Nothing like the real thing…but it’s getting there

It’s no secret round the Marketing Week office that I have somewhat of a penchant (I like this word better than problem) for online shopping – from Asos, Amazon, eBay and others, the parcels roll in pretty much every week.

That’s why this week’s trends report on consumers and online shopping, based on research by GSI Commerce, really resonated with me.

The message to brands is very simple – giving the consumer as much visual and written information will make them more likely to buy a product online, in the absence of dressing rooms and sales assistants. Give more delivery options, especially around a fast turnaround, to give that ’instant gratification’ feel that online shopping does. And get social – we like to consult and compare with friends in real life, so why not enable this online?

With such straightforward advice, it’s a surprise then that online fashion retailers are still catching onto this. Next day delivery – indeed, same day delivery, and in some cases, one hour delivery – is not an option on that many online retailers, and where it is, it’s expensive. I’m not advocating for it to be offered as free on all purchases, but where someone has treated themselves to an all out spree, it’s not only a nice thank you, but an encouragement for future purchases, and for that shopper to brag to their friends about how easy it was.

Catwalk videos of clothing is another thing that I can’t believe is not universally available on shopping websites. Some websites haven’t even got their products displayed on live models, using mannequins instead. If I can’t touch the thing, I want to at least see how it moves on a real person. Is it too short? Is it see-through? Will it make my bum look big? These are all questions that go someway towards being answered via a video, as shoppers can better visualise the item on their own bodies.

I realise social media is relatively new and its convergence with online shopping is even newer, so brands can be forgiven for having yet to embrace this functionality. M&S online is a great example though of a community of shoppers posting their thoughts underneath most items of clothes, from “I love this jumper and wear it all the time”, to “these trousers just did not fit right”. But as the debate over the validity of online reviews wages (think Trip Advisor and the headlines it has received recently), more needs to be done over verifying a user’s demographic. For example, the woman who loved that jumper might be in her 50s and therefore not really someone I could relate to in terms of style advice. A simple tag with age and location could help shoppers discern which comments are most relevant to them.

The next step in making online shopping as close to the real thing as possible is the exciting world of augmented reality. I know some companies are experimenting with this, and the results have yet to be seen. But imagine if you upload your photo onto an online fashion website and view clothes on your own image? Or better still – if you could use a webcam to virtually try clothes on in a 3D online world?

It might sound crazy, but I reckon that’s got to be the next step.

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