I remember a time when your only fashion options were local shops, home-made clothes or going interstate or overseas for your unique and perfect fashionable item.
Today, a click of the mouse or a flick of your finger across the screen and the whole world opens up to you. Provided they ship to your country, you can buy from anywhere.
After researching and getting feedback from the recent participants (all business and professional women) at my Fashion Over 40 Meetup on Internet Shopping, here’s my guide to the best features I have found on savvy internet fashion sites. No one site has them all.
Making It a Safe and Special Place to Enter
You judge very quickly whether you want to enter a physical shop. It’s the same online.
1. How to Use the Website Guide
Birdsnest has a ‘how to find your perfect dress’ guide with illustrations and simple descriptions. They make it easy with body part descriptions rather than figure shapes.
2. Being Able to Set up Your Profile
This is good because it narrows down your search for clothes, which saves you time.
3. Common Concerns
These are quick links to special styles or new season looks to appeal to you like ‘cosy and chic’, ‘little black dress’, ‘travellers’ or ‘slimming styles’.
4. Best Sellers
We women always like to know what’s popular as we may want it too. This category covers ‘best bargain buys’ and ‘most popular’.
5. Web Exclusives
Chicos does this well with their Black Label clothes. Other websites tell you when you click on an item that it is exclusive to their website.
6. Styling Advice
A number of websites do have live chats with their stylist as well as a selection of styled outfits that you can peruse and then click to see all the items from that outfit on one page. Ezibuy has a ‘styling tips by brand’ which tells you the personality and lifestyle essence of each of their brands.
Is This Item for Me?
After you have picked some clothes to look at in closer detail, you want your buying decision to be safe and easy.
7. Accurate Sizing
Most websites have sizing guides and international conversions. As we all can name a non-standard sizing label, it would be useful for websites to state whether your item is from a smaller, larger or a normal-sized label. Sometimes you can find this information in the reviews.
8. Full Description
The more information they give you the better, including length in centimetres or inches. Savvy ones include washing instructions.
9. 3600 View
The best websites give you zoom front and back and 3600 rotation so that you can see the item from all angles.
10. How to Wear It
Birdsnest often includes one or more ways to wear the item. Otherwise, a view with accessories or styling tips adds value and versatility.
11. If Not This, Maybe That
Savvy sites show you similar styles as an alternative or an additional purchase. It’s like a salesperson with your interests at heart but no pressure.
Good websites make space for customer reviews. Read them, especially reviewers who describe the fit, size and quality. Chicos replies to review comments. The replies are standard and I feel a more personal one would make you feel more valued. Chico reviewers can add their age bracket, body type, shopping frequency and location. All helps.
13. Acknowledging Reviewers
Savvy Chicos encourages women to be reviewers. They indicate Top Reviewers on the item page as well as having a ‘meet our top reviewers’ page. This build a loyal tribe which you want to be part of.
Delivery and After Sales Service
Now to crunch time and the major fear of buying online.
14. Value for Money
We all want quality items and we know we must pay for that. If the clothes look good and the price is right, delivery time and shipping costs are the tipping points. Make them reasonable and we will buy, especially from another country.
15. Surprise Me
A little extra here adds the personal touch. Some sites wrap it in special, non-branded paper. Birdsnest sent me a personalised card. Ok, it may have been computer-generated but it looks personal. Savvy sites surprise and acknowledge you.
16. Ease of Return
This is important. It should not cost you to return it. Prompt refund of payment is essential.
Baby Boomer women are not computer luddites. We are looking and we do compare sites and stores. Make internet shopping safe and easy to use and make us a bit special and we will spread the word and return time and time again.
(Article sent to subscribers of The Fashion Translator eZine’ on 18 October 2012. Click here to sign up for The Fashion Translator eZine.)