Live from eTail: Model Behavior

Palm Desert, CA–Selling apparel has many challenges, from fit issues to high return rates. And when selling clothing online, merchants also have to consider how best to present the merchandise. The topic came up at the eTail conference here during a Feb. 22 panel discussion titled Building an E-commerce Environment That’s Geared to Deliver an Optimal Online Customer Experience.

Dave Tower, vice president, e-commerce for apparel manufacturer/marketer Liz Claiborne, said that on-figure photographs pull better on LizClaiborne.com than product lie-down shots. But to keep costs down, the company recently went to a new standard in which apparel is shown on mannequins. The strategy is working, Tower said, because “they’re really good mannnequins.”

But another panelist, Ed Bussey, senior vice president of lingerie etailer Figleaves.com, said his company had tried mannequins but received lackluster results. “Customers preferred to see products on models,” he said. “We’re in the process of clearing out the mannequins from our site. It’s expensive, he noted, “but something we need to do.”

So who’s right? That no doubt depends on your specific product line and your target audience, but for many women’s apparel marketers, models seem to win out. In an earlier session, Bernie B.D. Feiwus, senior vice president/chief operating officer of catalog and Internet for general merchant J.C. Penney Corp., said that his company had “agonized whether apparel would be shown on models or just shown flat.” Penney looked at the Website of women’s apparel merchant J. Jill, which showed all the clothing flat, and decided that’s maybe that was the best approach. But when Penney executives went on the J. Jill site again to see exactly how the products appeared, they found only location shots of models wearing the apparel. “They must have changed the site that morning,” Feiwus said.

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