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What Retailers Need to Understand About the Online Clothing Shopper


Now, more than two years into the pandemic, the apparel retail category is steadily recovering from 2020 declines. With consumers returning to workplaces, schools and in-person socials , the need for new apparel has been met by changes in the retail landscape and, inevitably, the role of digital purchases versus in-store purchases.

A new report from Sense360 by Medallia has revealed the emerging differences between online and in-store shoppers. Understanding these distinctions can help retailers appeal to today’s consumers.

Main findings

The apparel recovery was mainly fueled by a sustained shift to digital shopping, with in-store sales still trending below pre-pandemic levels. Although some pandemic-induced habits have remained, including consolidated shopping journeys to accomplish more with each visit, in-store transaction volumes are still down from 2019 levels. However, the data reveals that consumers are buying more with each purchase, which could be the result of pandemic-induced habits.

Online shoppers have some demographic differences from in-store shoppers and are also more concerned about COVID-19. Online visits are particularly short, with the majority lasting just under 20 minutes and almost one in five lasting less than 10 minutes.

Source: Sense360 by Medallia post-visit survey of January apparel shoppers (n=1,501)

With shorter online sessions, retailers have a smaller window of opportunity to convert browsers into buyers. They can use the following tactics to act more strategically:

  • Offers: Online shoppers are particularly motivated by offers when it comes to choosing a retailer (37% for online purchases versus 22% for in-store purchases). Retailers need to promote offers before and during the online shopper’s visit to maximize conversion.
  • Personalization: Retailers have an interest in personalizing the products displayed to be relevant to the shopper, as many shoppers prioritize stores and products that match their style or wardrobe. This is more important to consumers than alternative services for personalization or product tailoring.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Online retailers can benefit from understanding shopper behavior before and after their visit. SEO may be a higher marketing priority than digital ads on websites or social media platforms, given that 52% of cited buyers arrive via a search engine compared to 4% via social media and banner ads.
  • Smoother returns: The expected product return rate is surprisingly lower for online shoppers than in-store (21% vs. 14%), likely reflecting the fact that online shoppers want to be “sure” before making a purchase due to often inconvenient returns processes. to post. Subsequently, the rate of non-buyers is higher for first online buyers. Many conversion opportunities are likely left on the table by retailers unable to reduce pain points on returns.

Source: Sense360 by Medallia post-visit survey of January apparel shoppers (n=1,501)

What can apparel retailers do to better understand their own online shoppers?

Service touchpoints and feedback opportunities are more limited for online shopping occasions than in-store. However, in the few employee interactions that occur in the online journey, online shoppers are less satisfied with those experiences.

In short, retail shopper journeys have evolved both online and offline, and will continue to do so as new technologies, e-commerce and payment solutions emerge. Keeping the digital customer experience pulse requires tools beyond just verbal customer feedback. Analyzing digital user sessions, heatmaps, and bottlenecks in the checkout process is now achievable at scale, with objective scoring metrics through machine learning. These capabilities, along with external research to gauge market share, frequency, and retention, are critical to winning the online shopping battle.

Andrew Custage is Head of Analytics at Sense360 by Medallia, a behavioral intelligence and consumer benchmarking platform.