Shopping online is not for the faint of heart.
Certainly when I first started, I was weary of the sizing, the shipping, was terrible at browsing, and had no idea what styles to buy. Through research and trial and error, I was able to become a savvy online shopper, one who trusts the process from browse/search to payment, delivery, and, if necessary, returns. Although I may buy over half of my apparel purchases online, most consumers do not. Ecommerce is growing and the potential to attract new customers or increase return visits by current customers is huge. The e-tailer that is able to assuage the fears of e-tailphobic consumers will have the opportunity to grab consumers attention and discretionary income, when they come online.
To help these retailers who want to attract internet shopping shy consumers, I have created a recipe for what I think would be the ultimate consumer-friendly shopping site. My recipe focuses on pre-owned goods, but I do think that it could work just as easily for new products sold by traditional brick and mortar companies.
- The ability to social shop
- The ability to browse by style
- Broad selection
- Information overload: size measurements, fit guide (fits true to size, runs small, etc.); customer reviews of site; brand reviews; product reviews; size worn by the model; well-lit, accurate pictures with size reference
- Secure payment method
(While I could write a thesis about each of these ingredients, in this post, I will briefly outline the social and selection ingredients and what I think a few select sites are doing well or badly. If you, dear reader, want my further comments, email me, and I’m happy to elaborate.)
For many (women), shopping is socially-motivated.
Three sites offer social browsing, but each in different ways:
Etsy offers the ability to “See who hearts this item” and “See who hearts this item.” The ability to connect with like-minded individuals is a strength of the site. It is curious though, that the site doesn’t enable the user to search for other users. One can only search for sellers or items. I think being unable to search directly for other users is a missed opportunity. I had to find my friends through searching for items they favorited.
Facebook offers the ability to connect with real-life friends. Payvment, a new Facebook app for buying things or selling ones things, appears to be easy to use and offers the ability for users to buy items from people they know (and hopefully trust) and people whose style they may wish to emulate. Downside, Facebook is a leaky cauldron on the privacy and possibly the financial side. I personally would not trust them with my banking information, so unless the items on Facebook could be purchased with PayPal, I wouldn’t be interested.
ShopStyle offers the ability to have friends based on your favorite styles, create and share outfits, join groups with individuals who have your same sense of style, and buy items directly while browsing. While these digifriends my have excellent style online and create outfits costing more than my Manhattan rent, their shopping advice may not be that helpful when it comes to actual purchases. I do like that ShopStyle links the item directly to the retailer’s website, enabling the consumer to purchase the product in three clicks or fewer. Guided impulse shopping could almost not be easier. The site is also great to get new ideas about styles, new brands, clothing combinations. It’s a great resource for ideas and products alike.
Selection is always key. Nobody wants to show up to the party wearing the same dress as someone else.
ShopStyle is spades on broad selection of new items. Every time I check back, it seems that they have more retailers signing on and having their products represented on the site.
eBay is king of the pre-loved goods. Personally, I love me some good vintage. I prefer the structured styles of bygone days, and eBay has a better selection than similar sites. eBay sellers are also more professional on the whole. I have also noticed that successful sellers who have a loyal following have begun to start their own sites separate from eBay, thereby avoiding eBay’s sellers fees. (Cross selling of items on multiple sites by sellers is a topic for another day.)
Etsy, eBay, Payvment, and Shopstyle, all have the makings of great e-tailer sites; however, a site that combines the strengthens of each could rule the roost. Combining the ability to shop with friends (real life friends and similar fashion-minded friends), providing style references or ideas, offering a broad selection of products, and getting people comfortable with the online format by providing beaucoup information are all key aspects to converting people into online shoppers.