Let’s step into online fashion shopping

Close up of Converse Chuck All Stars shoes, person lying on ground with feet in the air

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Snapshot : In the world of online fashion shopping, you’re either hot or you’re not. This week, we mystery shop The Iconic, Myer and Converse’s D2C store to check out their online selling experience. Find out what we learn about front end areas like the design, navigation, search and product pages. We also investigate how they organise their back-end systems like delivery and returns to win (or lose) customers. 

If you have a passion for online fashion shopping, 2020 was a great year for that category. Already the second largest e-Commerce category behind variety stores (like eBay), according to Australia Post’s 2021 e-Commerce report, online fashion shopping took 26% of all online purchases last year. It grew at a whopping 45% year on year. 

There’s a lot of reasons fashion works well online. 

For customers, there’s a wider range of choice online compared to physical stores. There’s no space restrictions to limit what’s available. No cluttered aisles. No jumbled shelves to search. 

Online site navigation and filters make it easy to browse what’s available. Online fashion shoppers can find brands and pick out colours and styles with just a few clicks.

Shoppers can look for fashion online 24/7. They don’t need to worry about crowded stores, unhelpful staff, or carrying heavy bags home.

It’s also easy for shoppers to compare prices between stores. No walking from store to store to find a bargain. It’s all there on the screen.

For shoppers, the world of online fashion shopping has a lot to offer. 

Online fashion shopping - business

For businesses, the world of online fashion shopping offers a lot too. For example, the stock availability efficiency that goes with e-Commerce.

When someone buys a product in-store, the staff have to re-stock the shelf. With online selling, your order to delivery system manages this automatically. You only restock when it alerts you stock is low. 

When you launch new products in your online store, you update the product information system and set the stock level. Then, it sells itself until the stock runs out. Easy. 

Most fashion products are high enough priced to cover delivery charges. As we share in our article on D2C business models, that’s important to create a profitable and sustainable online business. 

And of course, the whole point of fashion is to make people look good. So, it creates its own visual content that’s easy to showcase on digital media, particularly social media. Channels like Instagram make access to fashion influencers who’ll highlight your products easy.

Interior of a warehouse showing high shelving and main aisle

Online fashion shopping – challenges

Despite all that, online fashion shopping does have challenges. 

The customer doesn’t get to try the product on. They can’t see how it fits, or what it looks like on themselves. 

From a business point of view, this means you need to have a clear returns policy and system. 

If the product doesn’t fit, or doesn’t look right, customers expect an exchange or refund. Your customer service and warehouse systems need to manage this. You need to get the product back, and refund the customer. If customers aren’t happy, they’ll let people know on social media and on review sites.

And finally, there’s a lot of choice in online fashion shopping. That means a lot of competition. Product review lists over 1,100 clothing stores. And that’s just for Australia. It doesn’t include overseas stores who ship to Australia, or any of the smaller pop-up stores. 

With e-Commerce models like Print on Demand and drop shipping, it’s easy for anyone to set up their own online fashion shopping business. You need a strong point of difference to stand out. 

With those challenges in mind, let’s go check out some online fashion shops. 

The Iconic – Pure Player

The Iconic is one of the best known names in online fashion. Launched in 2011, its annual sales are now more than $1.7bn. Impressive numbers for a still young business. 

With most sites, first impressions count. That’s especially true for fashion sites, given what they sell. If the style of the website doesn’t grab you immediately, how’s the style of their fashion going to work? 

The Iconic home page

The Iconic home page has a clean and balanced layout.

White font on a black background for their highlight text. 

Normally, this is best avoided, especially on longer pieces of text. But with a limited amount of text, it can create contrast and remain readable. 

But saying that, there’s easy to read typography and well-balanced composition on the page. Nothing jars design-wise.

Screengrab of home page from theiconic.com.au

The Iconic Navigation

The primary navigation on the top bar and the main images are very clear. Women. Men. Kids. 

