E-Commerce Capsule Collections Battle Amazon’s Endless Aisle

June 16, 2014 Ben Myers
eBay Canada's Boutiques features items from Coal Miner's Daughter.

eBay Canada’s Boutiques features items from Toronto-based Coal Miner’s Daughter.

How can online retailers compete with Amazon’s endless aisle? Get exclusive.

That’s how eBay Canada and Frank & Oak are turning the limited inventory of boutique fashion into a competitive advantage.

Capsule collections and limited collaborations are making customers second guess the value of generic online purchases and put the emphasis back on creating a wardrobe that stands out in the crowd.

In the traditional sense, a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of staple clothing items that are designed to be interchangeable and reusable in different variations, often centred around a colour or theme. Online, the term is more fluid.

Exclusive and inexpensive

“People across Canada and around the world can have access to their exclusive designs.”

For an online retailer, providing several limited-edition pieces fits well into this mould. For the customer, the exclusivity, limited-time offer and reasonable price make a convincing argument to order several items.

eBay Canada recently got in on the act using the clothing of Toronto boutique Coal Miner’s Daughter. The shop put together an online-exclusive collection of seven pieces (plus one for auction running until June 30) that create a mini-wardrobe. They’re calling their collaborations Boutiques on eBay.

Megan Vickell, Public Relations Manager at eBay Canada said the strategy is to bring these unique shops to a wider audience and demonstrate how eBay can work with small retailers.

“eBay is such a big marketplace,” she said. “It’s such a global platform for these boutiques that are so small and beloved in their respective cities, so people across Canada and around the world can have access to their exclusive designs.”

eBay Boutiques

“Over 70% of what Canadians are purchasing on the site today is fixed-price, brand-new items.”

The collaboration with Coal Miner’s Daughter is based on successful boutiques created with former Project Runway Canada Season 2 winner Sonny Fong, creator of the Vawk luxury clothing label.

The items featured in the boutiques sell for around $100 at buy-it-now prices and include free shipping. The boutique philosophy demonstrate the evolution of eBay from online auction house to eCommerce platform, said Vickell.

“Auctions on eBay – that is our heritage and that is what we’re known for, but over 70% of what Canadians are purchasing on the site today is fixed-price, brand-new items. So we are doing our programming to reflect the new eBay.”

Tellingly, fashion is the number one category on eBay Canada.

Frank & Oak Collections

Frank & Oak's created a capsule collection inspired by Ubisoft's Watch Dogs.

Frank & Oak’s created a capsule collection inspired by Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs.

Montreal-based online clothing retailer Frank & Oak employs a similar technique, releasing collections monthly and occasionally collaborating on capsule collections with partners, as they did with Ubisoft on Watch Dogs and Dave 1 of Chromeo.

You can’t find these unique pieces on Amazon. The shop also has the added benefit of creating a recurring, trusted advisor relationship with its customers that keeps them loyal and returning for more.

Frank & Oak CEO Ethan Song told the Dx3 Digest that this relationship is particularly important for men, who aren’t as inclined to search out single items to complete an outfit.

“Men, as customers in general, don’t spend as much time browsing around than their female counterparts,” he said. “I think that if you can create something that’s simple, that’s relevant, that’s something they can  trust, then definitely that will create further loyalty.”

eBay will continue its Boutiques program into the fall with new partners and a back-to-school theme.

You might be able to find cheaper clothes on Amazon, but you won’t be able to find these items anywhere else.

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