerce merchant Crutcher’s Western Wear.

In fact, BigCommerce found that fashion merchants selling through Instagram in Q1 saw a 741% annual increase in total orders. There’s also the recent phenomenon of live shopping, where product ambassadors sell online to shoppers in real time.

Alternative payment methods

In response to the same question asking which shopping or technology trend is creating the biggest effect on overall business, offering alternative payment options was the second most popular response. A quarter of fashion retailers said it was the most impactful.

Alternative payment methods include options like buy now, pay later – which allows the customer to pay in installments, like a down payment on a car – and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Eight percent of respondents identified buying online and picking up in-store as the most impactful factor.

Improved customer experience

According to the report, around 44% of fashion and apparel respondents said they prioritize creating a seamless user experience. Merchants mentioned building an omnichannel presence, improving customer service, and streamlining shipping as methods adopted to improve their e-commerce sites.

One in five respondents indicated that omnichannel selling was specifically the key method used to improve the customer experience.

Open-ended survey responses indicated that fashion and apparel merchants wanted to explore a better returns experience, checkout optimization, SEO, SMS messaging, and personalization. The report also noted that older strategies, email newsletters and content marketing, only warranted “passing mentions.”

How fashion and apparel retailers can get ahead

BigCommerce concluded its report with some recommendations for fashion and apparel merchants looking to increase e-commerce sales. First, the company suggested optimizing the user experience on the front-end. Its partner, Groove Commerce, for example, helped fashion brand Natori redesign its site.

“For a brand like Natori, site design and functionality carry equal weight,” said Ethan Griffin, founder and CEO of Groove Commerce. “Our goal was to bring their brand to life by creating a shopping experience that effectively combines merchandising best practices with Natori’s unique story.”

BigCommerce also indicated that a headless commerce model can help brands achieve this goal. With headless commerce, a store’s front-end design is decoupled from its core e-commerce, which can allow retailers to update their websites faster.

“Traditional systems have worked well for years, but the technology and customer landscape have changed rapidly,” said Mark Howes, vice president of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa at BigCommerce. “Companies need to take a new approach to content management. This is where headless comes in. Headless commerce is all about rapidly scaling your offering and empowering customers to interact with your brand in the way they choose.

Augmented reality (AR) shopping is another strategy mentioned by BigCommerce specifically for fashion and apparel retailers. Brands can use AR technology to offer customers a three-dimensional digital version of their products.

Essentially, AR creates virtual fitting rooms that allow them to view the style and color of a garment without physically trying it on. The idea is to give shoppers the confidence to pull the trigger on a purchase, while minimizing the chances of them needing to make a return.

“We encourage people to get started,” said Marc Uribe, vice president of marketing and alliances for augmented reality company ThreeKit, advising BigCommerce. “Start with one product. Live it. You will see a return on investment because people love this experience. … Buyers love to engage … and then you can grow.

Along the same lines, BigCommerce believes fashion and apparel brands should start embracing the metaverse. According to a Profitwell consumer survey funded by BigCommerce, 46% of online shoppers said they would be willing to shop in the Metaverse.

Already, brands like Hermès and Gucci have experimented with metaverse commerce. Each has invested in their own set of NFTs that customers can use to purchase clothes and apparel through the metaverse.

Ultimately, BigCommerce believes each of these strategies can be a way for fashion and apparel companies to set themselves apart.

“To really stand out from the crowd and stay relevant, it means staying on top of the latest capabilities and staying nimble,” said Meghan Stabler, vice president of product marketing for BigCommerce. “Frankly, the new trends – AR, artificial intelligence – will eventually become the old trends as more and more retailers adopt them to attract and convert shoppers where they are. E-commerce is more competitive than ever. What will be your differentiator?

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