2021 E-Commerce Fashion Report

This edition of the TextileFuture Newsletter is presenting you for a change only one feature. It is entitled “2021 E-Commerce Fashion Report” and was written by Lilach Baumer with contributions by Data Analyst Amit Danino, both of Riskified.

Riskified uses powerful machine-learning algorithms to recognise good orders with a 100 % guarantee against fraudulent chargebacks.  Merchants can safely approve more orders, expand internationally, and ensure a seamless online journey without taking on new risk.

We wish you a pleasant reading and personal success in your undertakings during this week.

Here starts the feature:

2021 E-commerce Fashion Report by Riskified

2020 turned the fashion industry on its head, sending retail revenues plummeting while eTail sales soared. A transition that would’ve taken years was completed in a matter of months, giving businesses that were already strong digital players a significant advantage. With this shift online came new consumer behaviours, a demand for technological innovation across the board, and new fraud patterns – proving that proactive fraud prevention technology and adaptable data-driven solutions are a necessity in today’s eCommerce landscape.

This report explores the dynamics of the post-pandemic fashion industry, delving into the new challenges of omnichannel, the benefits of alternative payment methods, and the importance of frictionless customer experience for engagement and retention.

Executive summary

Fashion delights in innovation while respecting the foundations of the past. The delicate balance between eTail and traditional retailing shifted in 2020 as in-store revenues plummeted while eCommerce sales soared, and a transition that would’ve taken years was completed in months.

Businesses scrambled to create an infrastructure that would enable them to answer the boom in online shopping without sacrificing their quality of service. Those who were already strong digital players had a significant advantage.

With the eCommerce jump forward came new consumer behaviors and a demand for technological innovation across the board. Fraud patterns also changed, proving more than ever that cutting-edge fraud prevention technology and adaptable data-driven solutions are a necessity in today’s eCommerce landscape.

Released from social distancing rules and lockdowns, shoppers are hitting the streets, but the baseline has moved. Going forward, online-only merchants will need to invest in improving their capabilities to answer the high expectations consumers have developed in this age of almost infinite choice, without early crisis sympathies to cushion their mistakes. Traditional retailers will need to consider how to make in-store shopping a unique experience, and how they can harness the power of eCommerce to boost customer loyalty and experience across all channels.

This report explores the dynamics of the post-pandemic fashion industry, delving into the new challenges of omnichannel, the benefits of alternative payment methods, and the importance of frictionless CX for customer engagement and retention.

You’ll find insights on:

01    Click and mortar

In fashion, the physical store is no longer king. COVID-19 has pushed even once-reticent consumers online, and brands that are hesitant to embrace this powerful growth engine risk compromising their long-term resilience. The overwhelming majority, 83% of executives, now consider omnichannel more effective than just traditional retail, but brands will now have to find new ways to differentiate their in-store experiences by leveraging their online acumen for that added personalized touch and connection. In this chapter, we will discuss the fashion industry’s chance to set up a new standard of user experience.

02            The payment preference

Only 3 % of browsing shoppers click “buy,” but of those high-intent customers, 20 % are still lost to subpar checkout experiences. Today’s online consumers want the freedom of choice when it comes to payment options, and they want them to be easy, convenient, and frictionless.

This chapter discusses why merchants need to think of checkout as an inseparable part of the customer journey, and why fear of fraud should not be a barrier to APM adoption.

03            Fulfilling your customers’ expectations

Too many merchants let conversion goals dominate their approach to customer experience. But in an industry with an  abandonment rate of 84.43 %, offering a seamless, frictionless experience across the entire customer journey is the best way to ensure consumer engagement, loyalty, and retention. This chapter discusses why there is no longer a place for systems that are not automated, flexible, and fully adaptable, and why fulfillment is an inherent part of the customer journey.


Pajamas are out, dressy is in. In an April 2021 interview with the Financial Times, legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour predicted a new “Roaring Twenties” as consumers make the most of loosening lockdown restrictions. Her words were welcomed by an industry struck hard by the pandemic.

