The rise of fashion e-commerce pure play retailers has driven the transformation of the retail landscape and the ways that consumers shop. Online shopping offers more choice than a high street store and the ability to compare products from multiple stores at a pace that suits the shopper, as well as offering more product information than in store. A 2014 Drapers study indicated that 48% of UK shoppers buy online at least once a month. These purchases are made easier with an ever-increasing amount of choice and the simplicity of mobile shopping; with a few taps, buyers can immediately locate the retailer with the cheapest price.
Although online shopping brings a new level of convenience, there are a few pain points that can be improved upon. Consumers can’t tell the fit of a garment, or the material quality. According to Drapers, retailers saw £5.5bn in abandoned baskets in the past year. This presents an opportunity to investigate the reasons why consumers are leaving these products behind and capture and hold the attention of the buyer by catering to their needs. Why are consumers abandoning baskets and how could the process have been optimised to meet the consumer’s needs at that time?
Models and perception
Choosing a size that is right for you is tricky, especially when garment size varies so much by style and the brand you shop with. Without the opportunity to try an item on, it is becoming increasingly popular for customers to purchase multiple items and return the ones that don’t fit, often at the expense of the retailer. The cost of returns (processing times, postage, customer service time) must be taken into consideration, and retailers should be aware that this practice can artificially inflate the average order value.
ASOS include ‘ordered more than one size’ on their returns slip, which is an opportunity to gather data about how many items are being returned for this reason and would create a good case for improving the ways in which clothing is displayed to the consumer. While it's crucial to constantly improve the consumer's shopping experience, it's not just to improve ease of use for the consumer. In 2015, IHL, a retail research firm, estimated that worldwide, retailers lose billions each year from returns due to wrong sizing.
With a huge stock portfolio and strong online presence, ASOS constantly works on improving consumer experience in response to consumer sizing issues. ASOS now provides information alongside a product image about the model’s height and dress size, as well as catwalk videos which allow buyers to see the clothes in better detail, taking note of how it fits the model and how garments move.
- Consider how your returns system currently works; do you give customers returning items the opportunity to feedback on the reason they've returned a product? Do you use this data to make informed improvements? If not, then start to do so as the cost saving could be substantial.
- So customers can choose the right size first time and reduce returns, provide vital statistics on each model, including their height and dress size, and ensure there are easy to understand size charts for individual garments.
- Use videos to show customers how garments fit and move.
Ensuring the correct fit
The lack of variation in the models used on e-commerce sites has long been a source of controversy and this impacts the way in which consumers shop. I-COM undertook a survey on consumer buying habits and found that just over a quarter of respondents find it useful to see what somebody with their body shape looks like in the clothing. From the lack of diversity in the body shapes of the models used by online retailers arises an opportunity for brands to improve user experience by showing garments on different model types, or on the consumers themselves.
There have been some incredible developments in improving the way that the consumer can view garments in an online setting. The platform Fits.me, explores personalisation in e-commerce by offering an application that allows consumers to input their measurements and visualise how the item would look on them. This relies on the consumer taking precise measurements which can be difficult but does show that retailers are recognising that consumers want to buy the right size first time.
- Use a variety of models with different body shapes and sizes that epitomise your customers when producing product images. This can be more costly so start by applying this method to your high value, best selling products.
- Ask your customers to get involved by providing feedback on the models you use - do your customers feel they represen them? Use this feedback to improve your choices when hiring models.
As Seen on Me
ASOS launched #AsSeenOnMe in 2014, and created a platform where consumers can upload their images of products to Instagram with #asseenonme and ASOS add these images to the product pages. This allows consumers to share their imagery and have the chance to be featured on the ASOS website, as well as enhancing the user experience for the potential buyer to be able to see multiple product images in different settings.
- Give customers the opportunity to get involved with your brand by uploading images of themselves wearing items bought via your website.
- Run competitions via social media to feature customers wearing your products - this will help build your social profiles and you never know you might find your next top model.
The role of brand
Using a variety of model sizes or offering a ‘virtual dressing room’ for shoppers offers a little more from a retailer in a crowded marketplace, and can enhance how the brand is perceived by showing consumers just how well a retailer knows them. But it’s not just about imagery or virtual reality tools. This consumer-centric approach to e-commerce is about knowing how best to communicate with your target market at every touchpoint, and developing a strong brand voice that the target consumer will respond to.
Sizeable, an online store based in Australia, is building a brand around garments modelled by different body types. A detailed profile of the model allows consumers to identify with a certain body type and view how garments look on that model. This benefits the consumer and research has shown that when the models in mock advertisements wear their size, women increased their purchase intentions by more than 200%.
- How you say things can have as big an impact as what you say, so when trying to connect with your customers, ensure that you get your tone of voice right and make sure your message represents your brand accurately.
- I-COM has created a handy, downloadable template to help you create a brand voice that resonates with the right crowd to encourage them to buy.
Improving customer experience online
There is a vast amount of information available to online fashion retailers that would assist in improving consumer experience as well as reducing loss from returned products and delivery costs. Retailers can analyse consumer data gathered onsite to spot patterns in abandoned baskets and look at consumer feedback to understand more about how consumers interact with the brand. This process of gathering and analysing unique consumer data is vital and can be used to constantly optimise online merchandising, whether that's tailoring copy used to interact with consumers in product descriptions, providing detailed garment information and item specific size charts or using a number of models in product imagery to illustrate different fits.
- Improving user experience (UX) is an on-going, never ending task. Develop a timetable for analysing data and use this to make informed decisions when making improvements.
- Use A/B testing as you make changes to optimise to your site. Sometimes what you think will work actually might not.
At I-COM, we love to get to know our clients and their customers. If you have any queries about brand voice, UX or anything website related, please do get in touch with our digital marketing team on 0161 402 3170, or fill in our online contact form and we’ll be in touch.