With 28% of global shoppers buying most of their clothes online, fashion eCommerce is big business, but how can it emulate the in-store experience? Andy Clark from e-OUTDOOR offers tips of the Secret to Selling Clothes Online.
With 28% of global shoppers buying most of their clothes online, fashion eCommerce is big business. However, 28% is still a lot less than the 60% of people who buy most of their books, video games, and DVDs online, or the 43% of people who buy most of their jewellery online, or the 37% of people who buy most of their cosmetics online.
This is because trying on a shirt, or a pair of shoes, or a dress to know how it fits and feels is a part of the offline clothes shopping experience which the online experience often lacks. For online clothes retailers to compete with this experience, there’s a lot they need to learn.
Experiences, Not Things
It’s an idea so often repeated that it’s almost a cliche, but younger claim that they prefer to spend more money on experiences rather than things. It’s easy to read that statistic and be skeptical. After all, what people say they prefer and how they actually act can be very different.
So, is “experiences over things” just an expression? Is it just something which sounds catchy but has no impact on the way young people live their lives? Is it just something businesses should ignore algother?
Absolutely not. In fact, the “experiences over things” mentality is having a very large impact on the bricks and mortar of our high streets. Shops selling physical “things” are being replaced more and more by gyms, bars, cafes, and restaurants —- places which provide “experiences”. Young people are funding, working in, and living through an experience-driven economy. It’s not just a mindset; it’s a very real thing.
This is what gives offline clothes shops the edge over their online competition. To walk into a nicely designed clothes shop, to find the skirt or t-shirt that you want, to feel the fabric, to try it on in the changing room — this is something which hard to replicate offline. Though, it’s not impossible. A solid returns policy means you can give your customers the chance to try clothes and then send them back for a refund.
Personality Goes a Long Way
Creating copy and a social media presence with personality is also a great way to create an online experience which rivals the offline experience. In a physical shop, the way the staff members act or are encouraged to act by management is a big part of that brand’s persona. Of course, it’s more than just that. The layout, design, colour scheme, product line, staff uniform, and everything else about the shop says something to the customer.
For a retailer which sells suits, the message might be quality, politeness, and sophistication. For a retailer which sells punk clothing, the message would be very different.
All of this sounds obvious, yet a lot of these lessons are lost online, with website after website going for the same design and the same faceless copy. If you are a loud, brash, and to-the-point brand, consider something like Ling’s Cars, the website behind the biggest independent used-car retailer in the UK. If you are a sweet, childlike, innocent brand, consider something like Innocent Drinks, the website behind the company which sells two million smoothies a week.
Once you’ve got your copy nailed, you need to express this personality on social media as well. Some brands do a great job of this, but some brands really don’t. Just because young people are a lucrative market, that doesn’t mean that everything can be targeted at young people with cringeworthy attempts at referencing youth culture. Efforts like this are often met with ridicule, not an increase in sales.
Finally, there are blogs and vlogs. This is a great way to talk in more depth about something more than just your products. A post about North Face coats is a great opportunity to talk about the clothing itself, but your blog is also a great place to inspire your readers: to show them what can be done with a North Face coat. This was something which North Face itself captured perfectly with its video about three US Army veterans climbing the tallest mountain in Iraq.
Personality is especially important for clothing retailers, where the choice between two brands is often the choice between two styles or two looks. Factors like price and quality are very important, but no fashion retailer should ever dare downplay the importance how brand voice and brand image can affect a person’s clothing decision. After all, without image, what else is there to fashion?
Know What Online Means
It goes without saying that buying and selling clothes online is different to buying and selling them offline. However, what needs to be learnt is the way in which the two are different.
For example, people buying clothes online are entitled to certain rights that you will need to adhere to. As such, there are many things you will need to do for your online customers that you wouldn’t need to do for your offline customers.
Alongside this, though, you should consider the great benefits of offline clothes selling. Buying clothes online is often cheaper because the cost of selling clothes online is cheaper. After all, there’s no need to pay rent for a high street shop and there are less staff involved. Buying clothes online is also easier which, in many cases, people value above the experience of buying something offline.
Make these your selling points and combine this with your website’s personality in order to deliver a service which is better than walking into a competitor’s shop or clicking onto a competitor’s website. If you can do all that, you may just have mastered the secret to selling clothes online.
Andy Clark is the online marketing expert for e-OUTDOOR: an outdoor clothing and outdoor equipment supplier. He spends a lot of time working at his computer, but he likes to get into the outdoors whenever possible. Walking, cycling and camping are the current favourites.