In 2020, digital-first and traditional retailers alike glimpsed a more online-focused retail landscape. Constrained by the pandemic, consumers displayed increased comfort with shopping via non-traditional channels, such as in-app and social media, and adopting integrated flows such as Buy-Online-Pick-Up-in-Store, turning to online interactions to supplement or enrich their pre-COVID behavior. For luxury brands, some of which treated the online space as an afterthought, it was a watershed moment.

A new standard of user experience

Brand loyalty took a hit as savvy shoppers sought the best-value deals or the most flexible policies. Concurrently with the rise in consumer digital fluency, 73 % of the companies on Mckinsey’s global fashion index have been classified as “value destroyers” in 2020 compared to 60 % in 2019.

To differentiate themselves from the herd, merchants must offer unique experiences and personal connections.  Brands like Nike and Louis Vuitton have credited their online success at least in part to the personalization. For LV, one of the ways was adding more communication opportunities to online channels. In many ways, last year has greatly accelerated fashion’s arms race. The goal: advancement of the user experience by technological means.

Moving forward, all fashion brands will need to consider ways to enhance a seamless integration between all channels, and leverage the ever-growing power of eCommerce to boost customer retention and loyalty for all their offerings.

Click and mortar – the best of all worlds

Small businesses can flourish with an online-only strategy, but eCommerce has its own limitations. Merchants who already had physical locations saw an advantage when it came to fulfillment, by offering alternative delivery methods. Curbside pickup and BOPIS, for example, boomed during lockdown and social distancing. Others turned their shuttered shops into “dark stores,” closed fulfilment centers intended to support the up-stick in online orders. Even as eCommerce growth outpaced expectations, major online actors like Alibaba doubled down on offline investment, citing their vision of a fully integrated experience. The year further proved that eCommerce gains necessitate brick-and-mortar innovation, not elimination.

The shift online forced many merchants to accelerate their omnichannel planning. According to McKinsey, 83 % of business executives now think omnichannel is more effective than traditional selling methods, compared to 54 % in April 2020. When all touchpoints are taken into consideration, their integration benefits the business as a whole to win over consumers: 62 % of shoppers, for example, are more likely to shop online if they can return their items to a store.

There are many ways merchants can choose to respond to the new baseline. American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie and Fitch reduced their inventory, cut down on the quantities ordered from suppliers, and renegotiated rent. Having a robust online presence can enable retailers to close down or repurpose less profitable locations – while still offering customers increased flexibility and choices, be it of product range, pricing, or delivery options.

Online to offline

More and more brands are realising that in today’s competitive market, technological innovation is the key to increasing user engagement and enhancing the customer experience. Companies like Burberry and Walmart are testing ways to help online shoppers make more informed decisions by utilising augmented or virtual reality to try on fashion items. Snapchat is using its own AR capabilities for an eCommerce bid. These ventures could help solve a problem as old as eCommerce itself – the apparel and footwear category is one of the most frequently returned. A simultaneous growing trend has seen merchants enhancing their offline offering: Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and JW Anderson have all trialed pop-up stores that offer unique AR/VR-supported experiences that visitors  can  access  via QR code or an app.

With so many options available and consumer expectations higher than ever, data gathered from online behavior can help merchants differentiate their shopping experience.

Physical stores can become discovery zones, with apps directing in-store shoppers to a product they have already researched online. Beacon-triggered push notifications can guide them towards relevant store areas or offer personalized discounts. Incorporating online knowledge also helps sales assistants know what their customers might be looking for – what are their favorite brands or usual clothing sizes – before they approach them.

An online to offline (O2O) commerce strategy aims to turn digital browsers into physical shoppers by creating awareness of products or services via online channels such as social networks and email. It can help merchants reach new consumer groups and drive foot traffic. Zara, for example, recently started offering customers the option to check online whether a product is available in any of their UK shops before coming in. Models such as BOPIS also play into this strategy, as they can help merchants cut down logistics costs as they scale up by providing a way to localise their inventory.

