2020 was a great year for online fashion shopping. It was already the second largest e-Commerce category behind variety stores (like eBay). And according to AusPost’s 2021 e-Commerce report, online fashion shopping was 26% of all online purchases last year. That’s a whopping 45% growth year on year.
There are many reasons fashion works well online.
There’s a wider range to choose from than physical stores for customers, with no space restrictions to limit what’s available. No cluttered aisles. No jumbled shelves. Online site navigation and filters make it easy to browse. Online fashion shoppers can find brands, and pick colours and styles with just a few clicks.
Shoppers can look for fashion online 24/7. No worrying about opening hours, unhelpful staff, or carrying heavy bags home. It’s also easy to compare prices. 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 lots to offer.
Online fashion shopping - opportunities
The world of online fashion shopping offers much to businesses too. For example, e-Commerce is good for stock availability efficiency.
When someone buys a product in-store, the staff have to re-stock it. 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.
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 social media. Channels like Instagram give easy access to fashion influencers who’ll talk about your products.
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 they look like wearing it. So, you need a clear returns and refunds 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. Otherwise, customers will complain on social media and review sites.
Plus, there’s lots of choice in online fashion shopping. Lots of competition. Product review lists over 1,100 clothing stores. And that’s just Australia. It doesn’t include overseas stores that ship to Australia or any 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 point of difference to stand out.
With those challenges in mind, let’s go do some online fashion shopping.
The Iconic - Pure Player
With most sites, first impressions count. That’s especially true for fashion sites, given what they sell. If the website style doesn’t grab you immediately, you wonder how the fashion style will work.
The Iconic home page
The Iconic home page has a clean and balanced layout. Good start.
They use 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 stay legible.
But saying that, the typography‘s easy to read and the layout’s well-balanced. Design-wise, it’s fine.
The Iconic navigation
The primary navigation on the top bar and the main images are 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 more ways to navigate the site. The first 5 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.
However, the remaining 6 choices need more thought. Sale is pretty obvious. Products on promotion, right? 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, 2 different links to look for a bargain? Hmmm, bit confusing.
“Brands” and “designer” are just different ways 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.
3 levels of navigation
Under each secondary search filter, we get a third level of navigation choice.
There are more specific category choices. e.g. activewear, coats and jackets, dresses and underclothing. 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” meant (“free from” type products). Ditto, with “curve” which is for those with fuller figures.
For the rest of the home page, we get the same primary navigation of Men – Women – Kids (notice the order differs from the navigation bar), a couple of promos, and another navigation option to shop by brand.
The Iconic search
But imagine we’re not browsing, and 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 use the search function. That gave us 174 items. Need to narrow that down. So, we used the search filter option to only see Men’s items.
And bingo, we find the product we’re 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.
The Iconic product page
The brand owner usually supplies the product details for the retailer’s product page information system. They 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 product images with different angles, plus a lifestyle image. There’s a clear product name. The price is clearly shown. Of the 3 sites we looked at, this was the most expensive.
Interestingly, you get a choice of payment options. For example, AfterPay (pay in 4 instalments), or an offer to save 25% when you spend over $50. This saving isn’t displayed automatically though. The customer has to do the maths to work out the $32.50 saving, and the actual price. Not so great. Surely, better to highlight the lower price before check-out?
Choosing 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 most customers don’t actually read it.
As product pages go, there’s not much to fault. It does the product page basics well.
However, we thought the hero image had 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.
Maybe it’s The Iconic’s image settings and dimensions? And this was the best way to fit in the image of the whole product? It looks odd, though. Especially, when the same thing happens with the other angled images.
In fact, only one of the shoe images (a close-up) seems to “fit” the portrait layout. Plus, there’s another lifestyle shot with the shoe sitting on a fence post, which kinda works.
The Iconic delivery
We also looked at the delivery options, which The Iconic is known for doing well.
You enter your postcode in the delivery box, and 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. That’s a good range of options from a shopper’s point of view. Some thought has gone into these as we have options for a :-
- fast delivery (tomorrow).
