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Why the webstore has become predictable and how guided selling can fix it

Harry Hansom Smith
11 August 2022

Most websites today have become templated and predictable, which has been exacerbated by the COVID rush to move more sales online. These webstores are in danger of becoming dumb shop windows with little to differentiate other than branding and merchandise.

The e-commerce fashion industry is expected to hit a $672.71 billion valuation by 2023.  With so many sales now going through their online stores, brands can’t afford to deliver a poor experience.

There’s no shortage of studies that show consumers want more convenience, less friction and a better personalised experience when shopping online. But when it comes to finding the right clothing and accessories, a desire for easier, faster product discovery is not always met. Especially as retailers often feel the need to prioritize seasonal, celebrity or promotional lines over more customer-centric strategies.

Though, despite the massive growth and continued opportunity within e-commerce, conversion rates among online fashion and accessories retailers has decreased – from 2.19% in 2021 to 1.52% in 2022.

The need for more targeted discovery

Reminiscient of early print catalogues, only digitised, websites often look the same, speaking at, instead of with, the user. It’s no wonder visitors don’t see a clear path to the right products.

According to Gartner research, nearly half of consumers (47%) desire tools and services that save them the mental hassle of researching and picking items, and over a third of consumers (34%) would much rather spend money to save time while shopping.

Knowing this, online fashion retailers must stop treating their online stores as a virtual shop window and instead, create a highly curated site experience. One that, like a boutique store experience, focuses on helping, educating, and streamlining the process through which information and products are discovered.

We call this guide selling, and it is the answer brands are looking for to break the mould and engender loyalty from customers who will come to prefer this type of shopping experience over competitors.

Personalisation is the secret to success 

For it to be truly effective, guided selling must be personal - a one size fits all approach will not cut it with fashion buyers. This means identifying core audience segments from which fashion brands can create personalised campaigns that speak to their distinct needs and interests.

For example, a macro segmentation framework can be used to tailor content and copy, navigation, and the overall site UX according to a visitor’s intent level, with low intent audiences more likely to need product education to get them hooked, medium intent audiences looking for strong comparative information to help them finalise their choice, and high intent audiences requiring an experience that reflects a greater sense of urgency and pairing of products.

Couple this with 1:1 algorithm-driven product recommendations, and merchants have all the tools they need to create highly effective guided journeys that are more likely to close the sale – for instance:

  • Product finders that match the most suitable items based on a specific customer’s goals
  • Interest/need quizzes that help gather preference data for more in-depth personalisation
  • Product guides that promote bespoke curated bundles e.g. occasion, season, mood
  • Segmented content and copy that speaks to a particular audience for enhanced relevance
  • Simplified navigation that highlights core categories or site areas for streamlined browsing
  • Category header recommendations that showcase product breadth and direct attention

Higher rewards for fashion brands that stick out

E-commerce sales may be on the rise, but that doesn’t mean the webstore isn’t broken. Fashion brands should pay close attention to their conversion rates, finding ways to continually optimise the site experience. Upon experimenting with some of the guided selling techniques outlined in this article, I believe they will come to see the difference in putting the customer first – the influence of which can impact way more than conversion rates, but lifetime value.

Harry Hansom Smith

Harry Hanson-Smith is Regional Vice President of experience optimisation platform Dynamic Yield.

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