That gets you into the right “department” straight away. 

We also get an automatic $20 offer to sign up to their newsletter. That’s a little jarring. We’re not big fans of pop-ups. But, $20 is pretty generous. And it’s easy to click “no thanks”. 

We’ll let it go this time.

The secondary navigation line on the menu bar has 11 further ways to navigate the site. 

The first five are based on the items themselves. They’re easy to understand. You know what you’ll get if you click on clothing, shoes, accessories, beauty or gifts.

The remaining six choices however, require more thought. 

Sale is pretty obvious, products on promotion. It’s in a different colour to make it stand out. But, it’s sitting next to “outlet” which we’d understand to be older lines at reduced prices. So, two different links to look for a bargain?

Hmmm, bit confusing. 

“Brands” and “designer” we get is just a different way to search for items. But, they’re mixed in with “sports” and “sneaker hub” which are obviously themed areas on the site. These are probably helpful for aimless browsing, but confusing if you’re after something specific. 

Three levels of navigation

Under each of these secondary search filters, we get a third level of navigation choice. 

There’s more specific category choices (activewear, coats and jackets, dresses, under clothing for example). 

There’s “shop by edit”. Unclear what they mean by “edit”, though maternity or sport seem obvious. But, we had to click through to work out what “considered” was (“free from” type products). Ditto, with “curve” which is for those with fuller figures. 

The rest of the home page we get the same primary navigation of Men – Women – Kids (notice the order is different from the navigation bar), a couple of promotional offers and another navigation option to shop by brand. 

The Iconic Search

But imagine we’re not browsing. We just want to find the right product quickly. Let’s say we’ve got a specific product in mind.

Say a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. They’re pretty iconic after all. (see what we did there?)

For this, we obviously went to the search function. That gave us 174 items to look at. Need to narrow that list down a bit. So, we used the search filter option to only see Men’s items. 

And bingo, we find the product we were looking for. 

When you have a large number of products in your store, search and search filters are great for customers to find specific product pages. 

Screengrab of search result on converse on theiconic.com.au

The Iconic Product page

On product pages, the brand owner is responsible for supplying product details to the product page information system. They’ll add images, product names and specifications. On The Iconic site, Converse supplies the information for this page as the brand owner. 

Let’s walk through the experience. 

First, you notice the 4 images of the product from different angles plus a lifestyle image. There’s a clear product name. 

The price is clearly displayed. Of the three sites we looked at, this was the most expensive price.

Interestingly, you get a couple of different payment options around the price. So AfterPay for example (pay in 4 instalments), or an offer to save 25%, when you spend over $50. This saving isn’t displayed automatically though, that seems like an oversight. 

The customer has to do the maths to work out the $32.50 saving and the actual price.

Surely, it’s better to highlight the lower price before check-out? 

Choosing the right colour and size is simple.

There’s a good level of detail about the product, if you need it. Though we’d imagine it’s mainly for SEO, and not many people actually read it.  

As product pages go, there’s not much to pick fault with. Unsurprisingly, it does the basics of the product page well.

However, we did note the hero image has an odd composition. The product sits at the bottom of a portrait image below a large amount of white space. Can’t see any design reason for this. 

Screengrab of converse chuck taylor all stars product page on theiconic.com.au

Maybe it’s to do with The Iconic’s image settings and dimensions? Maybe this was the best way to fit the image of the whole product in? It looks odd, though. Especially, when the same thing happens on the other 3 angled images. 

In fact, only one of the shoe images (a close-up) actually seems to “fit” the portrait layout. Plus, there’s another lifestyle shot that kinda works with the shoe sitting on a fencepost next to a field. 

The Iconic Delivery

It’s also worth looking at the delivery options. The Iconic is known for doing this well. 

In the delivery box, you enter your postcode. It gives you day by day options.

