There is a vast difference between the in-store and online experience for apparel brands, and this is more obvious for luxury brands. Even the high-end stores such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s offer a great in-store experience and a “same as everyone else” experience online. Listening to an interview with Clique Chic’s CEO, Jessica Martino, I was struck by how so many of the commerce sites look exactly the same, from Target to Tiffany. After a few nice splash pages, it’s always a grid of products that shoppers wade and filter through to find what they need. The only difference between Target and Tiffany is design and the number of products offered.
Ms Martino said that Clique Chic’s goal is to “bring the traditional luxury shopping experience that has been perfected offline to an online environment, to make customers feel as welcome online as they do in a store.” She likened her site’s experience to that of a personal shopper at a high-end store where the customer is greeted by name, taken to dressing room where there are clothes that have been personally selected for the customer to try on and sip champagne while doing so. Clique Chic tries to replicate the personal experience online, sans the champagne. They do this by asking members a range of questions about brands, fits and designers they like and then to either browse a selection for them or work with personal stylists via email, chat or phone. Ms Martino’s goal is to take away the anonymity of online shipping and to build a relationship with the customer. Yet, as a startup in a space where reputation is everything, Clique Chic will need to work hard to persuade additional luxury brands to work with them.
The question is, what can the high-end stores, those that already have a relationship with the luxury brands, learn from Clique Chic’s product to improve their online shopping experience and bring it more in line with their in-store one?
Looking at the Clique Chic site a few things stand out right away: the clean look, a curated item mix and the ever-present and prominently placed “speak to a stylist” button. Having a “clean look” is a matter of opinion but I think almost all the high-end stores are getting this one right.
Regarding the curated mix, this is where the high-end stores need to do better and they could learn from Clique Chic’s approach. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I want to buy a bathing suit. First, I go to Target, where I’m offered 685 product choices in Swimwear. Note the layout: the full listing of swimsuits in the main area of the page with categories on the left and filtering options on the top. It’s do-it-yourself curating. Now, for bathing tops at under $18, I can do some work to find what I want and try to figure out what fits my body and I might order three or four suits/sizes if I’m not sure and return them to my local store.
On the other hand, let’s look at Nordstrom. Guess what? It’s exactly the same layout except that Nordstrom offers 1,804 items in the swimsuit category and places an annoying rotating image that causes me to scroll down to see the items and then up to see the categories, on the upper left, just like Target.
Here’s the problem: swimsuits at Nordstrom cost over $100, I’m not going to order three to four suits. I’m also not going to look at 1,804 items, I guarantee it. When I look at these suits, I have no idea what style will look best on me, what comes in my size and what color goes with my complexion. All I see is what looks great on a model. Sure, I can narrow some of the selection down with filtering but I’m a fashion dummy, I don’t even know if a one-piece, or a bikini or a tankini will look best on me. I don’t want to to the work and frankly, at Nordstrom’s, I shouldn’t. The flow that works for Target, where the shopper does the curating to cut down the number of choices and then works through them, needs to be changed at Nordstrom.
Though Nordstrom has a history of my purchases, and can make recommendations based on past purchases (yes, people who have looked at the boots I looked at also looked at other sets of boots) they are not using that to make my selection easier. They haven’t taken the time to learn about me, my body and my fashion preferences. They are not doing enough to make my selection easier and my purchase easier. They are not making my experience personal.
I apologize for using Nordstrom as an example and I’m pretty sure the other high-end stores could have been used as a test case. All seem to take the same approach: show lots of items, have the customer choose a category, filter some results and wade through the rest. They could all learn from Clique Chic and add a more personal touch to their online shopping experience.