Lifestyle

Terror of Online Shopping

December 14, 2015

We are in the eye of the storm. It is holiday season 2015 and hopefully the shopping frenzy and the gifting pressure hasn’t sucked you in. Hopefully you’re not staying up late at night, searching for the right gift for that special someone who is also really picky and difficult to shop for in general, all the while agonizing over the stakes of said person opening this gift in front of other people and what if you get the wrong size? what if it’s an insult? what if the color is different in person? oh, the horror! etc. etc.

So, what are you going to do to avoid having a breakdown? Get some advice from friends? Read reviews online? Cop out and get a gift card?

Assuming that you (like most people in these here Modern Times) shop online, what are your options for product reviews anyways? I mean, aside from Amazon? Here, I briefly lay it out for you (mostly because I, myself, was curious): the landscape of product reviews for clothing.    

The Obvious Ones: The Brand’s Website.

  • Awesome. Some brands have figured out that, yes, we want to know what regular people think about that dress that of course looks amazing on that 5’10” model. So they’ve included a customer review option. Some places, like Anthropologie, even encourage users to include information about their body type, which is super helpful. Too bad the customer review sections are not consistent across different brands and too bad only some articles of clothing are reviewed and too bad the reviews themselves are not consolidated, meaning you have to go to every brand’s site to potentially see reviews. (It’s too many open tabs. Too many tiny tabs…) And then some brands simply don’t have a consumer-facing outlet.

The Catch-Alls: Department Stores.

  • Yes, department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom have caught on too. And the same issues stated previously apply to the review options in these arenas. Some reviews are thorough and include age, size, whether it runs large or small, and a ratings summary. Fancy. But only some reviewers include this information which means that if someone writes “this dress was too long” it doesn’t communicate much if the person’s height is not also included. I find myself thinking 5 stars! Great! But for whom? I have no relevant information concerning the people who reviewed this article of clothing, so how does this 5 star rating relate to me?? This thought is often followed by desperately clicking on the image to enlarge and then further zooming in, with my nose getting closer and closer to the screen in the hopes that somehow this will help me decide if this garment will fit me. To further complicate this issue, brands tend to have different sizing charts, so it’s difficult for department stores to have one overhead sizing chart that rules them all.

The Pretty Ones: Pinterest & Instagram

  • If nothing else, Pinterest is filled with passionate pinners. Sometimes you can find good reviews on clothing, but by and large it is image-based and not information-based. It’s more in the inspiration phase of shopping as opposed to the “I really just need to find a pair of jeans that fits me!!!!” phase of shopping…
  • And then there’s Instagram. Where you willingly scroll through beautiful advertising. (Like, seriously, you know that’s what you’re doing when you “follow” Michael Kors, right?? You’re basically making their advertising strategy super, super simple, but OK). Instagram, like Pinterest, is visually appealing, but it doesn’t quite have the robust substance when it comes to product reviews for clothing. It’s not even ideal for shopping since it has no out-band link.  

The Trendy Ones: Apps

  • Okay. This could be its own article. In fact, I will probably devote some more time to delving into the world of mobile apps for clothing. But for now, know that this is another player in the landscape of product reviews for clothing. Now more than ever brands and brick-and-mortar retail stores are aiming to stay relevant by also having their own apps. Polyvore, Wanelo, and Poshmark are examples of apps that are aiming to incorporate reviews. Many are focused on the product they are selling, as opposed to the user’s experience or include a mix of stock images and images from users.

The times they are a-changin.’ But maybe not fast enough—at least not when it comes to how we shop for clothes. There are many predictions for how technology will change the future of retail, but they don’t usually include a model for how people will be able to discern what works for them and what simply…doesn’t.

What’s your go-to online shopping strategy?? We’d love to know!

Cover Image via ‘Playingwithbrushes’/Flickr

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