- convenient delivery (tomorrow evening or at the weekend)
- free delivery (a few days wait).
The Iconic additional content
Like most online fashion shopping sites, there are also suggestions of what might go with this product (cross-selling). However, the algorithm suggestion of Converse socks isn’t that inspiring. There are also comparable products. This is fine. Though again, not inspiring. 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 are some interesting and helpful links.
First, you can see they use this to promote their affiliate, partnership and influencer programs.
This is about customers and partners selling products on their behalf in return for a commission.
The Iconic returns
We also checked 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. 15 days to process and get a refund seems slow. But other than that, this still appears an efficient system for returns.
Overall, apart from a few confusing navigation terms, The Iconic is a customer-friendly experience for online fashion shopping. It’s easy to see why it’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 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. Clear and easy to read.
Along the top, we see the primary navigation bar. Again, clear and easy to read.
Obviously, Myer sells more than fashion.
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 which would put us off.
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. However, we’d be interested if their data shows shoppers choose this option. When you pick it, it takes you to a page where there are 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 which link to gift sets, fragrance, sleepwear, home and entertaining and gift cards.
The images are appealing. However, 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 4 more sections, which to be honest, we’d gotten a bit bored of scrolling down the page at this point.
If we were to pick one fault with this page, it’s that it’s too long. The interesting stuff is all at the top.
Myer search products
To compare online shopping at Myer to The Iconic, let’s try 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 we notice is it’s $10 cheaper than The Iconic. Remember, with online shopping, price is still a big factor. And that $10 saving’s got our interest.
There’s a filter option on the search results. Had we needed it, this would’ve made it faster to find the right product page.
Myer product page
We get 5 product images (2 shown in the picture) and a similar information panel to The Iconic on the product page.
The name and price are 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.
Interestingly, After Pay with 4 payments is also available on this purchase as it was with The Iconic. It’s clearly a popular way to pay.
Colour and size options are pretty standard here, as is the “Others have viewed” option. (all Converse shoes)
In addition, Myer has added customer reviews. This wasn’t on The Iconic site. Although, in this case, there’s only one review.
We noted when looking at high-ticket products in a recent article, that even though customer review functionality is common now on many shopping sites, not many people leave a review. (Hence the popularity of more independent sites like Product Review.)
Next, we move on to 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 are no fast or more convenient options like The Iconic. No delivery for tomorrow, for example. Or for delivery at the weekend.
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.
In the bottom navigation bar, Myer doesn’t offer options for affiliates, partners and influencers.
But they do detail their returns system. There are 2 options. Via Parcelpost, or via Australia Post.
Both seem 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 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 them. They’re both clearly laid out, and finding the products we wanted was easy.
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 you wanted the extra delivery options from The Iconic.
Those are the main differences we saw.
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 retailer out completely.
Converse home page and navigation
Having gotten over the 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 much simpler than The Iconic or Myer.
Obviously, they offer a narrower range. But simpler always helps.
The links to women – men – kids are clear. As are limited edition and sale
Stories as a link is interesting though.
This contains more news and blog-type content.
Something which wasn’t so apparent on The Iconic or Myer websites. (there was extra content on those sites, but it was hard to find).
The posts here seem current, with news about 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 its brand. Whereas, The Iconic and Myer are both retailers. Their focus is purely on selling.
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 much 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?)
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 sections on each site without the navigation bar branding, 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.
Delivery with Converse is done 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 are 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).
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. 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.
Conclusion - Online fashion shopping
What did we learn from this online fashion shopping trip?
Well first, it reminds us of the importance of getting the basics right on the navigation and the product page. The easier it is to find and 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 in these basics between the 3 sites we visited.
Improving your order to delivery system can give you a competitive advantage when everything else is equal. The Iconic’s options for fast and convenient delivery times are the best of the 3 we looked at.
Consider your return policies and systems too. This is very important with online fashion shopping as it takes away the main disadvantage for the online shopper. If they can’t try it on as 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 most shoppers aren’t that loyal to online stores. If anything, they’re more loyal to the brands they buy. And even then, that loyalty can be fickle.