“We always strive to set up our physical store presence prior to expanding online. We currently have 40 bricks-and-mortar stores in Australia and take a long-term view of our business to ensure we have sustainable development for the future,” he said.
“With this expansion, we are able to reach more customers than ever before with our fashion offering.”
Coellner said the team strives to be “truly customer-centric” and is aiming to create a seamless experience across all channels both digital and in store.
“The digital transformation of fashion retail is changing the role of stores, our customers’ behaviour and their increased expectations of our brand and retail in general,” he said.
“Now more than ever, the need for resilience and sustainability is very clear. H&M Group has a continued strong focus on digital and a very ambitious sustainability agenda which will extend to Australia with our new digital offering.”
H&M Shop Online allows customers to view the origin of a product, the countries it was produced in and the suppliers and factories where it was made, within the product background.
Coellner told Inside Retail that this is an area that they are particularly proud of.
“Sustainability is at the core of everything we do. We believe that greater transparency will help lead the change towards a more sustainable future.”
One of H&M’s sustainability goals is for all products to be made from recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, an aspect of the brand’s value that it wants to communicate clearly through the new site.
“Currently, this applies to 57 per cent of the materials that we use,” Coellner said.
“The Sustainability tab on hm.com offers customers a closer look at how we use sustainable materials, information on our sustainability goals and progress.”
Among the other special features is a Visual Search tool within the H&M app which allows customers to tailor their search to suit their existing wardrobe.
“This enables customers to explore what we have to offer by using your own photos or screen prints. It recognises patterns, colours, items and gives you a list of matching or similar items in stock,” Coellner said.
Personalisation is also a key feature of the loyalty program, H&M Member, which offers personalised discounts, free shipping with purchases over $60 and free returns on all online orders, as well as discounts and invitations to exclusive events.
Quick and easy payment is another aspect of the “seamless” shopping experience H&M is endeavouring to provide, with a ‘buy now, pay later’ option also available through Klarna, a payments start-up that H&M is an investor in.
Can H&M compete with online fashion giants?
While H&M Online has been a long time coming, retail analyst Phil Wiggenraad suspects there may be some regrets about not acting faster.
“H&M’s decision to launch an online shop in Australia pre-dates the outbreak of Covid-19, but the fast fashion retailer certainly regrets not having done so sooner,” he told Inside Retail.
“It closed all 49 of its Australian stores in April and was unable to capture lost sales through e-commerce – unlike fast fashion rivals such as Zara and Cotton On.”
The online shopping boom this year has boosted sales for major online retailers like The Iconic, and H&M will be hoping to get a slice of that pie.
Wiggenraad said the retailer could be poised to snare sales from British retailer Asos, in particular, which has struggled with the geographical distance of deliveries.
“While H&M is unlikely to challenge the dominance of online fashion market leaders The Iconic and Asos, the latter could be vulnerable in Australia because of its relatively long lead times,” he told Inside Retail.
“In a recent trading update, Asos admitted it was facing ‘challenges’ in getting orders into the country. H&M will be at an advantage since it ships its online orders from Australia.”
One risk is that H&M could struggle to keep up with demand. On Wednesday morning, prior to publishing, Inside Retail noted that numerous items had limited sizes on offer with many sizes flagged as “few pieces left”.
If online success globally is anything to go by, the local arm is set to be a winner.
“In 2019, H&M generated 17 per cent of group sales online, highlighting the potential for the Australian market,” Wiggenraad said.
“If a similar level is achieved in Australia, that would suggest e-commerce revenues of around A$65 million* for the fast fashion retailer.”
*Based on H&M’s annual revenues for the year to November 2019; Sales of SEK2539million = AUS$385.8million (using annual average exchange rates for that period).