Protection is an important consideration when it comes to new technologies. For fraudsters,  new  shopping  flows and emerging channels are an attractive target, especially if they’ve been set up quickly to meet booming demand. Different channels may necessitate different anti-fraud considerations that merchants may not be aware of when trying to attract novel audiences that display new behaviors. Furthermore, in an effort to offer a seamless experience to customers, merchants might hesitate to introduce challenges, leaving the door open to abuse.

With new worries like crowd behavior and safety, price fluctuations, and employment uncertainty on consumers’ minds begetting new behaviors and expectations both online and offline, it’s up to merchants to rise to the occasion.

New customers and digital resilience

Merchants traditionally consider first-time online customers a riskier segment, with their new behaviors and unknown purchase histories. A surge of new accounts may indicate a fraud ring attack or perhaps problematic behavior such as policy or promo abuse. An increase in international shoppers may introduce new fraud.

All the same, the raw potential of first-time customers is a critical growth engine for any online business. Declining them at higher rates not only leaves good money on the table – up to 70% of declined orders are legitimate orders, according to Riskified research – but ensures these customers will take their business elsewhere, often never to return. Merchants simply cannot afford to take a one-size-fits-all approach to new customers if they wish to maximise their eCommerce potential.

Our analysis showed that as a result of the mid-March 2020 lockdown boom, high-end fashion merchants saw a significant increase between the first and second quarter of the year in the number of orders made by new accounts, with some experiencing growth of over 50%. The overall fraud attempt level, in contrast, rose by less than 1 %, meaning the vast majority of these first-time customers were legitimate.

Consequently, the segment has become more rewarding for merchants who seized the opportunity presented by the jump in digital shoppers. As a surge in new accounts is a well-known characteristic of holiday seasons, the approach merchants choose to take towards their first-time customers will be of strategic importance to any long-term eCommerce strategy.

02 The payment preference

Best-in-class merchants know that payment is not just the final point in the journey, but is also a significant factor in customer experience. The accelerated digitalization of 2020 necessitated merchants to overhaul or widen their payment offerings. The rising demand  for  contactless payments and many new habits and behaviors are here to stay, making APMs  key  for  eCommerce enablement.

 With new payment channels come new fraud challenges for merchants, who can no longer rely on familiar factors such as credit card bins for customer linking and history. Furthermore, a variety of payment options usually also requires juggling more payment providers, who might all have different gateway filters and weaknesses. Fraud solutions that rely on multiple data points and are capable of real-time response can adapt to different payment methods regardless of market or industry.

A capability of making instant and automated decisions without requiring manual review can help merchants safely diversify their payment options without introducing new vulnerabilities into their operations.


Traditional online checkout process takes 22 clickson average. An eWallet integration can convert a customer with just one. Digital wallets such as PayPal and AliPay accounted for 44.5 % of global eCommerce sales in 2020, an almost six-fold increase from just 6.5 % in 2019, with Chinese consumers contributing most of that growth. By 2024, digital wallets are expected to facilitate 51.7 % of all global eCommerce transactions.

The increased ease of eWallet checkout can backfire. The card enrollment system, in particular, is vulnerable to fraudsters since users can find a way to enroll a card into their wallets even if the names do not match. In most cases, the onus of authenticating the information stored in the wallet is on the issuing bank, and each has its own verification method.

Merchants choosing to offer this option should ensure their fraud protection solution is capable of identifying the individuals behind the transaction, and their risk level, prior to the point of checkout, without adding friction to the customer journey.

Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL)

BNPL has seen major growth in 2020, perhaps because it enabled cash-crunched consumers to fit purchases into their budget and easily split their payments without incurring interest. It appeals to younger audiences in particular – a PYMNTS report found that millennials and Gen-Z consumers spent 44% and 72% more on orders, respectively, if BNPL was offered as a payment option. It can help bring in lower-income consumers and facilitate cross-border transactions, considering financial recovery is expected to be uneven around the world.

