As they say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder what they also say is that beauty lies in the detail. Well we from experience can say that the latter works every single instance. It cannot be more correct for lifestyle and fashion brands than any other.
Brand centric approach is essential for any lifestyle, fashion, beauty or jewelry brand today. In our information age where transparency rules there cannot be more than one brand that offers cheap prices. Online brands specifically startup lifestyle and fashion brands have to start offering a lot more.
Effective communication is core of the essence when it comes to getting attention of customers. All the elements work together to create an amazing brand experience. The words, colour, imagery, icons and tone of voice. All elements contribute to a lasting and cherished brand experience.
7-38-55 rule of Albert Mehrabian, currently professor of psychology in UCLA.
Where 7% of words 38% of tone of voice 55% body language influences people.
A successful lifestyle, fashion, beauty or jewelry brand successfully translates them into their brand experience. It’s the most important lesson any startup lifestyle brand should learn. We researched and tested leading sites through our set of requirements to enhance our knowledge about customer behavior and expectations.
Why we decided to do a qualitative research?
We are working with a startup fashion brand and realized that there was not much qualitative research in this specific are of ecommerce related to fashion, beauty and lifestyle. So we chose to fill the gap.
We researched and tested lifestyle brand sites to have an understanding of most cherished and apt brand experiences.
What was missing in the existing research?
There was no focus on brand as a whole, they were more oriented towards pure marketing or conversion side of things.
What we were looking for?
We were looking for a rational, workable, scalable solution that kept all the departments happy (it sure is not that easy). Main area of focus was to measure brand experience on mobile ecommerce.
How we conducted the research?
We focused on qualitative research as it goes into more depth into an issue. We had carefully chosen 10 individuals matching client’s desired demographics (18-26). Everyone had previously spent more than 100 hours shopping online, so they were already initiated towards ecommerce. We recorded their interaction with the brand on mobile, as our focus was to build a mobile first solution.
We took the three most popular ecommerce store that they had shopped at (nastygal.com, everlane.com, onekingslane.com and net-a-porter). Then we took their information architecture, flow and layout and replicated them into a fictional startup brand.
Each brand had similar product range but they differentiated in their brand experience.
Each brand had different prices for similar products based on their brand positioning.
We asked out research test volunteers to go through them. All the test volunteers were given 500USD amount each to make the purchase on any of the three shops that they felt comfortable with.
What we learnt?
We are sharing the results of our internal qualitative research. There are 40 actionable points that lifestyle and fashion brands can incorporate right now to increase their brand experience and lead conversions.
Disclaimer:please note that this qualitative research was done for a startup ecommerce lifestyle brand focused on fashion and the guidelines are only for fashion, beauty and jewelry brand.
1. Primary focus must be on Mobile:
It’s no secret that mobile commerce is 29% of all ecommerce transactions in US alone (source: Criteo’s Q1 2015 State of Mobile Commerce Report) amounts to 34% Global average. It’s written on the wall that Mobile is the future. Having an app, mobile site or a responsive site is the future of lifestyle and fashion ecommerce.
Tip: We studied all the paths that a startup lifestyle and fashion brand might take and we came to a conclusion that it is best in their interest to invest in a responsive ecommerce site. Primarily it’s way easier to maintain and is the least expensive option from the lot. Native apps are expensive to create and maintain. Mobile specific site takes more effort in maintaining, as there are now two versions of the sites which require maintenance and updating.
2. Build upwards from mobile:
Mobile is the screen to focus all your energy on, what works is that if you have a design primarily for mobile and that further adapts into a desktop version. It increases the brand experience by two folds.
Tip: We believe in a brand centric approach that’s consistent throughout the touch points. Its essential to start thinking from the brand experience’s view point. Starting from your primary touch point and extending it is the way forward.
3. Have only the top navigation:
Lifestyle and fashion brands are visual brands and having a single bar top navigation (sticky header) provides apt real estate for them. Nastygal and everlane were received very positively in our study.
Tip: We took a step further in enhancing the visual appeal. We recommend a transparent navigation for your lifestyle and fashion brand as it further creates more space for products and enhances the brand experience.
4. Have a single style for notifications:
Distinctively style the notifications, choose a colour, crisp copy not more than 20 words with clear close button and have it throughout your notifications.
Tip: Have a simple, not disrupting notification animation and have that consistent in your evil popup’s and newsletter signup popups.
5. Define an area for the notifications:
Having a dedicated area for notifications builds on customer’s mind. Customers are not surprised by information. It increases your lifestyle and fashion brands experience.
Tip: Have notifications above the navigation bar with a linear animation consistent to your popups. Have a prominent close button.
6. Don’t use carousels:
Carousels are marketer’s best advice but in lifestyle and fashion brands this is not the ideal way to go. In our industry differentiation and brand experience are priority and carousels hinder that. Best is to find an alternative that follows a middle way.
