A hand moving word blocks that spell recession

How Apparel Brands Can Drive eCommerce Sales During an Economic Downturn 

For eCommerce apparel brands, the pandemic quickly transformed from a potential crisis to an era of near-endless opportunity and growth. Then 2023 came along...

As the years progressed and economic turbulence persisted, the once ironclad confidence in eCommerce has been slightly shaken as demand continues to wane and brick-and-mortar slowly recuperates.

Despite the constant fear-mongering headlines, you'll see on national television and in your local newspaper, we are not in a recession at this moment. 

However, as inflation rages on and consumer spending habits shift drastically, it would be prudent for you, as a forward-thinking business owner, to begin preparing for a potential economic downturn. 

In this article, our team of eCommerce experts will cover five strategies your apparel brand can deploy to help drive eCommerce sales and salvage what growth 2023 has to offer. 

Navigating an Economic Downturn Using 5 Crucial Strategies

1. Cultivate Shopper Loyalty via Unique Online Experiences
WAIR on Fresh Clean Threads' eCommerce Website

As acquisition costs continue to rise, leveraging your existing customer base is one of the most effective methods to drive eCommerce sales during an economic downturn.

But it's important to remember just because your customers purchased from you before doesn't mean they're guaranteed to continue, especially as their spending habits begin to shift toward non-discretionary goods like gas and groceries. 

So how can your brand start turning customers into evangelists? Here's a quick pro tip: Personalization is the key to the hearts of your entire shopper base.

From curated product recommendations to personalized sizing experiences, the eCommerce personalization possibilities are virtually endless. 

A great example of unique personalization in action is Fresh Clean Threads using WAIR to deliver personalized size recommendations to their shoppers at scale. 

As a prominent men's basics brand that recently began cultivating a loyal female following, Fresh Clean Threads wanted to drive loyalty and conversions by giving shoppers the tools to find and purchase their best-fitting sizes, regardless of their gender.

Since integrating WAIR, their shoppers are now 132% more likely to convert when landing on a PDP, and 38% of all their orders are driven through the sizing tool. 


2. Empathize via Your Marketing Messaging (and offers)
Hands opening a box that says Hugo Boss, one of the apparel brands driving eCommerce sales in this economic downturn

While the aforementioned tactics are vital in curating unique online experiences your customers will love, aligning your marketing messaging with the current economic climate is also crucial.

For lifestyle brands providing wardrobe staples to the masses, this means addressing customer anxieties and concerns while reinforcing their confidence in your products. For luxury brands, this approach will likely fall flat, and campaigns intended to evoke emotion and comfort via spending will be more effective.

Empathy should also be present within your brand's product offerings. Offering bulk discounts for men's and women's essentials is a great way for lifestyle brands to fill wardrobes and stimulate sales. True Classic is a great example here, as they're currently offering 3-9 packs of tees at significant discounts.  

For luxury brands, loyalty programs are an excellent way to give back to customers without diluting brand equity via discounts. Hugo Boss does this exceptionally well with their "Hugo Boss Experience," which offers various perks such as VIP events, no-receipt returns, and even free tailoring services. 

3. Get Serious About Cart Abandonment
An abandoned cart sitting on top of a laptop used to make eCommerce sales

Cart abandonment is the seemingly perpetual thorn in the side of every eCommerce apparel brand, especially with marketing costs continuing to rise in 2023. 

Fortunately, it's a thorn that can swiftly be removed by constructing abandonment flows that reignite shopper interest and address any qualms surrounding a purchase. 

A great example of cart abandonment flows done right is WAIR's brand partner, CADOGAN, which uses SMS to target shoppers who might need clarification or are apprehensive about what size to select during their journey.   

While sizing is only one facet of CADOGAN's cart abandonment strategy, shoppers using WAIR are 8x more likely to convert than those who use a size chart. As such, CADOGAN makes it a top priority to intertwine size confidence into their cart abandonment flows. 

4. Get Even More Serious About Returns 
A female shopper returning eCommerce sales bought during an economic downturn

If cart abandonment is the perpetual thorn in the side of eCommerce apparel brands, returns are the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

In all seriousness, returns have a doubly detrimental effect on your brand, as they are both expensive to process and can cause significant environmental damage from a transportation and waste perspective.

While sizing and fit are the leading causes of returns in fashion eCommerce, other issues, such as accurate product representation, are also to blame. This is why ensuring all product detail pages are up-to-date with high-quality photos and in-depth descriptions is paramount. 

Sadly, returns are inevitable in the world of eCommerce, but that's where solutions like Hafback come into play, empowering your brand to convert returns from a burden to its competitive advantage.

With Hafback, your shopper-initiated returns are listed on their open peer-to-peer marketplace, where your brand gets to set the sale window and discount level on a per-product basis. When an item is purchased on the marketplace, the shopper who initiated the return will receive a shipping label with the purchaser's address, effectively transforming reverse logistics into forward logistics!

This process not only reduces reverse logistics costs tremendously but also reduces the landfill and carbon waste associated with returns. A win-win for all parties involved, especially because Hafback also plants one tree for every return processed, even in the rare case that the item doesn't sell. 


5. Unlock A New Revenue Stream via Resale
Treet on Sozy's eCommerce website used to make secondhand sales

In addition to being more price-conscious, your shoppers are also becoming increasingly wary about how their purchases are affecting the environment. This is where branded resale comes into play.

The secondhand clothing market has been on fire recently and is projected to hit $77 billion by 2025. This rise in popularity presents your brand with a unique opportunity to unlock a new revenue stream via resale while simultaneously reducing your impact on the planet. 

Of course, establishing a peer-to-peer resale marketplace is no simple task. Fortunately, resale solutions like Treet are actively lowering the barrier to entry for eCommerce apparel brands, helping them construct and maintain their own branded resale experiences. 

Let's use one of Treet's partners, Sozy, as an example. 

Like many eCommerce businesses, Sozy saw a recent decline in sales and sought low-lift, high-impact strategies to retain customers and drive incremental revenue.  

For Sozy, one area of significant impact was returns. Around 15% of all returned items had been damaged for various reasons, leaving Sozy with a garage full of high-quality products with either a snag, stain, or other malfunction, deemed unsellable.

Upon partnering with Treet, Sozy was able to sell through 3 years of excess inventory in months, achieving a 97% sell-through rate for their items. Stellar results, to say the least.  

eCommerce Sales Aren't Dead, But it Never Hurts to be Prepared

While global economic outlook remains uncertain for 2023, eCommerce activity has yet to slam on the brakes. Fuelled by gradually rising wages, stimulus payments, and a slight return to normalcy, many shoppers are still as active online as they were during the height of the pandemic, which presents your brand with a shining opportunity.

These five strategies will help cultivate a brand experience that not only converts but also transforms new and existing shoppers into loyal advocates of your brand. 

Remember. The North Star we're all gunning for is increasing sales and promoting growth, and taking a grassroots approach to achieving these goals will be essential in 2023. 

Interested in learning more about WAIR? Schedule a demo here, and be sure to check out our previous article using this link!

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