Globally, BNPL is expected to rise from a 2.1% market share in 2020 to 4.2% by 2024. Europe is ahead of the trend, with a forecasted jump of 7.4% to 13.6%; North America is behind the curve with 1.4% to 4.5%.

Like most APMs, BNPL is not fraud-proof. While it is the BNPL provider who assumes liability, customers tend to blame retailers for fraud “hosted” on their sites, leading to reduced trust, satisfaction, and loyalty. Recent Riskified research showed that consumers who fall victim to fraud tend to blame the business first and foremost, more than they blame the fraudster, and more than double the blame placed on the authorising bank.

Are APMs actually riskier in the  fashion industry?

New technologies introduce new vulnerabilities. When embracing them, it is important to understand the risks and new behaviors they may bring about. That said, credit cards are still the most dominant and popular payment method, and the riskiest according to Riskified’s data.

In the second quarter of 2020, along with the dramatic growth of eCommerce, Riskified saw a jump in CC fraud rates. This was true independent of the fact that CC share out of the total order volume also increased. APM fraud attempt levels did not experience the same jump as CC (see graph in this report).

Another higher risk period for CC is the holiday season. Riskified saw an increase in the CC fraud attempt level during the fourth quarter of 2020 despite a decrease in share, while eWallet fraud level dropped as more users turned to them.

A note on Credit Cards

Outside of China, CC is still the most popular payment method,
and will remain so for a while yet. Meanwhile, merchants are still
losing money to a problem they have little control over: payment
authorizations. According to the Economist, about one in every
seven eCommerce dollars are declined during payment
authorization. Applied to 2020’s global eCommerce revenue,
we estimate that roughly USD 600 billion were lost to payment
declines, the majority being legitimate purchase attempts.
Even greenlit by a merchant’s fraud solution, payments can get
declined for a multitude of reasons (insufficient funds, incorrect
card details, new geographic locations, etc). These decisions,
however, are made by the gateway or the issuing bank. Despite
merchants having little to no control over this process, they will
often be blamed by disappointed customers – recent Riskified
studies show that 28% of customers will completely abandon a
purchase after experiencing a payment decline and another 14 %
will jump ship and turn to a competitor instead. That’s why it is
essential for merchants to have a real-time solution that
enables declined customers to complete their online purchases.

  • Fulfilling your customers’ expectations

By the end of 2021, 2.14 billion people are expected to do at least part of their shopping online. Translating that into bottom-line impact is easier said than done. With such numbers alongside ever-increasing competition, ensuring customers have the best experience is essential to long-term success.

Conversion and the customer experience

Conversion can no longer be the be-all to end-all, as pointed out by Brian Berger, founder and CEO of menswear basics brand Mack Weldon. Some things that merchants choose to utilise to improve their conversion rates “actually drive people nuts,” he said, adding that prioritising the customer experience means giving them what they really want at that given moment – be it discovery, education, or making a transaction.

Ecommerce execs are aware of that. In the KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse survey, which examined market leaders across 11 key geographies, 56 % of respondents said they were focusing on creating a seamless digital customer experience.

Such an investment is a win-win: a seamless shopping journey keeps customers happy and increases merchants’ conversion rates. A consumer survey conducted in seven countries found that 29 % are more likely to buy if the shopping experience is entertaining while 43 % said a quick and easy checkout process will encourage them to buy a product online.

The customer experience does not end at checkout

As with payments, freedom of choice is the key phrase when discussing delivery. And when it comes to delivery, merchants who rely on outdated fraud solutions may also end up working themselves into a corner. The old saying is, there are no rules in fashion. Well, there are no rules in fraud, either.

Expedited shipping –the argument against standard-issue rules

Historically, expedited shipping tended to be a red flag for merchants. Legitimate customers, it was thought, were more hesitant to pay the extra fees compared to fraudsters who aimed for the shortest fulfillment times possible at the expense of someone else’s bank account. Then 2020’s lockdowns came, and with them mounting fulfillment delays, and suddenly everyone was willing to pay more to wait less.

