Online shopping has a long history of threatening the future of physical stores, but not every retail vertical has been hurt by Internet selling. Of all the sub-groups within the retail industry, apparel brands may have weathered the storm better than anyone.
Apparel brands have succeeded less because of brilliant selling strategy, and more because of the nature of their products, which depend so much on appearance, feel, and fit. Despite efforts to overcome its inherent shortcomings, online retail has done nothing to address critical consumer pain points related to clothing shopping.
A recent CivicScience survey dug into the perspectives of online apparel shoppers, and they uncovered some bold, if unsurprising, complaints. When asked what they liked least about buying clothes online, 37 percent of consumers said their biggest frustration was when the color, quality, or fit of a clothing item did not meet their expectations.
Even worse for online retailers was the demographic makeup of those complaints. Millennials actually complained about unmet expectations at a higher rate than any other age bracket. That’s a big revelation from the most mobile-savvy generation: When it comes to buying clothes, online stores simply don’t cut muster.
Add in the frustration of shipping costs — and, in rarer but more frustrating cases, return shipping costs —
Staying Ahead Of The Competition
So apparel brands have managed to stay afloat due to a lack of competitive threat. That’s great for them, but it doesn’t mean they should be praised for their survival strategy. If anything, clothing companies should be braced for online shopping to find other creative means of leveling the playing field.
Clothing is better purchased in-person, but brands can take several steps to improve the shopping experience and further incentivize in-store shopping. The use smart mirrors and smart dressing rooms is one way clothing retailers can improve their own in-store experience, making shopping more efficient and helping customers find the right items.
Other mobile shopping integrations, such as the use of assisted selling tools to make associates more useful when checking inventory or making recommendations, can empower the brick-and-mortar experience with some of the features online shopping does offer.
And as online retailers work to iron out problems with their shipping setup, retail brands may want to consider a more robust online-to-offline selling system, which can cut down on shipping costs and shipping wait times. Apparel brands may be doing just fine in the battle against online sellers, but there’s much work to be done in crafting a better customer experience.
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