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Despite the challenges that online apparel shopping poses, clothing and accessories make up today’s fastest-growing ecommerce segment. As reported in a recent article by Thomas Rankin, the founder of the mobile menswear app Dash Hudson, this is led by innovative fashion technology solutions that allow brands and e-tailers to tailor both product and content to each shoppers’ specific needs. Not only does this engage consumers and allow them to shop more conveniently than ever before, but it has also revolutionised shopping for a commonly overlooked, yet highly important and loyal customer segment: men.

Mens’ shopping needs have often come second to womens’ in the world of offline retail. The growth of online apparel sales has enabled a multitude of e-tailers and online brands to step up and address this issue by creating sites specifically tailored to men’s needs. And, consequently, “the Internet has changed an experience men hate” as a recent Business Insider article accurately put it, and reduced “the barrier between men and style.” It therefore comes as no surprise that a recent Rakuten Linkshare study found that the vast majority of men (83%) prefer online to brick-and-mortar shopping. Some e-tailers that target both men and women, such as Gilt, have even found that men are ‘outshopping’ women.

A plethora of online shopping possibilities exist besides the usual online stores of existing offline brands and retailers. These cater to more specific needs in innovative ways:

Pure e-tailers who offer latest fashion trends at different price ranges (eg Bonobos, Jack Threads and Mr. Porter).

Curated subscription services such as The Chapar, handpick items and send them to customers on a prescription basis, and then only charge for items that the customers decide not to return (more about this here). Other examples of this include Frank & Oak, Bombfell and Trunk Club.

Social commerce brands who allow men to curate and draw inspiration from others (eg Fab and Svpply), though this type of shopping has been found to be more popular amongst women than men.

Virtual fit tools are also making online sizing choices easier, with custom ecommerce tailoring becoming highly competitive amongst menswear startups (more about this in our FTDaily-featured article here). And the blogosphere has also given birth to men’s fashion blogs such as The Dandy Project, The Simplistic Man, The Hobbyists and This Fellow.

Ultimately, it is a question of offering a service that is tailored appropriately to a certain customer need. Erik Lautier, EVP and Chief Digital Officer at bebe summarises this well in Rankin’s article: “the question you have to ask yourself as a brand is ‘am I creating content people will be passionate enough about to share with others?’ That question is no different from what it was 20 or 50 or 100 years ago – it’s just that now, sharing is easier and faster.”

Curation and greater niche specificity in men’s brands, many of whom are online-only, have made it easier for men to find exactly what they’re looking for, either because it is being served up to them or because the discovery process has been streamlined.”- Erik Lautier, EVP & Chief Digital Officer at bebe in Rankin’s article.

Reported By Anna Abrell

 

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Rachel Tipograph is “making Gap cool again for the first time since Bill Clinton was President,” according to Business Insider. As Gap’s Global Director of Digital & Social Media, Rachel oversees strategy, implementation and measurement. She judged the pitches at the world’s first Fashion Hackathon, and we chatted with her on what tech she can’t live without.

Decoded Fashion: What is the most useful technology to you in your job as Global Director of Digital & Social Media at Gap?
Rachel Tipograph: My iPhone. The social web doesn’t care about time nor space and having a computer in my pocket always allows me to do my job from anywhere and anytime. And Radian6. Social media stretches across every discipline of the business, and Radian6 allows anyone from the C-suite to community managers listen to conversations about Gap worldwide.

DF: What areas of fashion-tech are extremely crowded?
RT: Affiliate programs, ad tech, and SaS for social media. With the explosion of content, conversation and data happening across the web, one of the first opportunities entrepreneurs addressed was 1) how to turn massive amounts of data into meaningful interactions, and 2) turn those interactions into something that’s actionable in the sales funnel. As a result, there are an abundance of companies that have come to be in the affiliate space, ad tech and SaS for social.

DF: What areas of fashion-tech are relatively unexplored?
RT: In-store technologies and enterprise SaS. 2013 will be the year the B-to-B space explodes with innovation. Many entrepreneurs are taking learning from the B-to-C space and applying it to B-to-B. In addition, IT technology is improving at rapid speed, the cost of technology is becoming more affordable, all of these variables will influence innovation within organizations.