There’s a next working day delivery at $3.95, an evening or weekend delivery at $14.95 and 3-4 day delivery for FREE. From a shopper point of view, that’s a good range of delivery options.

We have options for a fast delivery (tomorrow), a convenient delivery (tomorrow evening or at the weekend), or a free delivery (a few days wait).

Some thought has clearly gone into these options. It’s a simple layout for the customer.

The Iconic – additional content

Like most online fashion shopping sites, there’s also suggestions of what might go well with this product (cross-selling). Though the algorithm suggestion of Converse socks is not particularly inspiring. 

There’s also comparable products. Which is fine. Though again, not a very inspiring selection.

Other Converse shoes. Great.

Let’s close off The Iconic with a look at the bottom navigation bar.

On most sites, people only end up here as a last resort. But with The Iconic, there’s quite a lot of helpful links going on here. 

Firstly, you can see that they use this to promote their affiliate, partnership and influencer programs. 

Interesting. 

This is about customers and partners selling products on their behalf in return for a commission.

This is a clever digital media approach. These affiliates, partners and influencers highlight the site and the products at no cost to The Iconic. The only cost comes when there’s a sale. 

It’s either free advertising or free selling. 

Very clever.

The Iconic Returns

We also checked out their Returns policy and system. It’s very clear. When you want to return an item, you notify them via your account. You print off a pre-paid return label. Stick it on, take the product to the post-office, and it’ll go back to The Iconic. 

Fifteen days to process and get a refund seems a bit slow. But other than that, this still seems like an efficient system for returns. 

Overall, apart from a few confusing navigation terms, The Iconic’s a customer friendly experience for online fashion shopping. It’s easy to see why the site’s popular. 

Myer – Bricks and Clicks

Moving on, we’re sure a big chunk of those $1.7bn sales for The Iconic have come at the expense of traditional bricks and clicks retailers.

Traditional players like Myer have been hit hard as online competition has impacted their historic market power. But they’ve haven’t rested on their laurels. They’ve also gone hard after e-Commerce sales. Let’s step into Myer’s online fashion shopping experience. 

Myer Home page and navigation

The first impression is good. It’s another clear and balanced design. There’s a pink highlight colour for Mother’s Day, but everything else is simple black on a white background. 

Along the top, we see a clear primary navigation bar. 

Obviously, Myer sell more than fashion.

Screengrab from Myer.com.au home page

We get a clear Women; Men; and Kids and Baby option like The Iconic, but we also get non-fashion options like Toys; Home and Entertainment. 

Before we even get to the primary navigation, we get a couple of information links (free standard delivery over $49, all stores and open and relaxed returns), plus an obvious link to track my order. 

It’s a little busier at the top of the page than The Iconic, but nothing that would put us off as online shoppers. 

In fact, we like the high visibility of the “track my order” option. We imagine, that’s what many visitors to the site want to do. Making it highly visible makes sense. We find the same tracking option at the bottom of the home page and in the bottom navigation bar. All good for the customer. 

The navigation bar leads with “New in”, and a separate sub navigation bar for each of women, men, kids, toys, home and so on. We kinda get this, though we’d be interested if their data shows shoppers actually choose this option. When you pick it, it takes you to a page where there’s over 7,000 items, so you need to drill down again to narrow the choice. 

Maybe there are online fashion shopping conscious people out there who want only the latest designs, but we couldn’t see the appeal. 

Further down the Myer home page

Further down we get some alternative navigation boxes with big images that link to gift sets, fragrance, sleep wear, home and entertaining and gift cards. 

The images are appealing. Though we couldn’t work out why they highlight these 5 categories in particular. Maybe to highlight the variety of Myers’ offer? But they don’t particularly “go” together. 

Scroll down the home page, and we find a couple of sales promotion offers (25% on specific brands) and a feature section on denim. Which appears to be very in fashion right now. Hello, the 1980s. 

