Our 2018 eCommerce Survey revealed that consumer trends have changed in many areas, including fulfillment transparency and consumers valuing saving money over everything else. One constant, however, is the popularity of buying clothing and apparel, and health and beauty products online.
This year, as it has in Dotcom’s previous surveys, we found that clothing (77% of surveyed shoppers) and health and beauty products (41%) ranked first and third in terms of the products respondents purchased online most over the past year. (Note: consumer electronics ranked second with 52%).
Though clothing and apparel, and health and beauty items continue to fill many online carts, what consumers expect from their experience with each has evolved. Management of emerging brands in these hotly contested markets must recognize their customers’ expectations and buying patterns to experience growth.
Brands need more than creative styles and that special “look” to attract customers to their clothing lines in 2018 and beyond. Here are three other key buying experience elements:
Omnichannel Is All-important – Though clothing was purchased online more than any other item by survey respondents, 52% of them said that it was an item they’d prefer to purchase in-store. This dichotomy means that clothing and apparel brands need to create a quality omnichannel experience.
eCommerce is valued for its convenience and quickness, while in-store has the important benefit of allowing shoppers to try items on. Because modern consumers see the value of both, brands need to create a seamless experience to maximize growth and achieve a high customer lifetime value.
Get An App – Having strong online and physical presences isn’t enough. A branded mobile app merges the two by serving as a smart shopping assistant for customers when they are in-store, helping them make the best purchase decision. It can also help upsell accessories and complementary items.
Another benefit of an app is that brands can learn customer habits to personalize their buying experience. Shoppers’ purchase data across every channel can be gathered, analyzed, and used to form a stronger brand-customer bond.
Ship for Free – Apparel buyers prefer retailers who offer free shipping, according to the 2018 survey. Ninety-two percent (92%) said they’d be more likely to become repeat customers upon receiving this perk. The desire to save money is further expressed by almost three quarters (74%) of shoppers not willing to pay higher shipping costs to receive their clothes faster. Apparel brands should target four-day delivery based on the survey results, which revealed two-thirds of these shoppers expect to receive their blouses, slacks, etc. within that time. Additionally, 56% have never used same-day delivery – we will continue to monitor this in future studies as market expectations shift.
Based on our survey results, it is better for apparel and clothing brands to waive customer’s shipping prices rather than pay for faster delivery. Utilizing more affordable methods, while padding associated cost into products’ prices, will allow brands to appeal to customers while minimizing cutting too far into margins. A quality third-party logistics (3PL) partner should have the software and established relationships with carriers to make this happen.
Our survey results revealed interesting data beyond cosmetic products being the third most popular product to purchase online. Half of the respondents who bought beauty products said they’d done more online shopping this year than last, and only 32% expressed a preference to buy these items in-store. These results indicate stronger growth in the cosmetics eCommerce market. Here is how to attract this growing audience:
Unboxing Still Matters – One major discovery is that these shoppers respond well to unique unboxing experiences. More than half of consumers who purchased beauty products said that gift-like packaging makes the brand seem more upscale and/or they are more excited to receive and open the package.
Unboxing can also help build brand awareness, as 32% of respondents claimed to have shared a picture or video of a purchase on social media. A customer is more likely to dedicate a post to a package with beauty items surrounded by eye-catching tissue paper and sealed with a branded sticker than mundane air pillows or paper void-fill.
Giveaways – Surprise giveaways are also useful, as almost half (49%) of these shoppers are more likely to purchase again from a brand that included free stickers, magnets or similar gifts in the package. Cosmetics brands have a unique opportunity to include free samples. A new lotion, makeup or similar item will surprise customers and help raise awareness for a product line extension. It also increases the likelihood that these customers will add that product to their next purchase.
Whereas our 2017 eCommerce Study found that 51% of shoppers value easy returns, our 2018 results show how high the bar has been raised. Establishing convenient return policies are particularly critical for clothing and beauty brands because 61% of respondents who purchased those items said they sent back at least one item over the past 12 months. That could be why 65% of respondents said they would likely make future purchases if there was no charge for returns. Based on these results, brands need to have a hassle-free return policy to improve customer retention.
One approach is to include prepaid shipping labels that let customers simply repackage everything and drop it off at their nearest carrier location. Scan-based labels can be a more affordable alternative, as brands will only be charged if they’re used.
A second convenient option is to offer in-store returns, as three-quarters of these shoppers said they’d be more likely to make an online purchase if they had that choice. Once again, this emphasizes the appeal of omnichannel. As an added benefit, customers coming to your store for a return may leave with another purchase after seeing more products or sales in person.
Understanding these consumer trends and implementing these practices (if they do not already exist) can help clothing and beauty brands grow their eCommerce sales. To learn more about consumers’ online buying preferences, view our full 2018 eCommerce Study here.