Chapter 1

An intro to neuroscience

Browse all chapters

Fashion as retail's litmus test

It’s been a bumpy ride for retailers in the past few years. Although customers have once again returned to physical stores, online shopping is still the primary channel for many. In fact, as predictions show online shopping will continue to ramp up, and research suggests that 38% of retail sales will be made online by 2026.

Clothing products

So, what’s the story now?

Retail is still the beating heart of the economy but, as the shift to ecommerce accelerates, so do customer expectations. Brands need to evolve and transform to keep up. Where there are problems, leading brands are finding solutions – but, more than that, the front running retailers are taking this opportunity to adopt innovative offerings, and improve CX far beyond customer expectations.

As those working in the industry plan and prep for the future, and look into their crystal balls for inspiration, there is no better way to learn than from peers. And that’s where our investigation into the DX of customer buying journeys comes in. This report focuses on ten online fashion retailers, but that doesn’t mean other retail industries should skim over the findings and takeaways here. In fact, quite the opposite.


Fashion retail has always paved the way for innovation in retail, specifically DX. And there are certainly lessons to be learned from the agility and innovation displayed during the pandemic. They became one of the quickest-moving sectors to boost their digital platforms and develop enhanced online and delivery strategies. Many, or most, fashion retailers acted fast to extend returns policies. Within weeks, curb or car park collections were facilitated as an instore click & collect alternative. Proactive communications kept customers fully in the loop of stock issues and delivery delays.

As digital pioneers, they played into the moment; implementing new ways to excite and engage their customers and ensure “business as usual” at the most unusual time. Royal Mail research found that over a third of consumers said receiving a parcel was the highlight of their day during lockdown, so it’s clear that many strong consumer/brand bonds were formed during this time. These are the retailers that realised the power of brand building, and customer experience, and capitalised on DX as being the only physical contact between the brand and the customer.

And as for the future, online clothing sales are set to overtake high street sales in 2022 – three years ahead of pre-pandemic predictions.

Shopper with purchase

All this innovation has set expectations even higher, and the growth of online shopping means customers expect seamless, fast, first-time delivery. A huge 45% of customers will abandon their virtual basket because they are not satisfied with the available delivery options, highlighting how important it is to have a customer-first last mile.

Refunds and exchanges have transformed too. Originally seen as part of “boring but necessary” operations, returns will continue to become a big differentiator for retailers too. In fact, 81% of consumers would write off a retailer if they saw issues with the return process, Sorted found.

Embracing technology and offering flexible delivery and easy return options will be essential for retailers if they want to triumph on the ecommerce battlefield.

Abandoned basket

Our report highlights just how fashion retailers are excelling when it comes to the delivery and returns experience they offer. The products may be different, but ultimately non-fashion retailers like beauty, electrical, and homeware stores can gain invaluable insight from the strengths that we rave about in this report (and of course, along with tips for improvement), and incorporate the findings into their own DX.  

Want to find out more about the opportunities in DX?

Granted, expectations may change based on product needs, but when it comes to customer and delivery experience, the challenges remain the same. These challenges mean innovation, and fashion has always focused on innovation that gives the customer the ultimate experience, particularly along the post-purchase journey. It’s clear they know just how important the delivery and returns experience is, where the brand can truly touch the customer. So sometimes it’s good to take the blinkers off and look to other retail industries – and fashion has, historically, been the one to push the boundaries.