Instead of selling products, sell a lifestyle. This is exactly what retail clothing stores do to succeed in the competitive apparel industry. Think about going to the mall and visiting different stores – they all have different amounts of lighting, types of music, window displays, and even smells to accompany the clothing that they sell. You need to recreate this online for your audience through your web design. Use a layout that matches your brand style, showcase homepage slides and product images that mirror a window display, etc. This will allow you to convey a brand image that focuses on how the clothing that you sell will make consumers feel while wearing it and how they’ll be perceived. Selling a lifestyle is more effective than selling products because it creates an emotional bond between consumers and your products, resulting in brand loyalty and advocacy.
2. Be Seasonal
Apparel is seasonal so your website and your online marketing needs to reflect that seasonality as well. Obviously some of your products will change from season to season, but there tends to be more product carry over from season to season than the typical retail store. This means that you need to do something to add seasonality to products that are not inherently seasonal in nature. (For example, board shorts implicitly suggest a summer-time feel, whereas jeans can be worn in any season.) So how do you do this?
- Use images of products being worn in outdoor settings to set context
- Change descriptive product language to illustrate seasonality
- Showcase various features that have seasonal implications
3. Make Shopping Online Easy
Buying clothing online is scary for a lot of people. Consumers are likely to experience purchase anxiety as they wonder if the clothing will fit, will be true to color, will match the accessories that they own, and so on. Shopping aids like sizing charts, product image zoom, and accurate product descriptions help to reduce anxiety. But consumers are more likely to trust unbiased information than branded information, so supplementing product details with honest reviews from real users is highly beneficial.
To quell those lingering doubts, offering free returns is a good way to reassure shoppers that they’ll be satisfied with their purchases. It also demonstrates that you stand behind your products and can be trusted with their business.
4. Target the Right Audience
Depending on the type of apparel that you’re selling, the end user may not be the buyer. It’s important that you target the right audience. Your messaging and design should be geared towards the buyer to increase customer satisfaction. For instance, if you sell women’s lingerie, you may find that your typical buyer is a man shopping for his wife or girlfriend and what may motivate him or appeal to him might be different than if you were marketing your products towards women. You might want to emphasize the ease of shopping online versus having to go into the mall and risk being seen as you sort through sizes and hope you can quickly pick out something that she’ll like. Then, you might offer a quiz that predicts which types of items she’d like based on her personality or makes recommendations based on previous purchases.
5. Be Social
Shopping is social in nature, which is why women and families often go shopping together. But when you shop online you inherently lose that social element. But don’t fear! There are things you can do to integrate the social side back into your shopping experience. Implementing live chat and displaying your phone number prominently encourages shoppers to get in touch with your customer service team. They can use these avenues to get any questions that they have answered from a real person.
You can also promote your products on social media and encourage shoppers and existing customers to join the conversation. Reply to mentions on social media, reach out to customers via email to personally thank them, and so on. Include social share buttons on individual products and order checkout thank you pages so that shoppers can share about their favorite products and their recent purchase. No matter how you foster social sharing and interaction, doing so can increase the likelihood of purchase and subsequent customer satisfaction after the purchase is completed.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!