We get some more offers – gifts with purchase, a 20% off toy sale and a buy 2, get 50% off on kids clothing offer. And finally, we get another four sections, that to be honest, we’d gotten a bit bored of scrolling down the page at this point.

In fact, if we were to pick one fault with this page, it’s too long. Most of the interesting stuff is right at the top. 

Myer Search Products

To compare online shopping at Myer to The Iconic, let’s aim to find and buy the same product. 

Here we search on Converse. We get 57 search results. But luckily, the one we’re looking for shows up second in the list. Easy. 

The first thing notice is it’s $10 cheaper than The Iconic. Remember, with online shopping price is still a huge factor. And that $10 saving’s got our interest. 

Screengrab showing search results for Converse on myer.com.au

There’s a filter option on the search results. Had we needed it, this would have made it faster to find the right product page.

Myer Product Page

On the product page, we get 5 product images (2 shown in the picture) and a  similar information panel to The Iconic. 

The name and price is clear. And it seems we can get 240 Myer One credits with this purchase. 

We don’t know how much that is. But fair enough, we can see how it adds something else to the offer. 

Screengrab showing Converse product page on myer.com.au

Interestingly, After Pay with 4 payments is also available on this purchase, like it was with The Iconic. It’s clearly a popular payment option. 

Colour and size options are pretty standard here, as is the “Others have viewed” option. (all Converse shoes)

In addition, Myer have added in customer reviews. This wasn’t on The Iconic site. Although, in this case there’s only the one review for the product. 

We noted when we were looking at buying high ticket products in a recent article, that even though customer review functionality is common now on many shopping sites, not many people actually leave a review. (hence the popularity of more independent sites like Product Review.)

Myer Delivery

It gets more interesting when we look at the delivery options.

There’s free delivery for a standard delivery time of 4-7 Working Days or Click and Collect in store.

But, there’s no fast or more convenient options like The Iconic has. No delivery for tomorrow or at the weekend.

Screengrab showing delivery options on Converse shoes at myer.com.au

 Maybe customers don’t need shoes fast? But, the implication is that Myer’s delivery and supply chain systems aren’t as flexible as The Iconic. 

Myer Returns

In the bottom navigation bar, Myer don’t offer options for affiliates, partners and influencers

But they do detail their returns system. There’s two options – via Parcelpost or via Australia Post. 

Both seem fairly straightforward. 

Myer set more restrictions on size and weight than The Iconic for returns though. (we didn’t see any restrictions on the Iconic returns page) 

They also charge a fee where your reason for return is “change of mind”, but not for other reasons. Hmmm, how many people would actually tick that box and pay a fee? Not many, we’d bet. 

They also have a comprehensive set of FAQs to go with their return policy. 

How does Myer compare to The Iconic for online fashion shopping? 

In terms of site layout and design, there’s not too much to choose between the two. They’re both clearly laid out, and it was easy to find the products we wanted. 

It’d really come down to price first. And then, whether you wanted the benefit of shopping at Myer (i.e. you get Myer points and can shop for other non fashion-items), or your wanted the extra delivery options from The Iconic.

Those are really the main differences we saw between the two. 

Converse Direct-to-Consumer (D2C)

But of course, e-Commerce being what it is, there’s always more choice. And in fact, with this particular product, there’s also a direct-to-consumer option.  

Let’s see what it’s like if we cut the online retailer out completely.  

Converse Home page and navigation

Having got over the slight surprise that Converse had a direct-to-consumer site for Australia at all, we find a well laid out and attractive branded shopping site.

Their navigation bar is significantly simpler than The Iconic or Myer. Obviously, they’ve got a much narrower range of products to organise. But simpler always helps.

The links to women – men – kids are clear, as are limited edition and sale

Screengrab showing the Converse.com.au home page with lots of shoe images

Stories as a link is interesting though.

This contains more news and blog type content. Something that wasn’t so apparent on The Iconic or Myer websites. (there was extra content on those sites, but it was hidden quite far down the navigation hierarchy). 

