A look at two apparel merchants that avail themselves of the web’s advantages over print, and one that doesn’t.
* On its online product pages, Boden includes not just the wealth of alternate images, zoom functionality, cross-sell suggestions, reviews, and detailed measurements that used to be considered niceties but are fast becoming de rigueur. It also includes, when applicable, updates to the product descriptions that appear to be in response to customer service questions.
For instance, the copy for the Pool Party Tunic adds, in a font different from the rest of the description, “Please Note: Please be aware that the Yellow Loopy neck embellishment should have yellow beads as the internet shots [sic] not white beads as the catalogue depicts.” The Twist Jersey Top copy cautions, “Poppy option (RED) is much brighter and slightly more coral in reality. Please note Cream option (CRM) is cream although appears white in photography.”
Most of the products do not have such addenda. And while ordinarily I’d been shaking my head at the typos and errant coding in these messages, they do support the ad hoc nature of the notes, as if an empowered customer service rep had taken it upon himself to add them to the site in response to multiple queries he had fielded.
Adding this sort of information is in fact a customer service enhancement, one that no doubt helps reduce calls to Boden’s contact center—saving it some money in the long term—and minimize returns.
* A growing number of ecommerce sites are adding videos of their products in use. Apparel etailer Asos, however, is the only one I’m aware of that includes brief videos of its clothing worn by a model on the vast majority, if not all, of its product pages.
Like Boden, Asos has multiple photos of each item on its pages as well as zoom capability. But seeing a product on a model sashaying down a runway is the only way to determine exactly where a blouse billows and where it clings, how fluid or stiff the fabric is, if the trousers are likely to give you a cameltoe or odd bulges when you walk.
The videos have dissuaded me from a few purchases, which is to Asos’s benefit. If I had made those purchases, I would have been dissatisfied and returned the items, and as Asos offers both free shipping and free returns, it would have incurred a sizable loss on my order. Not to mention that I would probably never trust the company’s merchandising enough to follow up with subsequent purchases.
* Victoria’s Secret doesn’t offer any alternate images on its product pages, nor any zoom functionality, let alone video. You’ve got one photo, the same basic product description as probably appears in the print catalog, and that’s it.
Of course, lots of other apparel marketers follow the same lame, user-unfriendly practices as Victoria’s Secret. So why single out this company?
Because, as readers of the Photoshop Disasters blog well know, Victoria’s Secret is notorious for doctoring its images, and doing so poorly. Certainly the image on the landing page for its Clothing (as opposed to Bras, Panties, or Sleepwear) section does not instill confidence in the accuracy of its photos (unless that red lace top really does cause some sort of weird dislocation/swelling of the hip, in which case I wouldn’t want to buy it anyway).
If it’s obvious that Victoria’s Secret manipulates its photos to the point where seeing isn’t believing, and I’m presented with only one photo to gauge what a product looks like, I’m certainly not going to assume that the product does indeed look like its photo. Nor am I going to take a chance and order the product for the hell of it. If I wanted to take a gamble based solely on blind faith, I’d do something really crazy, like invite people over for a barbecue next weekend on the assumption that by then my husband will have mowed the lawn so that it no longer resembles an abandoned potter’s field.