The fashion industry might have experienced a major wobble in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t all been bad news. Even as in-store sales plummeted due to lockdown restrictions, the opposite trend could be seen online.
The e-commerce fashion sector hit $664.5 billion in 2020 – a growth of over a quarter within a single year. With forecast growth of nearly $1 trillion by 2024, online fashion shows no sign of slowing down as consumers adjust to new shopping habits.
But more sales opportunities also mean more competition for customers. As the e-commerce sector grows more competitive, brands will need to look for new ways to set themselves apart.
In 2021, it’s the customer experience (CX) that counts. According to a Forbes study, 74% of consumers say that they are likely to buy based on CX alone, a clear sign that product variety is no longer enough to entice consumers.
For online retailers, the fulfillment process is one of the biggest opportunities to surprise and delight customers – and a well-resourced fulfillment partner is the key to success.
Moda Operandi was launched in 2010 by Lauren Santo Domingo and Aslaug Magnusdottir, after noticing the growing gulf between the bold looks of the fashion runway and the watered-down versions that appeared in high street stores.
Feeling that there had to be a way for consumers to access luxury fashion with more ease and convenience, Moda Operandi was designed to connect trend-conscious shoppers with best-in-class designers. In addition to curating the latest and greatest looks from around the world, Moda augments its online store with experiences that appeal directly to high-end consumers. ‘Trunkshow’ offers consumers the opportunity to buy ‘what’s next’ in fashion via pre-orders of the latest runway collections, while Moda Private grants access to personalized shopping services and exclusive events.
As one of the early pioneers in the e-commerce fashion sector, Moda Operandi began targeting affluent consumer markets at a time when luxury fashion remained closely tied to brick and mortar stores.
This has made coordinating seamless customer experiences a core part of Moda’s value proposition. So, they needed to partner with a fulfillment provider who understood the expectations of their high-end clientele:
“A major advantage for us from the outset was that Whiplash are very experienced at working with major fashion retailers, both online and offline,” says Nikhil Soares, e-commerce Supply Chain and Operations Executive for Moda Operandi. “Their in-depth understanding of the industry gave us confidence that they understood both our needs and desire to offer clients an enhanced level of service.”
The 312,000 square-foot Secaucus facility was chosen for Moda Operandi’s expansive fulfillment operation due to its proximity to the Ports of New York and Jersey. This allows for same-day delivery capabilities to key customer hubs in New York City and the Hamptons, enabling Moda to take advantage of ‘white glove’ service options that enhance their brand offerings.
E-commerce offers many distinct advantages to fashion retailers, including lower operating costs and greater brand control. Yet it also presents complexity for areas such as inventory management. As one of the most seasonal and fastest-moving product categories, SKUs for garments and accessories can easily run into the tens of thousands.
Moda Operandi’s inventory featured nearly 200,000 unique SKUs when they were first onboarded by Whiplash. This has since been reduced to a much more manageable SKU count of 30,000-40,000, reducing supply chain complexity and allowing for much nimbler inventory management:
“As a large and highly seasonal fashion retailer, Moda Operandi presented a really interesting challenge for us,” says Brian Weinstein, Vice President of Business Development at Whiplash. “They have six seasons over the calendar year, and also need unique SKUs generated for custom items – where only one unit may be available. This requires careful management to ensure that SKU counts don’t spiral rapidly.”
The real-time inventory management capabilities provided by the Whiplash platform have also been a game-changer. By automatically syncing inventory levels at their online store wherever a sale takes place, Whiplash has given Moda Operandi unprecedented visibility into their SKUs and wider fulfillment operation:
“The Whiplash platform has been the ultimate trump card for Moda Operandi. The ability to integrate so seamlessly with our online store has given us a level of flexibility and control that we’ve never had before,” says Soares. “By setting custom Order Rules for packing and routing, we can make sure that our most valued customers receive the service they expect – every time.”
So, what has been the icing on the cake for Moda Operandi?
“What made all the difference was having Whiplash by our side every step of the way,” says Soares. “Fulfillment is complex for an operation of our size, and there’s a lot of moving parts to consider. Whiplash gave us full visibility from day one. We feel so welcomed by the team whenever we visit our facility because they’re just as invested as we are in making Moda succeed.”
For Whiplash it’s this level of open interaction and trust that helps them to achieve the best possible outcomes for their customers:
“It’s important to bring the right people to the table from the outset of the relationship, whether that’s business development, client support, or sales,” says Weinstein. “We pride ourselves on having a collaborative and holistic approach to engaging with our clients, ensuring that top-end fulfillment solutions are implemented seamlessly for better end-to-end customer experiences.”