Most e-commerce shops are built currently on the ‘grocery store’ logic; bundle up each category under one section; all vegetables in one area, all sneakers in one tab.
The problem with that model is that it has no correlation to the way we do our online shopping for clothing.
While grocery shopping is mostly practical and necessity based, clothing is becoming more and more inspirational, and much less for necessity reasons. Chances are that most of the Millennial generation already has all of the necessary clothing in their wardrobe, and now they shop for the purpose of trendiness (whatever that may be), i.e to add another pair of sneakers to the 10 pairs they already own.
When a consumer is searching for an item on an online shop, let’s say some sneakers, they would go to the menu, choose shoes, and end up at the sneakers tab. There they will be presented with hundred of pairs, and once on a single product page with a flat and boring close up photo of the shoe from different angles. In better cases you will have a photo of a person wearing them, a 360 view and even a video. In worse cases, there will only be a flat picture from front back and side, that’s it.
This for example, is a badly done presentation of a shoe:
This grocery list that is presented in front of the user sends him to an endless desperate scroll, resulted in the opening of dozens of tabs.
It gets worse when it comes to clothing, a shop cannot present an item without a person wearing it! its almost like looking at a painting.
Here is just one example of a flat presentation of a coat from Yoox:
It has no proportions of length and width, no indication of how the material looks on a body structure, no movement, no visual information is transmitted what so ever.
If you are an e-commerce shop that has no flexible return and shipping policies (most of them don’t) it is very hard to facilitate trust between the shop and the consumer; will this fit me, how much do I need pay if I want to return and order another size, is it even possible to return, which countries are available for shipping?
To overcome this challenge of facilitating trust with the consumer, the shop must provide as much information possible, and not just the numerical information of type of fabric, measurements in centimeters etc.
This in my opinion a huge gap of how people would like to consume fashion versus how they are presented with it.
While fashion websites, bloggers and curators, such as Vouge, WhoWhatWore, and ManRepeller portray real women (trend setters) in real life, showing how and where to get the look, the online shops do the opposite. They present a flat lay of an interdependent item on a white background and expect the user to fill in the rest using their imagination.
Just like in cuisine, the person has to be presented with the end product of a ‘fashion recipe’, choose which result he wants to achieve and then start assembling the items, just like assembling items for a meal.
The solution needs to be a change of the current user flow in online shops: the user is presented with an end product of a ‘fashion recipe’ (or a fashion look) – trendy, classical, chick, urban, event based (look for a wedding), location based (French style).
These ‘recipes’ cannot live in a vacuum, they need to be taken from real life, representing real women in real life situations with a clear message and story. This is where the added value bloggers comes to life, they tell a story, a message, show a feeling, and it all shows on their outfit.
How would this look like in my own world of online shopping UX?
When landing on an online shop you will be presented with the most common sets of life moments, occasions or messages; office, party, travel, special occasion, festival. Once entering one of these, you will see numerous variations of looks that portray that certain message. An example would be a more detailed version of this Zalando street style tab:
Once you chose one to your liking, all of the relevant items will be easily linked to assemble that exact look. A good exmpale is Zalando’s shop the look popup:
Or this Asos’s tab on ‘As Seen On Me’, showing instagram posts of users, and matching them with the corresponding items.
The following blogger, portraying a an emotion, a moment in life, and right next to it you see the products that make this fashion recipe:
The transition for this ‘inspirational shopping’ experience has begun on a low scale.
The shops that will be agile enough to facilitate this kind of user experience, incorporate videos and full body images, and offer flexible and free shipping world wide will be the ones who will prevail in the competitive online shopping eco-system.