Analyst at CxFocus
06 December 2005 19:09pm
Something in the Steve Jackson interview caught my eye:
"The underperformers seem to me to be sport/outdoor retailers or fashion and apparel. They really should be hitting much higher levels than the average level 1.4-2.2%"
Does that match anyone else's experience?
I come from that sector (the urban clothing end of it) and can confirm that our conversion rates do, indeed, hover around the 2% mark. It's a relief to know we were not alone/ not doing anything completely silly! But naturally I'm intrigued by why the figure is so low, even if it's normal.
My feeling is that although clothing ranks fairly high in the volume of business done on line (currently about 6th I believe), it does so despite the difficulties of shopping for clothes on the web.
In more successful categories it's easier to encapsulate the key qualities of the product in words and simple pictures: people buy books on covers and coverlines in the real world too; with music and DVD you can even try samples. With clothing, words and pictures don't quite do it. In our case the call centre and emails queries were often fishing for some kind of human reassurance about 'what *kind* of blue is that' or 'how soft is the fabric'. Shoes work better because people have a better concept of what the shoe is likely to be like on the basis of the pictures, so they feel happier buying them on line -- despite the fact that size/fit problems are actually much more serious here in reality.
One solution for us was to tighten up our PPC activity so that we concentrate on people buying by brand, who are more likely to have a specific garment in mind. We know that (expensive) traffic from more generic words like 't-shirt' converts very badly for us, even though it's our second biggest selling category. We were also working in a sector where many potential customers would actually know the name of the garment, in which case PPC can get very cheap, affiliates have a field day, and conversion rates go right up!
The site in question is no longer around, since the parent company went down the pan (this was not a good year to be moving IN to prime location fashion retail) which means that I'm free of any ties of confidentiality. I realise that others need to be careful about what they say. But I would be interested in anyone's thoughts on why clothing and outdoor stuff does so badly.
CEO at Quru Oy
07 December 2005 13:09pm
Some fashion and retail sites do exceptional business online so the problem is not that people won't buy. For example here's a good LLBean page;
Woolen Trousers from LLBean for $89
In our case the call centre and emails queries were often fishing for some kind of human reassurance about 'what *kind* of blue is that' or 'how soft is the fabric'.
You've hit the nail on the head identifying potential stumbling blocks. What kind of blue is that? see the trouser colours in the above examples? There are five colors and very good photos of the trousers. There is comprehensive sizing information in inches or centimetres. Dunno how soft it is? Well there is a 100% guarantee - return any product for any reason and they replace it or give you your money back. And they have copy which is well written to describe softness;
"Winter dress trousers with the warmth and softness only flannel can offer. Premium 95% wool/5% cashmere blend provides a smooth finish and next-to-skin comfort."
The result for LLBean is a 13.5% conversion rate (according to Nielsen//NetRatings - Feb 2005).
These guys are also a catalogue which helps them considerably because of their direct marketing they do. But still it's over double the catalogue average of 6.1% and they sell clothes.
I think the majority of fashion sites don't pay enough attention to their content and don't answer enough of the reasonable objections people have to buying clothes from an online source.
One solution for us was to tighten up our PPC activity so that we concentrate on people buying by brand, who are more likely to have a specific garment in mind.
Good idea, I'm sure this helped.
We know that (expensive) traffic from more generic words like 't-shirt' converts very badly
I'm sure. Keyword searches when trended form a pyramid with general words at the bottom and specific phrases at the top. The specific phrases (which have far less searches and thus are much cheaper to buy usually) convert much more than the general ones. T-shirt is a general phrase that could be searched for dozens of reasons. Not everyone searching for T-shirt necassarily wants to buy one. Nike Grey Swoosh T-Shirt will however is very specific and a good PPC ad pointing to a landing page that displays that product will sell more than simply T-Shirt would.
To give you an idea 5 of the top retailers listed on this page are from the fashion/apparel industry and all of them hit above 11%. This is why I said I thought the averages were low in this vertical. So it's not that the industry can't sell I just think that the quality of content required to do so needs to be high and trust needs to be established especially for unknown brands.
15 December 2005 15:21pm
Steve, that's very interesting and extremely helpful, thank you. Even though I'm no longer directly involved with a clothing site, the general point applies to most sites. A lot (more that many of us would like, because it's so hard) comes down to the content. As far as copywriting and product photography goes, the *good* cataloguers have a lot to teach everyone.
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