How to Design Beautiful Online Shopping Experiences

Feb 20, 2013 10:15 AM  By

Fashion, beauty and apparel brands selling online are quick to adopt innovative ecommerce technologies and tactics that assist in showing off their products to their best advantage. Their online-retail stores are often filled with highly visual site search and navigation features that better show off their products’ colors, styles, stitches and fabric details, with advanced sorting options, and merchandising tactics that help visitors quickly find the products they need and convert them into satisfied buyers.

Based on research SLI Systems recently conducted with our own fashion, beauty and apparel clients, below are some early-adopter best practices used to ratchet up satisfaction with the online buying experience, that any retailer looking to improve online conversions and average order value, can borrow from.

Maintain a consistent experience
A consistent experience across all channels, including your ecommerce and mobile commerce sites, is critical. You can achieve this by maintaining the same look and feel across all your site pages – the home page, and search and navigation, product, landing and shopping cart pages – as well as in your various marketing and advertising campaigns. This ensures your customers always know what to expect, which helps reinforce the value of your brand.

Make color pop
Color is an essential element, not only for fashion and beauty retailers but for many other market niches like housewares. Color swatches in search results make it easy for shoppers to peruse options without having to click through repeatedly – and it saves them time. The faster you can show product options that meet shoppers’ needs, the sooner they’ll place products in their carts. Handbag retailer Dooney & Bourke allows shoppers to search by color, and then see their chosen product in other colors simply by mousing over color swatches under the product images in the search results page.

See more products, quickly
Just as shoppers like to rapidly browse racks and shelves of clothing in real-world boutiques, they want to quickly view an array of goods online. Site search with quick-view features goes a long way toward feeding their desire for a catalogue-like experience – and can also help shoppers see products up close before deciding to buy.

For example, when shoppers mouse over images in search results, a pop-up window can display a larger photo, and include product details and even an add-to-cart button. It’s a great way to keep shoppers browsing through results so they don’t abandon your site.

Reference other media
Buying products that need to be tried on for fit (or in the case of cosmetics, need to work just right with your skin color and type), is challenging on ecommerce sites. Steering shoppers to content beyond product pages – such as blog posts, videos, and user reviews – helps reassure customers that they’re making the right purchase. e.l.f. Cosmetics does this, letting consumers search by advertisements, videos, social media buzz, or blog posts.

Use slang words and synonyms
Trends in fashion and beauty move quickly and are often influenced by popular culture – which means the language used to describe products, shapes or colors can also vary widely among shoppers. Analyzing your site search data can help you match products with the keyword terms that your visitors enter in the search box. Once you’ve collected these terms, you can add them as synonyms within site search, helping shoppers reach the right products as quickly as possible.

Add refinement options
Fashion shoppers enjoy browsing, and may start their search with broad keyword terms such as “coats” or “winter.” To keep shoppers from being overwhelmed, refinements for size, style, age, color – whatever’s appropriate for the product mix – help narrow down product options so that shoppers can zero in on a smaller group of choices to consider. Women’s fashion retailer Boden lets shoppers refine search results by body shape or top-rated products, for example.

Encourage on-the-go searches
Today’s mobile shoppers (especially the fashion-conscious ones) want to investigate trendy new products whenever the urge strikes them – which is often not when they’re sitting down in front of a desktop computer. Satisfy the need for “right now” shopping with fast and easy-to-use search on your mobile site or app.

These are just a few of the more advanced, engaging approaches used on fashion, beauty and apparel retail sites you can borrow from improve your own site’s stickiness and online conversion rate. Be sure, however, to measure the full impact that these tactics can create through some A/B testing to ensure you’re always taking the right approach.

Terry Costais vice president of marketing atSLI Systems.

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