So how should merchants treat expedited shipping? Let’s take a look at domestic vs international orders. For regular and fast-fashion merchants, Riskified data show that expedited shipping was indeed the riskier option across the board throughout 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, even with an increased number of consumers opting for this method around early lockdowns and the holiday season.

However, high-end fashion is a different story. Our data shows that in the high-end segment, the vast majority of customers who choose this option are international ones – indeed, often the only option available for cross-border shoppers is expedited or another kind of premium-type shipping. Domestic customers, on the other hand, overwhelmingly opt for non-expedited shipping. This makes expedited shipping a significant characteristic of cross-border sales.

Brands who use rule-based systems, which are rigid and slower to adapt to changing trends and shopping patterns, may still view express shipping as a red flag, adding friction to the customer journey or declining at higher rates. In doing so, they risk alienating many of their international customers. But there’s more to this story than just good customer experience. A look at the fraud attempt rate for these segments reveals the full picture:

Expedited shipping is the preferred option among high-end fashion’s international customers, but more than that, it is also a much safer option than it is for domestic shipping—meaning merchants who look at this shipping option as a red flag will be losing out. For domestic orders, meanwhile, where most customers choose to wait a few days longer for their order rather than pay a higher fee, expedited shipping is indeed the riskier  shipping  method  –  further proof that risk levels should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Furthermore, BOPIS introduces a new human element into the mix. The employees overseeing the in-store distribution process are unlikely to be trained to spot fake identifications. Their level of attention to detail may also be negatively impacted by how many people are waiting in line, for example.

For merchants who want to capitalise on the popularity of this delivery method, understanding the behaviour patterns of both consumers and fraudsters is key to maximizing revenue and reducing risk.

Are you a luxury fashion merchant? Then BOPIS orders are a riskier segment for you, which saw a 30 % increase in BOPIS-related fraud compared to the previous quarter, while non-BOPIS fraud stayed relatively the same. One possible explanation is that many nonessential stores were shuttered during the second quarter, cutting down on BOPIS availability.

The holiday season saw BOPIS orders rise by 29 % but BOPIS fraud rates drop by 52 % from the previous quarter, perhaps owing to the much larger volume of orders overall, most of which were from legitimate shoppers.

And finally, a peek into 2021: how did the first quarter of the year fare? While BOPIS-related fraud rose at higher rates than non-BOPIS fraud, the general levels were still lower than those seen in 2020. Regular and fast-fashion retailers, on the other hand, can confidently embrace the trend. For this sector, BOPIS is the safer delivery method.

The bottom line

The pandemic caught many businesses unprepared. The major shift to eCommerce meant having to rethink shopping flows, delivery logistics, and supply chain management.

In some cases, it meant retraining employees or hiring new ones. It put an increased onus on businesses to reach out and deliver, as they could no longer count on consumers window shopping and popping in.

Online sales are still less profitable than store sales, according to McKinsey, and merchants need to invest in multiple components if they want better margin structures. Omnichannel is expensive. While consumers may have afforded some goodwill to struggling retailers at the start of the crisis, it is not infinite. To answer rising consumer expectations, brands need to promote smooth customer experiences with automation, 24/7 responsiveness, and minimized friction on the journey to checkout.


Fashion is expected to contribute nearly a tenth of the absolute growth in eCommerce sales between  2020  and 2025. The past year has proven that to be a strong digital player, merchants need to innovate and streamline across all channels or risk their customers moving on to the competition. And they need to do it in a way that does not compromise consumer trust but rather builds it, by leveraging technology to:

●            Foster personal connections with consumers via a new standard of user experience

●            Diversify their payment offering to meet consumers where their wallets are

●            Optimise all aspects of the customer journey to build loyalty and CLV

More About Us

Merchants lose billions to underperforming legacy fraud solutions, payment failures, and high-friction verification. Riskified uses powerful machine-learning algorithms to recognize good orders with a 100 % guarantee against fraudulent chargebacks.  Merchants can safely approve more orders, expand internationally, and ensure a seamless online journey without taking on new risk.


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