With online retail sales expected to hit $423 billion in the U.S. this year, according to e-marketer, online shopping platforms are looking to take a bigger share of the pie.
One of those is one-year-old Orchard Mile, which describes itself as an online mall for luxury brands. While lackluster physical malls are suffering due to falling foot traffic and changing consumer shopping trends, the notion of shopping multiple brands at one time, in one location, is appealing — and it has led to the creation of a number of digital shopping platforms (including Lyst, Farfetch and the mobile app Spring) that allow shoppers to browse multiple brands at once. Those platforms are attracting brands who are trying to get products in front of consumers, however they’re shopping.
Orchard Mile differentiates itself from other platforms in a few ways: For one, it doesn’t house any inventory, and it doesn’t pick and choose what products it sells from brands. Instead, the platform uses a proprietary process that mirrors what brands’ owned-and-operated sites offer to keep track of what stock is available.
Like other platforms, it curates the brands it works with and is selective of what luxury brands it partners with. So far, Orchard Mile has partnered with over 150 luxury brands, including Oscar de la Renta, Rag and Bone and Loewe — and also Saks Fifth Avenue, the platform’s first multi-brand partner, through which it sells Carolina Herrera, for example. (Orchard Mile doesn’t work directly with Carolina Herrera.) It generates revenue by taking a 20 percent cut of each product sold — over 40 percent of its shoppers are between 18 and 35, and 30 percent are between 36 and 44.
The idea behind Orchard Mile, named after Singapore’s shopping district Orchard Road and New York’s Miracle Mile, is to allow consumers to build their own shopping mile. Co-founder and CEO of Orchard Mile Jennie Baik spent more than a year interviewing consumers to get insight on their idea of the ultimate online shopping experience.
“One of consumers’ main pain points was that, every time they’d go back to an e-commerce site, they’d have to spend time filtering down what they needed: a size small, the color — the filters are never saved,” Baik said. So, that was one of the features Orchard Mile was sure to include.
When a shopper lands on Orchard Mile and clicks on “Clothing,” a selection box appears, prompting users to put in the size they’re after and the category of products they want to shop, which can be dresses, beachwear or coats, for example. There are also other product categories, from bags to jewelry — as well as a price filter. Those filters are automatically saved.
That feature alone is a huge draw, said Brendan Witcher, principal analyst at research and advisory firm, Forrester.
“That’s a new way of thinking and wrapping the experience around the customer. Retailers are struggling to create relevant experiences for consumers because traditional marketers are stuck in the legacy ways of doing things. New companies are not letting legacy ways hold them back,” he said.
Witcher said a good user experience and customer experience is what sets online platforms apart in today’s retail environment — product alone is no longer enough. “Product is being commoditized. If a shopper can’t get a particular blouse somewhere, they can find another similar one somewhere else — but you can’t get good customer service and a good digital user experience everywhere,” he said. According to Forrester’s research, 73 percent of consumers see customer service as the most important element while shopping.
Orchard Mile also shares the consumer data it collects on the platform with brands, in order to give them better insight into consumers’ shopping habits. That includes information on shoppers’ locations, cross-shopping between brands, what items shoppers actually buy from their carts, and consumers’ digital paths to purchase. For example, a recent insight revealed that one shopper looked at a $6,000 dress 12 times before finally purchasing it.
“Brands know data is the new oil, but they often struggle with what the most efficient ways to gather data are and what’s the most useful information at a certain point of time,” Baik said. For many fashion brands, collecting data or working with a third-party analytics expert is one of their biggest challenges.
From a brand’s perspective, the major draws of working with Orchard Mile are the selection of brands, the consumer shopping experience and the customer service, according to French-brand IRO, who has been partnering with the platform since March 2015. IRO’s head of e-commerce and U.S. press director Heather Wong said the brand has ended partnerships with other platforms — which she declined to name specifically — after they moved away from being luxury platforms. “It happens a lot. These platforms start out smaller and well-curated, but they expand to become so big that they become like a marketplace or like an affiliate site — like Coupon Cabin or Ebates, rather than a well-curated experience.”
For English brand Roland Mouret, Orchard Mile has helped to grow its U.S. sales to that of its U.K. sales. Roland Mouret’s e-commerce manager, Taylor Dean, said that while the brand partners with other sites, Orchard Mile is the most relevant in terms of price point and brand partners. “Spring and Lyst offer a huge variety of brands, but their price points are a lot lower. Because Orchard Mile only offers designer and luxury brands, it’s more aligned with our customer than Spring or Lyst.”
Image via Orchard Mile.