H&M and Zara prepare to launch online stores – but are they turning up too late to the party?

Two high street fashion giants, H&M and Zara, will finally launch their ecommerce stores for the UK next month. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t help but wonder why it’s taken them so long to jump on the bandwagon.

H&M has a well established presence on Twitter, with separate profiles for a multitude of countries where it has high street stores. In my opinion it’s doing a good job with it, too. Not only does the UK profile provide brand, store, sale and product news, it’s also used to actively engage with bloggers and customers:

H&M seems to understand online engagement

H&M has also done a good job of creating buzz ahead of the ecommerce launch, inviting interested customers to sign up to receive the e-newsletter and shop the online store before its official launch. So if H&M already has a presence online and appears to really “get” social media, why has it taken the retailer so long to launch its online store?

The online Zara store poses a similar question. It’s a retailer that has been selling homeware online for some time now but bizarrely its fashion comes as a rather late addition. Why this is, I’m simply not sure. Could they have doubted women’s willingness to purchase clothes without the changing room experience?

While getting my fashion fix with last month’s issue of Vogue magazine, I was treated to a fascinating and very relevant interview with Natalie Massenet, the woman behind Net-A-Porter. Although she took a huge risk by choosing to sell such high value items online that women wouldn’t be able to see, feel and try on before parting with their cash, she knew that online shopping would work from the start:

Women just love to shop, and we found a whole new way for them to do it. Of course they will buy without trying things on because it is the act of shopping!

She’s been proven right, of course, and the success of ecommerce is clear for anyone to see.

By already doing so much right online, expectations are high for H&M and Zara’s new ecommerce stores. One thing’s for certain though (and I’m sure they’ll be pleased to hear it), shoppers in the UK simply can’t wait!

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