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LFW: Not just clothes and accessories. My 3 tips for e-commerce website developers.

Feb 2, 2014

London Fashion Week; 5 days when Somerset House and Freemasons Hall come into their own, black cabs ferry rain-soaked fashionistas around Holborn and Aldwych (rather than lawyers for once) and fashion bloggers around the world are out in force. And I get a real urge to buy pretty things I can’t afford.

In the last few years, the online presence of LFW has thrived. There is no longer the need (albeit still the desire) for a ticket to a live show – almost every show is streamed live online. For a few days in February, Twitter buzzes with minute-by-minute updates from designers, journalists and PR teams and the traffic levels on fashion websites boom (according to online stats, this month the websites of Prada and Marc Jacobs have been experiencing their highest levels of traffic to date, despite these brands not even showing at LFW).

Whilst LFW has now finished for another season; Milan and Paris are in full swing. Given this is such a busy time of year for e-commerce and fashion websites, I have turned my attention to those who develop and support these sites. As I am sure you are aware if you work in this industry, there are an abundance of niggly details to consider amongst layers and layers of product pages. From our experience working with these providers, here are 3 key details we suggest you pay close attention to:
 

1.       TECHNICAL ISSUES

The popularity of live streaming catwalk shows has thrived over the last 8 seasons and, aside from the occasional show running 5 minutes late, they seem to go without a hitch (or at least the bloggers aren’t complaining – I have scoured the net and the only complaints I have found were slight glitches with the Burberry live feed back in 2010).

Despite the seemingly error-free service to date, what happens if the live stream fails to work? Catwalk shows are scheduled weeks in advance yet on the day they last a matter of minutes. Your window to fix any glitches is therefore very limited indeed. Who is liable if all or part of the show fails to stream successfully? This should be discussed far in advance of issues arising and your contract with the fashion site owner should make this clear.

Ongoing support should be another consideration for you – what will you commit and when? With any e-commerce site there is one clear goal; sales.

  • If site errors cause problems with the checkout function and your client is unable to process orders as a result, how quickly will you look into the problem? Moreover, how quickly will you commit to resolve it (and will that be a fix or just a patch)?
  • If an image showreel promoting a particular product fails to load, will you commit to resolving this issue in the same time frame as the above scenario, or would this issue be deemed less urgent?
  • Will you provide support 24/7 or just 9-5 in the UK? Would you make an exception during New York fashion week when your client plans to promote a new line of accessories?
     

The details of what you will and won’t provide (and the cost of extras), i.e. your service levels, should all be clearly laid out in your contract with your client, as should the ways in which you might be prepared to compensate your client if things don’t go to plan. Agree these details from day one, rather than waiting for claims of “£50,000 lost sales in 24 hours and it’s all your fault” to land on your doorstep.
 

2.       INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Most e-commerce sites will contain a high number of photographs, video and copy. The quality and availability of the content can have a direct effect on sales; it is essential for advertising and promoting products sales.

The copyright in photographs and videos will ordinarily be owned by the photographer/ videographer and the author or the copy will ordinarily own the copyright in that text. Has your client agreed for the rights in those works to be assigned to them (or do they have a licence to use them and, if so, is that licence limited in any way)? If your client is selling third party brands on their site and supplies you with a logo to display next to the product, do they have permission to use that logo?

You will need a licence from your client to use this content for the purposes of developing and maintaining the site and we would expect  them to give warranties that they have rights (which are adequate for their intended purpose) in the content they provide to you and agree to indemnify you if it turns out that they do not.
 

3.       PROJECT MILESTONES

As I have mentioned above, e-commerce sites often have hundreds of pages of content. It is common to provide the client with the facility to prepare and upload this content themselves (a great facility for ongoing site development as product ranges and seasons change) however many clients fail to set clear deadlines for uploading the initial content. Developers often tie completion of this step to payment or the provision of further services, and then leave themselves in a sticky situation regarding cash flow or staff timetables when the client fails to upload the content (often dragging on for months and months due to the sheer quantity).

Consider how such a delay may affect your cash flow or staffing, ensure your contract sets clear deadlines and lay out the consequences of your client’s failure to comply (for example, you may choose to approach the staff availability issue by stating that, if your client fails to upload all content by a certain date, the provision of any additional services under the agreement may be rearranged or delayed at your sole discretion).

Next season will be here before you know it. If you provide development or support services for e-commerce websites or apps, your next fashion project may be in its early stages. If so, now is the time to consider the finer details and agree on the terms surrounding them (and one of our technology specialists in our commercial team would be happy to have a free initial chat with you – just click here).