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As far as e-commerce has come in growing consumer confidence when it comes to purchasing a product prior to seeing it in person, there are a few categories where the in-store experience has been far more difficult to replicate.

This is especially the case in the world of fashion and apparel, where consumer desire to touch and feel the product is more relevant, and where size and fit can vary significantly.

But Amazon’s determination to be a relevant player in the fashion industry took a step forward last week with the announcement of Amazon Prime Wardrobe (APW).

The program will allow Amazon customers to select and ship 3-15 items, try them on, keep them for up to seven days, and return what they don’t like.

The upside provided by this service above even an in-store experience is the capability for customers to try on items at home (perhaps with potential matching items or accessories already in their wardrobe).

It also is reported to include a product catalog of more than 1 million items – far beyond what’s used by those services, as well as what a brick-and-mortar location can house in stock.

As an additional value, Amazon will discount the order based upon how many items the consumer chooses to keep.

Meanwhile, the program creates a 2-day waiting period (standard Prime shipment) between the order date and the trip to the dressing room -- which may be a good thing for consumers frequently guilty of impulsive credit card use.

Following its announcement, some immediate comparisons were made to Nordstrom’s Trunk Club -- or similar services, such as Le Tote and Stitch Fix -- which is fair, except for a few important distinctions.

1) The Stylist

Arguably, the primary value of Trunk Club and other existing services is the curation by a ‘stylist,’ who assembles the collection based on the consumer’s style. Amazon hasn’t taken that leap (although it would be a logical future step), so thus far APW is designed simply to allow consumers the opportunity to see, touch, and try on what they buy.

Amazon’s new Echo Look and its ‘Style Assistant’, however, may go as far as to automate this process by taking photos and making fashion recommendations based on its owner’s outfit.

While that does figure to be a legitimate player in the near future, at least at this point Amazon is in the business of selling clothes, and not necessarily providing fashion advice.

2) Fees & Discounts

Trunk Club and other similar services also typically charge a fee per trunk delivery ($25 for Trunk Club), which is credited towards the customer’s purchase should they decide to keep items. Meanwhile, the curation services (at least as of now) do not offer a tiered discount program based upon the number of items purchased, like APW.

3) Target Audience

A marketer in the fashion industry would likely tell you the audience for Amazon’s program is fundamentally different and far more widespread than those of these subscription services.

The latter fulfills the fashion consumers’ dream or desire to have their own ‘personal stylist,’ who chooses fashion-forward items that fit their preferences, body type, etc. The interest is largely for those who are already style conscious, or who wish to dress well in spite of their own lack of fashion knowledge.

APW’s advantage is similar to that of so many of Amazon’s innovations of the past, in that it’s not a niche service. It theoretically appeals to any consumer, whether they’re into Wrangler or Gucci.

Amazon’s development of its fashion infrastructure is far from over, and they have a ways to go before they’re the go-to spot for $900 jeans. However, APW should prove to be a significant step towards their goal to becoming the world’s go-to fashion retailer.


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