Apparel is Missing the Mark in Ecommerce Filtering Innovation

Posted by Lisa Roberts at 11:12 am in Adaptive Commerce, Merchandising

When you think about the type of shopping you do the most, for most people, it’s clothing. Children overhaul their wardrobes at the beginning of each school year, seasonal changes spark the urge to update sweaters and swim suits, and fashionistas chase the latest style trends as soon as they’re available. Apparel is certainly the largest (~20%) and greatest revenue generating retail vertical today, especially in ecommerce. “Companies that generate the largest portion of their sales from online are apparel stores,” says Poonam Goyal, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Their online sales are often more than 15 percent of their total sales, so the potential there is enormous.”

For a vertical with such massive industry impact on retail revenue figures, apparel has surprisingly underwhelmed shoppers when it comes to progressive ecommerce filtering logic and innovations that meet consumer expectations. In a recent Facebook poll, we asked shoppers to describe a pair of apparel items in their own words, in the hopes we could compare an enterprise’s typical merchandising standards to how shoppers really think and feel about the clothing they are searching for. On products with an average of 5 filter options from their ecommerce hosts, shoppers surveyed provided a staggering 75 new attributes! That’s a 1400% increase in the number of terms used to describe a product, versus what retailers are actually using on their site. Retailers are missing out on enormous merchandising attribution opportunities, as well as the ability to better connect their shoppers with the best product for them.

Christian Holst, co-founder of Baymard Institute, recently benchmarked the 50 top-grossing US ecommerce websites across 93 product list guidelines, analyzing 1,750 performance scores specific to filtering availability, logic and interfaces. According to the report, a massive 42% of top ecommerce websites lack category-specific filtering types for several of their core product verticals, and an unimpressive 16% of websites provide a good filtering experience for shoppers, yet even those could still use refinement. For shoppers, that reads: a really difficult, frustrating and inconclusive product discovery experience on almost every ecommerce site you’re likely to visit.

pullquote apparel websites lowest performing

The report also reveals that despite having the lowest barrier to a satisfactory filtering experience, apparel websites notably have the worst performance of all industries for filtering, due to an “unfortunate combination of inadequate filtering options and poor interfaces.” Apparel’s below-acceptable-performance score can also be attributed to the vertical’s across-the-board prioritization of aesthetics over a user-friendly, effective interface.

filter performance bar chart

Filtering performance of major ecommerce industries – via Baymard Institute

At Edgecase, we’re attacking this problem for retailers in all categories, including apparel, at its core. We’re curating and structuring all the missing merchandising attributes that align with how shoppers actually think, and then we offer best-of-breed filters and other discovery tools that plug into this new data and enhanced shopping vocabulary.

Especially for the apparel market, it is critical for retailers to offer an online shopping experience that is personalized, inspirational and convenient for fashionistas (and the not so fashion-savvy) shoppers around the world. This research pinpoints a major opportunity for apparel retailers to improve their experience and grow their business.

Check out our analysis on the gaps in standard versus optimal filters for all retail categories.

lisa roberts

Lisa Roberts is a 15-year Ecommerce vet who’s worked with technology innovators, including Edgecase, who are building real solutions for hard retailer problems. Her experience working inside a retailer, agency-side and vendor-side give her a unique perspective on how to innovate at the pace of consumer evolution while remaining focused on delivering proven results.

Follow Lisa Roberts on Twitter @lisadoesaustin

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