The challenges of the supply chain have cramped the styles of both apparel brands and their customers. Apparel brands heavily rely on loyalty and, unfortunately, that loyalty can be stretched only so far when shoppers are wrapping their expectations around weeks-long “out-of-stock” messages.
Customer preferences are already challenging to pin down, and the impact of unpredictable change over the past couple years is evident. Lucidworks surveyed shoppers in the U.S. and U.K. who shop online for apparel to understand the state of online apparel shopping two years into the pandemic.
The survey report focuses on three main solutions to help shoppers find their perfect fit on the digital racks and how brands can keep them coming back:
- Make relevant apparel recommendations when stock is low or out.
- Stay connected with shoppers through alerts and notifications about restocks of their favorite apparel items.
- Use semantic search technology to keep customers from hitting zero-result, dead-end searches.
Apparel Shoppers Welcome Substitutions (Sometimes)
Apparel shoppers have their preferences and, in many cases, are not flexible around them. In fact, nearly seven in ten shoppers will outright go to another site if the item they are looking for is out of stock. Still–a sizable 31% of shoppers will entertain substitutions. While most apparel sites seem to recommend alternatives when an item is out of stock, our survey found that 15% of shoppers still receive no recommendations when their item is sold out.
That said, style is style, and there are certain items that some shoppers will simply not budge on. In our survey, shoppers most frequently highlighted items such as jeans, undergarments, and footwear as being non-negotiable for a variety of reasons including fit and comfort.
Keep Shoppers in the Know With Notifications
It would be a mistake to assume that just because an item is out of stock that you have completely lost the chance to retain the customer. In fact, 91% of shoppers who took our survey said they want to know when their item is back in stock. With 57% of shoppers saying they see “out of stock” messages frequently or at every online visit, stock notifications are an excellent way to stay connected and develop brand loyalty even when stock is scarce (and can even be a way to push additional recommendations).
An overwhelming majority of survey respondents said they would prefer to be notified via email of a restock, and 38% mentioned they would be open to receiving text updates on the stock of their favorite apparel items.
Work With the Apparel You’ve Got
Matching apparel and customer taste can be tricky. Nearly 60% of shoppers say that the biggest reason they don’t buy substitutes is because it doesn’t match their taste. Shoppers expect the search bar and filtering to understand what it is they’re actually after. Embracing smart search solutions empowers brands to deliver recommendations tailored directly to customer needs and interests, even if a specific item is out of stock.
Additionally, semantic search solutions can aid in ensuring customers never hit a true dead-end when browsing the digital clothing racks. Though customers are not always flexible on style substitutes, eliminating zero-result searches and delivering highly relevant alternatives greatly increases the chances of them remaining on your site and finding something else they’ll love.
A New Look for Apparel Commerce
Apparel retailers have their work cut out for them between supply chain pains and customers with discerning fashion tastes and loyalties. If brands want to keep customers and keep up in the rapidly evolving digital commerce landscape, they will need to focus on the quality of their digital experience.
Our recent online apparel shopper survey digs even deeper into how online shoppers feel about buying apparel on the internet, what they want to see more of, and how to not lose their attention to competitors. Download the survey today to get more insights on how to shape your brand’s digital experience to their tastes.
Contact us today to learn how Lucidworks can help your team create powerful search and discovery applications for your customers and employees.