Amazon Flings Opens Prime Wardrobe Doors

Amazon this week expanded Prime Wardrobe to all Prime members, after beta-testing the service on an invitation-only basis for a year.

Prime Wardrobe is included in Amazon Prime memberships at no additional charge. The service is available to paid and 30-day trial Amazon Prime members; paid and six-month trial Amazon Prime Student members; and members of an Amazon Household.

Prime Wardrobe is not available to members with Prime Video-only subscriptions or to invited guests who receive only shipping benefits from a Prime member.

Needs More Smarts?

“This is going to be an immensely valuable service for Amazon which will increase consumers’ confidence in buying apparel from the company,” said Nikki Baird, VP for retail innovation at Aptos.

“I haven’t bought a lot of clothing from Amazon because of concerns about fit … and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of returns,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “As a shopper, this is something that I’ve been waiting for before I was willing to [purchase] apparel on Amazon.”

It’s unlikely that Prime Wardrobe will be a big game changer, said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“If Amazon gets really good at [artificial intelligence]-driven recommendations for apparel, there may be an opportunity for them here, but they’d need a lot of volume to get there, and a better way to provide AI-based recommendations,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

“I’m still getting wacky recommendations for things on Amazon based on one-off purchases that they’ve clearly taken out of context,” Wettemann remarked.

It appears that private label brands have been the top sellers through the service, but Prime Wardrobe also offers items from major brands such as Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss and Gymboree.

The Ordering Process

Customers can choose three or more items from clothing, shoes and accessories. They have seven days to decide whether to keep any of them. Items selected must display the Prime Wardrobe icon.

Orders arrive in four to six business days, and the seven-day trial period begins once all items in an order arrive.

Prime Wardrobe only accepts credit and debit cards with 90 or more days before expiration. Prepaid and gift cards are not accepted.

Returning Wardrobe Items

To make returns, customers access their order online, indicate which items they are keeping and which they’re returning, use the provided return label and resealable box or bag Amazon provides, and drop off the box at UPS.

Prime Wardrobe emails a notification when all return items have been received.

“Customers are looking for convenience,” said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“The popularity of ‘wardrobe-in-a-box’ monthly subscription services lets consumers stay ahead of trends and not have to think about which pieces go with which outfit,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Impact on Competition

Brick-and-mortar companies have launched their own version of this service, Zhou said, citing Nordstrom’s Trunk Club as an example.

Worldwide e-commerce fashion revenues will grow from US$480 billion this year to $713 billion by 2022, according to Shopify.

The growth is driven by expanding global markets outside the West; increasing online access and smartphone penetration; an emerging worldwide middle class with disposable income; and innovative technologies that create experiential e-commerce.

Prime Wardrobe’s launch “will put tremendous pressure on all other fashion retailers, whether brick-and-mortar or online,” Aptos’ Baird observed.

Returns “are a huge issue,” both in terms of processing costs and opportunity costs while customers are trying out inventory, Baird said. Amazon “doesn’t face any of these pressures, at least from a cost perspective.”

Amazon’s advantage is “the Prime member base and their scale with supply chain distribution,” Zhou noted. “They can offer more selection to customers at a competitive price.”

Prime Wardrobe will “force apparel retailers to consider whether they, too, can offer a Wardrobe-like experience,” Baird said, “and whether they can afford the supply chain havoc it will cause.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

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