Five years ago, one couldn’t have imagined renting a heavily-embroidered Sabyasachi lehenga or an Anarkali set by Anita Dongre online.

Getting curated, personalised and updated fashion doses daily for free, seemed next to impossible and a 3D virtual room to try out clothes purchased online looked like a distant dream.

However, fashion startups are dabbling with style and technology in equal measure to enhance customers’ shopping experiences like never before and are constantly working on driving customer satisfaction.

While the past year started off on a low in terms of funding and valuations of startups, fashion ventures seemed almost immune to the overall declining funding sentiment. In May 2016, several businesses in this realm such as 6Degree, CoutLoot, Roposo, Blinge, Shopwati and Hoppingo raised funds from investors. Also, as per estimates, the fashion e-retail market in India is expected to touch $35 Bn by 2020.

The past year also saw one of the major acquisitions in the fashion ecommerce space, where Flipkart acquired Jabong through its unit Myntra in a cut-price deal that values the online fashion store at $70 Mn. The acquisition looked at offering customers a wide spectrum of styles, products and a broad assortment of global as well as Indian brands.

While several startups cropped up in this space with a differentiated offering, the existing ones further strengthened their presence through innovation in tech and market efficiency. Adoption of omni-channel strategies was a game changer for some of these startups and for the market at large. These fashion startups not only worked on improving their quality, price point, service and customer engagement, but also ramped up their operational strategies.

From pre-owned luxury items on sale to renting designer and branded apparel, fashion startups totally disrupted the shopping patterns of consumers in 2016. Tapping on the potential of the online fashion space, corporate giants such as Future Group, Reliance Industries and Tata Sons forayed into the online fashion segment and elevated fashion to an all new level in 2016.

Some Of The Major Fashion Trends Witnessed In 2016 Are:

Virtual Trial Rooms

Customers no longer hesitated to make a purchase online in the fear that the product may turn out to be different from its appearance and size. With the help of virtual and interactive dressing rooms, customers could try out clothes virtually. 

The past year also saw fashion marketplace Myntra launch its ‘Try & Buy’ feature allowing customers to try 2-3 items at home, thereby solving the problem of size, fit and personal appeal.

Premium Brands On Board

The past year was favourable for fashion enthusiasts, as startups tied up with designer and international brands to serve customers dramatically better and enhance their shopping experiences. Labels like Cette, Pamela Mann, Ivanka Trump, Falke, Anatomie, Dom Rebell, X by Gottex, Gregg Homme, Leonisa, Emilio Cavallini are now available on Jabong.com. Mango, Forever21 and Mothercare retailed under DLF Brands, are planning to launch an ecommerce site offering products under various categories for women and kids.

Personalisation

Startups are constantly leveraging data science and machine-learning technologies to match customers’ personal preferences and consumption patterns. They are working on understanding the selection methods of a customer and giving recommendations based on their search history. Myntra is one of the online fashion marketplaces making use of artificial intelligence and machine learning for a personalised shopping experience, better product discovery and assisted buying. Fashion curation apps like LimeRoad, Roposo, Voonik are also carving a strong business out of recommending what to wear.

Private Labels/In-House Brands

To offer a complete wardrobe solution and affordable clothing to all, fashion startups AJIO and Abof introduced in-house brands. These specially curated assortments of ethnic and trendy outfits under in-house brands are helping customers enhance their own innate sense of style. Most of the collections are mapped into wardrobes of men and women depending on their life stage and lifestyle.

Omni-Channel Strategies

Several fashion startups are betting big on omni-channel strategies. Arvind Limited had launched its omnichannel platform NNNow.com, a non-discount driven ecommerce market space last year. Another unique fashion ecommerce platform Fynd that helps brands showcase their in-store inventory online launched a new product, Fynd Store to increase sales through omni-channel user engagement. The idea is to enhance customers’ shopping experiences, by leveraging the appeal- including touch, feel and trial aspects– of a physical store, supported by the organisation and logistical convenience of a digital platform.

Exclusive Platforms For Men

Menswear, for the longest time, has been a poor competitor to women’s fashion in the country. However, with fashion startups such as Roposo and Voonik launching an exclusive platform for men in 2016 with personalised clothing options and best fashion inspirations based on their personal preferences, fashion-conscious Indian men are no longer a myth.

With the explosion of fashion startups online, it is for us to wait and watch how many of these business models will survive in the competitive, ever-changing and most complex fashion space. While the strength of some of these business models will motivate others to roll out new strategies, there are high chances that companies cross-pollinate some of these ideas in other online retail sectors as well. While only time will tell which of these trends is here to stay, one thing that can be said for sure is that 2016 was a year of innovation and excitement for the online fashion industry and here’s hoping that 2017 throws up even more thrilling ideas and more evolution our way!


About The Author

[Harsh Shah is one of the three co-founders of Fynd, the unique fashion e-commerce portal which brings the latest in-store fashion online.]

Note from Inc42: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.