If you are a bit older (35+), you remember the days of going into a store to get help picking out just the right suit for a interview, or just the perfect pair of jeans after months of working out. Maybe even the first fragrance you purchased as a mall rat!
The sales person usually could just look at you and grab the right pair of jeans, shoes, lipstick, or the right cut of a suit. The experience allowed us to learn about why something was working, how to style it, and usually made a acquaintance/friend in the process.
Flash forward to 2011. The first big year for e-commerce. The experience made it easy to shop whenever we wanted. I could do it while I had the flu! I felt productive from my own bed.
The experience was also less annoying. I wasn't asked about a brand credit card with a crazy interest rate, or given clothes I didn't want to try on. I preferred this type of experience because I was in control of my own interaction. The only annoying part was returning goods, or planning ahead for an event. Ordering three of the same item in different sizes to ensure I had something to wear.
What if we didn't have to do the returns or tie up credit cards with larger purchases?
Currently e-commerce has an extremely high return rate. Usually 25- 50% depending on how well the company has done in providing product knowledge. The Levi website is great at showing the cuts they offer. Thirdlove offers the quiz process to recommend products.
The image below shows examples of what Levi & Third Love are doing in relation to the customer experience.
As a person who trained sales teams for over 10 years. I can call out the issues with both these experiences. So what are they?
Problem 1: Education pertaining to the individual
Not one of these experiences is actually educating the customer. Customer Education is something that has been done since the dawn of tailors, wiggers, and perfumers selling items to the common man after the storming of Bastille, the Renaissance, and the Romans. Communication has always been apart of embracing the consumer.
Let us jump into why education is the MOST important aspect of selling items.
People sometimes are very unaware how their own form changes over time. We can see women between ages of 26-35 have some harder issues with shopping because thier body has massively changed. This is when majority of women have a child, the aging process begins, and hormones are shifting again. We see the same thing happen with women ages 44-55. They are hitting pre-menopause and are seeing skeletal changes. Yet online has limited interaction and the consumer doesn't know how to convey thier needs, as they dont know what they might need. In the end the customer says they don't fit into anything, but it maybe as simple as relearning their body.
Thirdlove tries to give knowledge by asking the questions, but sometimes this requires a image or comparison to figure out the "WHY" of the fit. The quiz also requires an email, so a bit annoying. It doesn't speak to painful issues, or the other issues like the breast falling out of the band. There is suggestions but not anything showing realtime perfect fit, and poor fit.
A good example of how this works in the brick & mortar is "try-on sessions". All staff are usually required to try on all fits. The team discuss what is work and what is not working. They also have comparisons to share as a group of people with individual body types. After so many successful try-ons the sales person could immediately grab the right pair of pants or blouses to fit each customer. Leading to successful experiences. The sales person would also provide additional knowledge to help a customer understand how the "Jackson" fit was for curvy hips and a full gluteal, while the "Martin" was for a flat gluteal and a narrow hip, usually a shorter rise as a result of the gluteal being later and less mass to the cheek.
Solve to Problem 1: Education
The suggestion is to take the greatest parts of the brick & mortar experience. Offer images that show regional poor fit, and perfect fit between body shapes. If you can show a person what a cat whisker, or elephant knee look like, and why it happens, the can use this image to help them buy the correct item. We use this to educate a person to design, so we can use this to train a customer about the fit.
Body Block Ai offers avatars that are different shaped bodies. If a customer can pick an online avatar that closely resembles their body, they could try it on. Or the system could associate all items that work for that body type. There are also flaws in the process, but those are usually on the customer end. A small % of body dysmorphia can cause a person to pick the wrong form. The other is not knowing how to measure correctly.
Lets begin sharing the beginning forms that were used to create a product. If we can see simple parts of a process, we can understand the "Why" a bit better.
Problem 2: Interaction
As stated above the brick & mortar sales person, if well trained, could size a person up quickly. Online can do this with quizzes, or with a customer sales bot that uses algorithms, or even an online customer agent. These all offer some text, or verbal interaction. Yet not one of them is "SHOWING" the person how the item really works.
Solve to Problem 2: Interaction LOW COST
How do we create better interaction without a direct video call? After all some of us are shopping in our P.J.'s with a face mask on.
Easy, its via VIDEO!
Video can show a customer how to measure the right aeas.For example if you think the high hip is the waist line, you maybe a whole 2 " off the actual waist measure. The pictures help, but some of these items are all not measured in the same way.
Video has dialogue that also speaks to a customer about the what, how, and why!
Just like the product knowledge videos the sales staff watch for new hire orientation, or seasonal launches. Offering the same information to the consumer as a way to reduce returns, and train them to understand fashion is designed for different body type, and not always just one body type, they will adapt and have a better relationship with fashion as a whole.
I currently have a client who has made some small videos to show what her interactive product can do for a person. We drafted it similar to a fitting room experience, while offering the customer or retail buyer some insights on how to sell it.
The second solve to Problem 2: Interaction HIGHER COST
VR/AR technologies are a very immersive experience that can allow the customer to feel as if they are in a store. Questions asked can guide them through different areas of the store. For example, Sephora uses AR features to allow users the experience of trying on a lipstick shade without the mess. Its more hygenic, and if the customer uses the brand, they understand how it will feel, once the item arrives.
The VR experience allows the user to be invited into the actual environment. Merchandising can be done in a mock-up store and recorded with a VR camera. Items can be logged by area, and when a customer has interest, a sales person could engage with the person.
The future doesn't have to forget what worked in the past. What we do need to do on a regular basis is educate the customers about their body, clothing design, and textiles. The more transparent and simple the points of education are, the smaller the return margin will become, and customer commitment overtime grows. Sometimes we don't need all sorts of tech gimmicks from the future, to convey how much the customer means to us. Sometimes its as simple as a video/ images showing how something works, and how it won't work. It also is a bit more friendly to a smaller budget.
If you want to know more about how this can be implemented into your site, or customer experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org