Finding out the hard way – why Amazon’s new fashion OL is missing the mark

In its ambition to reach $200bn annual sales, Jeff Bezo specified the need for Amazon to “learn how to sell clothes and food”. This makes big sense in the UK as, despite the softness in the clothing market, pure plays have enjoyed healthy growth over the last year. Also, Amazon’s share is probably greater than many realise. Our recent Fashion Syndicate research found that nearly a third of UK females had looked at clothing on Amazon in the preceding 12 months.

Source: ABA Fashion Syndicate, June 17

Women aged 18-55yrs

However, there is one large obstacle. Consumers have always most associated Amazon with functional, basic ranges for specific or urgent missions, not as a place for trend-led, inspiring fashion. In September last year the company attempted to address this via its first fashion own label, ‘Find’. The launch of this collection of 500 clothing and accessory products was accompanied by a big splash promotional. Nearly 6 months on, the dust has settled and we’ve carried out research into how Find is being received. We’ve found 3 big weaknesses that we believe need addressing before the range can be a hit.

Pricing strategy inconsistent and confusing

Most people’s expectation was that an Amazon OL would be at the value end of the spectrum and feature Boohoo, Primark and F&F-level pricing. Faced by the reality of Find there is some surprise at how widely the price points are spread. The range is seen to be chiefly about basics and throwaway, trend-led pieces. There are few quality and presentation cues to help justify the high prices attached to some of the products. Items like a 100% polyester dress at £52 and silver ankle boots at £60 invite comparisons with Zara; a brand that has long had massive fashion kudos. On top of this there is confusion around Amazon’s flexible pricing policy. At first glance a lot seems to be on sale – even ‘new in’ products. This damages quality perceptions. It is probably an attempt to experiment with price elasticity but customers are confused by the approach in fashion e.g. most are new to the idea that a design’s price can vary by its size! Sometimes bigger sizes cost more, sometimes it’s smaller ones, and often you can’t even find the lowest price advertised!

Quality and fit don’t always cut it

You only have to read reviews on the site to see that some products have significant fit issues. Our research also highlighted problems around fit consistency. The same dress size can vary wildly across garments, from just right to huge! Quality also comes under a lot of scrutiny on products where the price point doesn’t match expectations. For example, thin, see-through fabrics make customers question how flattering and durable the brand is.

A garbled message in an unclear voice

Ironically it can be pretty hard to find the brand. The Womenswear homepage promotes other content and on many key product searches it’s missing from the first couple of pages. The idea behind the Find concept is appealing – key pieces to update your wardrobe, plus solid basics. Problem is this isn’t unique versus many other fashion brands out there. Shoppers feel you can ‘style it your way’ with just about any retailer given that these all tend to sell basics and the latest trends! There’s very little editorial content and inspiring imagery to convey the brand’s personality and help to justify its claims or stand out. Worse still, even when browsed at some length, the range’s nature isn’t felt to become any clearer – remaining a loose collection of edgy footwear, unexciting basics, athleisure and partywear.

We’re looking forward to seeing how Amazon will tackle these issues and their next foray into own label for 2018!