By Geoff Brash, Vice President of Business Intelligence and Co-Founder, SLI Systems
The fashion and beauty e-Commerce markets are experiencing rapid growth, upping the demands on businesses to attract and retain customers. According to eMarketer, sales of apparel and accessories are growing faster than any segment of the U.S. e-Commerce market.
To maintain this pace, online fashion storefronts need to present a consistent and stylish brand experience, encourage browsing for products, and make it easy for shoppers to find items that fit their own personal style — just like they do for in-store shoppers.
Beauty retailers face similar requirements, yet their customers are hungry for information. According to an A.T. Kearney study, beauty customers are deemed “information seekers” who are looking for as much data as possible about the products they’re interested in. These consumers do extensive online research, and some look to shopping online to find great deals and share their experience with others. Those who are already loyal to certain products and brands are motivated by convenience and want the ease of shopping online to replenish their favorite items.
The strategies that fashion and beauty retailers deploy online to respond to their customers’ needs are ripe for borrowing by any online retailer that wants to keep shoppers engaged on their website and encourage more purchases. Here are seven things you can learn from these market leaders that can contribute to more sales on your own e-Commerce site.
- Maintain consistency: Fashion and beauty businesses know that a consistent representation of the brand across channels helps build better relationships with customers, no matter whether they’re shopping online or off. This means all the elements on your e-Commerce site should be in alignment with your brand, including search and navigation, as well as landing pages on which shoppers may arrive from search engines.
- Conduct clever merchandising: Successful clothing and beauty retailers show shoppers beautifully merchandised displays when they walk into retail stores – giving them stylistic guidance and encouraging buying. Product-oriented websites should strive for the same “ambience,” while facilitating fast and easy browsing for time-constrained visitors. Some ways to encourage productive browsing are pop-up product images in search results, or “quick-view” boxes that provide basic product info before the user clicks through to a product page. Merchandising banners on search results pages that promote special offers and brands can also encourage clicking and purchasing. See the blog “Powerful Merchandising” for examples of companies that make good use of merchandising banners.
- Provide refinements for targeted shopping: Fashion and beauty businesses help their customers sort through a vast array of products through search refinements. These refinements don’t have to simply involve price, color or size (although these are useful) — they can help users narrow search results for “special occasion,” “seasonal,” “career,” or “holiday” fashion options. In your own e-Commerce storefront, you may be able to create helpful refinements that meet your customers’ seasonal or product category needs.
- Promote colors: Color is usually an integral part of the fashion and beauty buying process, so these retailers need to show off all the available color options to potential buyers. If your retail business offers color options, you can highlight these choices in site search results using color swatches; this is far more effective at getting shoppers’ attention than holding off on swatch displays until they reach a product page.
- Use the language of your customers: Fashion and beauty retailers know that product buzzwords can change rapidly in a trend-driven environment, so they need to stay on top of words that their customers will use to search for products. This is a smart practice for any online retailer: scan your search data regularly to see if your customers are using slang or jargon that’s new to you, so you can add these words to your site search solution.
Regular monitoring of search data can also help you get a leg up on trends that may be impacting your business — for example, new products that customers are searching for. This is a key tool for fashion and beauty businesses, which need to anticipate customers’ desires and get products online in time for a big sales rush — but it’s true for any business that aims for high levels of customer satisfaction.
- Offer access to multimedia, editorial, and social content: Boutique shopping allows shoppers to touch and try on products, and get instant feedback from friends or salespeople. In the e-Commerce world, you can’t try on clothing, but you can view videos, reviews, and comments from fellow shoppers in order to decide on the best product, fit, and color. And particularly for information-hungry shoppers, having separate tabs for video, social, and editorial content like blog posts and news articles gives shoppers access to all the relevant data they’re looking for. See how EyesLipsFace Cosmetics does this here.
- Entice shoppers with landing pages: When shoppers arrive at your site from a search engine, you want to dazzle them with product choices that match their search terms. Use SEO-related landing pages to display not only products that are relevant to the search, but also similar or popular products, like those displayed in your own site search results. This can not only drive conversions, but offer cross-sell and up-sell opportunities right from the landing page.
The ideas above are useful to any online business, even if you’re selling auto parts instead of designer dresses and lipsticks. No matter your wares, your e-Commerce site needs to do its best to present an attractive and easily navigated browsing and buying experience.
Geoff Brash is Vice President of Business Intelligence and Co-Founder, SLI Systems. Brash focuses on driving growth and managing customer perception for SLI. A co-founder of the Company, he has considerable expertise in search and nearly two decades’ strategic and operations experience in the technology market. Under his direction, the Company won the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards Marketer of the Year in 2005, placed 100 in the 2005 “Deloitte Technology Fast 500” ranking in Asia Pacific, and placed 12th in the 2005 “Deloitte/Unlimited Fast 50” in New Zealand.