Choosing to purchase online is nothing less than convenient, especially for those who enjoy steering clear of the brick & mortar stores or those of us who enjoy the much better deals found online. However, while online shopping is convenient, there’s a lot of guesswork that comes with it as well. Sizing, fit, comfort, material, and quality are just some of the factors that consumers have to consider when they start the online shopping experience in the fashion space. With so many factors to consider, how do customers make a decision to buy online and what process do customers go through choosing to purchase online is nothing less than convenient, especially for those who enjoy steering clear of the brick & mortar stores or those of us who enjoy the much better deals found online. However, while online shopping is convenient, there’s a lot of guesswork that comes with it as well. Sizing, fit, comfort, material, and quality are just some of the factors that consumers have to consider when they start the online shopping experience in the fashion space. With so many factors to consider, how do customers make a decision to buy online and what process do customers go through to make a decision at all? A great place to start is to understand the decision making process.
In an article written on The Consumer Report blog, consumers go through a 5 stage decision making process
- Need/ Problem Recognition
- Information Search
- Alternative Evaluation
- Purchase Decision
- Post Purchase Behavior
For this discussion, we’ll focus on number 2, the information search stage.
Information Search & Product Pages
In the information search stage, a consumer goes through two information-seeking processes:
- Internal Information (information from consumer’s memory, which contains any type of experience he or she had with the product or brand) and
- external information (information obtained from friends, reviews, and information from the business)
While marketing and branding can control internal information, the interface of your commerce site can control parts of the external information, specifically the information presented on the product pages. As the interface of a product page is highly controllably through design of the page, below are a few key elements needed on your product pages that aid in the consumers information search process, decision making process, and also make your site user friendly for today’s consumer:
1. Good product images
A good product image should sell the item on its own. The more effort placed into delivering stunning product images, the more it will help the user make an informed decision about their purchase. In person, we have the opportunity to physically touch items, examine the quality, see fine details, etc., and to further this point, in an article by Cho & Workman (2011), “women use touch equally for pleasure and for information about the product”. They also go on to mention that women enjoy physical evaluation of products more so than men. While this could be a matter of debate about whether your site is offering a product for men or women, the information to take away is that touch is an information producing quality. With this significant factual information, it’s important to utilize technology to fill in the gaps of the online buying experience and simulate touch without the actual physical evaluation of a product.
In the example below, users are able to roll over the product image and are then shown an even larger more detailed view of the item adjacent to the main product shot – this gives user the opportunity to see quality, fine details, etc. of the item itself. Although touch is missing from the online shopping experience, a strategy such as this helps the user gather important details about the product before they seek any other information available on the page. In addition to excellent product images, users are also interested in seeing the product being modeled by some one. This is more of a self-evaluation factor. Let’s say the model wearing the product is tall and slender, and the user is short and stalky, the item may not look the exact same way on the user as it does on the model, but the important thing is the user has the opportunity to gauge, and consider, this information directly from the product shot and get an idea about how this item look on them. As an added bonus, users are likely to prefer a 360 degree view of a product to get an idea of the product in it’s entirety. These are all useful strategies, but its key to start with strong product images.
2. Robust Product Reviews & Ratings
As mentioned earlier, consumers seek external information from friends, reviews, and information presented to them by the interface. Having robust reviews becomes highly important as it allows the user to make judgment calls on the item itself. According to Nuphoriq, “reviews and ratings help buyers make their purchase decisions fasters and with less buyers remorse”, and with less buyers remorse comes with a likeliness of less returns.
In addition, keep in mind that with robust product reviews (meaning reviews that inform users on things such as the sizing, fit, pros, cons, etc.), are useful both ways:
- They help the user buying the item make an adequate purchase and
- They help the user who bought the item inform the next possible purchaser.
This ultimately becomes a cyclical experience – the more a users leaves a review, the more the next user is likely to make an accurate buying decision, who in turn will leave a review, and so on.
The example below, again from ModCloth, indicates how the reviews are robust, and appropriate enough, for the product being sold. Take note that the interface shows the fit, length, quality, as well as the users height, waist, and hip measurements. These become key bits of information that a user may consider when evaluating a product and self-evaluating the product to their own body.
3. Dimensions/Measurements, Materials
In research study on the Fashion Sharing Economy I completed last year, participants informed me that the materials and dimensions of a product were a deal breaker in their online buying experience. Why? Mostly because if a product has a certain percentage of a particular material, the user can gauge whether or not the item will fit them. For example, if an article of clothing has enough stretch, it’s possible for a user to get away with buying a medium rather than buying a large. The participants in my study informed me that dimensions/measurements help them see if the shape and size of the object will possibly be flattering on their own frame. What helps a lot, especially for women, is knowing what size the model is. As mentioned earlier, a lot of self-evaluation happens during the online shopping experience.
Model height, the size she’s wearing, in addition to the product measurement and dimensions, plus the information gained in product reviews, all help the user make the simple decision of “will this look good on me” and “will this product fit me?”.
In the example below, take note of the adequate product measurements provided. The interface also does a great job of informing the user of the model’s measurements.
With the information provided above, I encourage you to evaluate your product pages to see if you are adequately providing the appropriate information to your users. The primary challenge in ecommerce design is ensuring the interface provides enough detail to the user and accurately depicts the item online as it will in person. What I’ve outlined here is only the starting point to improving the user’s experience via online shopping and its important to think about how can we push technology forward to fill in the gaps of the online experience, specifically with sizing and fit? As the issue of how products fit will always be a challenge to overcome in the online buying experience, it’s very important to start thinking about the ecommerce design of tomorrow as much as we think of the ecommerce design of today.
Cho, S., Workman, J. (2011). Gender, Fashion Innovativeness and Opinion Leadership, and Need For Touch. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management,
Vol 15 No. 3. 363-382