2013.20 | design my outfit

When I want to buy clothes, I like to buy an entire outfit.  I’m not one for matching things.  I’d like to buy a shirt, pants, maybe a jacket – maybe even shoes and a belt.  I know for a fact that there are people at retailers much better than I at putting together an entire look, and not sell me a shirt.  When I used to visit menswear stores for suits, store staff  used to do that for me.  Most of my clothing shopping now is online and I’m noticing an unfulfilled need.

There are lots of ways to shop for clothing online.

  • Pinterest is helpful for checking out new things under Men’s Fashion and adding anything that catches your eye to your account.
  • My usual retailers constantly (really – constantly) send me email messages with different looks.  Many of them are for women and children (really – in the days of omnichannel ?!?)
  • Many retailers provide you with lookbooks, or blogs that can provide some direction for the fashion minded.

While all of this is entertaining, there is a serious shortcoming in the world of specialty retail.  Other than high end retailers, I’ve not seen any retailer do a terrific job of assisting customers to assemble an outfit or a wardrobe.  Everyone is still selling articles of clothing.  They are not selling a look – though they are showing them to us. Consequently they are missing sales and overlooking an opportunity to provide a valuable add-on service to their clients.

When you visit the ecommerce sites of  a Banana Republic as an example, they both have collections, looks and full outfits they show, but they make you work at trying to put together the ensemble.   BR recently sent me an email with their summer collection.  It shows a number of outfits for summer 2013.  Sounds good.  Say you like one of the outfits.  You click on it.  You get a list of shirts.  What?  Why can’t you just click on the outfit, and you show me all of the pieces so I can just buy the outfit?

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JCrew seem to be going in the right direction.   In their lookbook, when you click on a look, you get a list of the items in the picture.

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This is better.  Many of the pieces are populated on the resulting page – but not all of them.  The optimal scenario would be to see all of the elements together on one page, where we can swap out the blue shirt for a white shirt, change the belt, and see the look.  Even better than that, have various options pre-set to show the shopper.

Another pet peeve on the web sites.  These guys know my sizes.  I login when I’m on their ecommerce sites.  Why am I picking from lists all the time?  Why not default to my sizes I usually buy and let me adjust from there?

Stores that I visit seem to be worse.  When I visit a store, they’ll have a mannequin that is sporting a shirt and pants that seem a good option.  The shirts are right next to the mannequin, but the pants are AWOL.  Mixed in with fifty others types of pants that aren’t quite the same ones.   Why not label what the items are and put them near the mannequin?  If that’s not possible, find a simple way to tag the ones that are on the mannequin to make it easier for me to find them?  Some stores have staff that are good at this and some don’t.  Why not remove the guesswork for those people and set an operational program to do it for them via numbering, coloured tags or some logical scheme?

I’ve also always wondered why clothing retailers don’t partner with other retailers to let me buy all at once?  As an example, why not have Aldo put some shoes in here that suit the look. Then after I close my order direct me to the Aldo site?  Perhaps Aldo can give BR or JCrew a little kickback for the sale and everyone wins.

I don’t mean to pick on these particular retailers.  I mention them because I frequent their sites and buy their products and I like them.  I’m aware that the ideas I’m suggesting require some sophisticated coding, and significant thought and effort.  Partnerships with other companies are difficult – fitting fashion lines together would be fantastically challenging.  That said, showing me a whole outfit and letting me buy it with one click is going to get more dollars from me and probably some others as well.  If someone can solve it, there is real opportunity.

If the retailers don’t fulfill it, perhaps third parties can make it happen.  Pinterest may figure out a way to have users build outfits and set links to clients to get a sales commissions.  Perhaps services like Trunk Club can go downscale and fill the need.

Has anyone seen this done better?  An online valet service?  A retailer’s ecommerce site that does it well? Let me know what you’ve seen!  I think this can be improved upon for the benefit of all.

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