The posts here seem fairly current, with news relating to Mother’s Day and a partnership with Pop Trading Company and the Miffy cartoon bunny for limited edition sneakers. 

This is interesting, because Converse as a manufacturer who also sells, needs to use their site to build their brand. Whereas, The Iconic and Myer are both retailers. Their focus is on pure ways to sell. 

Back to the home page, and we get a simple high impact visual layout. There’s a 20% sales promotion discount on some items, some new designs (spotted animal print sneakers), and a big feature post on their Miffy collaboration. 

We get some more brand feature articles, and another sales promotion offer. 

We can see the All Stars shoes right away, so let’s jump straight there. 

Converse Product page 

The product page layout is clear with 7 big images of the shoe from different angles, plus a video. 

It’s the only one to offer video. It’s kinda OK. But really, there’s not really a lot you can do with video of shoes.

(the model bends down and adjusts the laces. And er, that’s about it. Wow. Shoes have laces you can adjust? Who knew?)

Screenshot of Converse Product Page for Chuck Taylor All Stars on Converse.com.au

Like The Iconic and Myer, the product page basics are well laid out. We have a clear product name, a clear price, an Afterpay option and easy colour and size picking choices. 

In fact, we reckon if you only looked at these three sections on each site without the branding of the navigation bar, you’d struggle to tell them apart. And to be fair, why would you? It’s the product that’s the hero here, the product page is just a way to make it easy to sell. 

Converse Delivery

Delivery with Converse is done a little differently though. 

There’s free express shipping for orders over $75 for metro areas. That means next business day delivery as standard. That beats the delivery price for The Iconic, and the delivery time for Myer. There’s 2-5 days for everywhere else, which is pretty standard. Orders placed before 11am get shipped the same day, which is again a good service level. 

These make Converse’s D2C a stronger delivery option than Myer. For fast delivery, it also beats The Iconic (as it doesn’t charge), though it doesn’t offer the same convenient time options (evening or weekend) as The Iconic.

Converse Returns

Converse’s returns policy sits right next to the delivery information. It’s pretty clear. Items have to be unworn, able to be resold and with their original tags. The returns form comes with the invoice, and again you can use Parcelpoint or Australia Post. 

Their returns processing takes 3-5 days, which is faster than The Iconic.

In the bottom navigation bar, you can sign up to their newsletter, (though unlike The Iconic, there’s no sign-up incentive). They also offer a 10% discount to students, who we guess are part of their target audience. 

With the price match to Myer, and the free fast delivery option which beats The Iconic, we might have found a winner in our mystery shop for the best place to buy these new shoes. 

That’ll put a spring in our step. 

Online fashion shopping – Conclusion 

What did we learn from this online fashion shopping trip?

Well, firstly, it reminds us of the importance of getting the basics right on the navigation and the product page. The easier it is to find the product, and to look at the product the better. 

But here’s the thing. Everyone knows the basics. And most sites do them well. There’s little difference on these basics between the three sites we visited.  

Improving your order to delivery system can give you an extra competitive edge when everything else is equal. The Iconic’s options for fast and convenient delivery times is the best of the three we looked at. 

Consider your return policies and systems too. This is especially important with online fashion shopping, because it takes away the main disadvantage for the online shopper. If they can’t try it on like they can in store, they need an easy option to return or exchange it, if it doesn’t fit. 

And finally, of course, price and promotions matter. You might get some loyalty from points offers, but really most shoppers are not that loyal to online stores. If anything, they’re more loyal to the brands they buy, and even then, that loyalty can be fickle. 

Check out our series of e-Commerce guides to find out more. Or contact us, if there’s a specific e-Commerce challenge we can help you fashion an answer to. 

Photo Credits

Converse Shoes : Photo by Camila Damásio on Unsplash

Warehouse : Photo by Ruchindra Gunasekara on Unsplash

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