Why Fashion Retailers Should Sell More Clothes Online
Women over 50 consistently tell us that they dislike shopping for clothes. Department and clothing stores are often the first place where this woman was made to feel invisible while shopping. In a 2010 survey, one-third of them reported perceiving an age bias among young salespeople, and 84% of them find salespeople generally indifferent, inexperienced, invisible, or outright rude.
Beyond the gauntlet of rude and poorly trained sales associates, a host of other reasons have long turned midlife women against bricks-and-mortar shopping even as their disposable income (and ability to spend it on themselves) increases. Those reasons include inhospitable fitting rooms and poor selections for midlife bodies.
In a recent survey, we confirmed that those hurdles continue driving a majority of women 50+ to buy clothes online. But so are the unique benefits of e-commerce.
Designers and fashion retailers should be investing more resources into selling clothes to midlife women online for these two reasons: it is an easier place to overcome the things she dislikes about stores and it is an easier place to give her the shopping experience she actually seeks.
Overcoming her dislikes
Untrained sales associates. If you own hundreds of stores, retraining or upgrading your entire team of sales associates is a giant challenge. But offering improved service at a single website is easier. Fashion retailers should be using some of their best sales associates to develop training procedures for their online help.
Limited selection. Nearly 80% of our 2013 respondents told us they can’t find enough clothes that flatter their changing bodies. While serving multiple generations in a single store can be difficult, online inventory is unlimited. Retailers who want to use their stores to target younger consumers should build up their online offerings for women 50+. This might especially help retailers like Eileen Fisher and J.Crew, whose new looks have turned too many midlife women away.
Can’t find classics. In one surprising result, 54% of our recent respondents told us that they are also disappointed when classic styles they love become unavailable. Retailers may depend on inventory turnover to generate visits to their mall stores should consider using e-commerce to keep their evergreen looks – especially those that appeal to midlife women – in stock.
Winning her loyalty
E-commerce is not just a place where retailers can overcome women’s fashion frustration. When women tell us what benefits they value most, they are benefits that e-commerce can serve best.
Best way to offer promotions. 74% of respondents told us that special sales and promotions motivate them to buy more clothes. Email marketing and online advertising (including mobile) are the best ways to tell these customers about the sales they seek.
Securing loyalty. When midlife women find designers and fashion solutions that work for them, they will return. Most of them return to brands and designers they trust, and online loyalty programs can make it easier to return more often. Chico’s has done especially well with promoting its new products, and a long-term relationship, with women online.
Free shipping/returns. 60% of respondents told us that free shipping and hassle-free returns will motivate them to choose one retailer over another. If it was the burdens of buying clothes in actual stores that drove women to shop online, it’s now the distinctive benefits of e-commerce that are getting them to spend more of their clothes budget online.
If you build it online, they will come – and tell their friends about it
E-commerce doesn’t just overcome the burdens of clothes shopping for midlife women; and it doesn’t just offer them unique benefits. It also let them utilize the recommendation engine that makes them your best marketers to other women like them. 94% of our survey respondents told us that when they find the perfect clothing solution, they recommend it to others. And 19% now report posting online reviews when they find a fashion solution that works.
In a world where women 50+ have long viewed bricks-and-mortar fashion retailers as their enemies, they are increasingly willing to let digital retailers be their friends.