Tip: We have experienced that if lifestyle and fashion follow a strategy they can further enhance their online brand experience without following the traditional carousel way. Define a layout where you talk about your primary offer, followed by your second and lastly your third and keep updating it in this manner resolves the monotony of carousels.
7. Define a layout:
Layout is the backbone of lifestyle and fashion brands in the digital domain. Brands core message is through its imagery, if the layout does not cater to that then it all downhill. What works is having70-80% area defined for visuals, rest for your typography, crisp copy and call to action.
Tip: Have the defined layout consistent across pages. Follow the ratio even on about pages and product pages that everything belongs together and looks like a whole unit. This is increases brand experience many folds for your lifestyle and fashion brand.
8. Stick to a visual language for your images:
You need to find your terry Richardson(famous for all the wrong things but has a distinct style), who has a distinct visual style and have that consistent across your brand communications.
Tip: You don’t need huge budget for it, as your art director or designer to assist you in making a visual language and it’s your job to be critically consistent about it. This is the only way your lifestyle and fashion brand will only stand out.
9. Define a common language for Call to actions:
Call to actions need not look boring, they can have soul as well, we found that online shoppers not necessarily need a button looking a button. Your call to actions need to be an extension of your lifestyle and fashion brand.
Tip: You must be distinct with your call to actions. They need not be more than two kinds. You must define them and have them consistent throughout the site.
10. Home page sections structure:
Your latest offering, followed by your last offering then your categories, look book and lastly your blog posts and your social media updates.
Tip: End the page with a back to top link (please don’t have it consistent throughout the site).
11. Footer must haves:
Email subscription, my account, customer care, about us, style guide, order status, social media links faq’s, contac us,
What we recommend is shifting all the links from footer to your menu area. And just have the newsletter sign up, contact us/faqs and social media links.
12. Have a two product grid:
Specific to mobile commerce, the screen space is limited an we want to show more options but keep them readable as well, a two product grid works well here.
13. Create a visual hierarchy:
For your lifestyle and fashion brand you need to differentiate to be taken seriously, having a visual hierarchy of elements increases brand experience and positions it well.
Tip: Have the product image, then the title and then the price. Please don’t over emphasize the price. Hierarchy should be product image then product name and then the price.
14. Don’t show any call to actions on product sections:
Never show call to action buttons like shop now, boy now on category page. This page has a different intent. All of our participants showed any issues without a call to action on category button.
15. Must have an unique imagery for each product:
This is the important thing for your startup lifestyle and fashion brand. This is the subtle enhancement you can have for your brand, it breaks the monotony.
Tip: you can enhance the experience by adding a pattern behind the type of images shared. For example a lookbook image with profile image and a full image with the side image.
16. Have an infinite scroll:
Infinite scroll on category page has emerged as on of the top recommendations from out research, simply because of the potential it has to engross the customer into your brand.
17. Menu must hide on scroll:
This is the secret little experiment we did and it came out with flying colours, what it does is creates more real estate for products and complements the brand experience.
18. Consistent visual style in product pictures:
Crisp consistent product images are essence of an amazing brand experience. Invest time and resources in consistent backgrounds, lighting, framing and intent of the product images.
19. End the category page with look-book:
Always end your page on a higher note, with your best images showcased to lure the customer in again. We split tested this and highly recommend this feature.
20. Have 70-80% of area for the product image:
As discussed earlier, the 70-80% area works perfectly for the mcommerce experience, as lifestyle and fashion brands are visually driven than others, it is highly recommended.
21. Have only these elements above the fold:
Your product image, colour options (if any) and add to cart. Price must be below the fold. This approach works more on the brand positioning.
22. Have more than 4 product images:
You have to keep the customer engrossed and we found in our study that if we increase the product images by 50%, customers spend more time on the products. This is very important for your brand experience and positioning.
Tip: You must add a video of the shoot as well. It increases the seduction power of your brand.
23. Selecting different colour should change the entire image:
Further enhancing the experience of your lifestyle and fashion brand is to add different set of images on selecting different colours for the same product.
Tip: Take it to another level by introducing another model for the colour options, it helps positioning your startup brand amongst the established players.
24. Have a consistent close button on zoom in image:
This increases the user experience of your brand, in our study customers were lost in the zoom in images failing to exit.
Tip: The best place to put the button is bottom center of the area, have it consistently sit there as customers explores the image.
25. Crisp product description (Under 50 words):
Well structured and crisp product descriptions worked well in our study, lifestyle and fashion brands need to be within 50 words, ideally if you can manage between 30-40 words it will make your page more crisp.
26. Must have Size guide, returns and shoot details in collapsible menu:
These are essentials for product page from a CRO stand point but we must have then in collapsible menu’s so that the page looks visually more appealing.
27. Clearly state in-stock and out of stock certain sizes and their shipping timeframe:
To decrease you cart abandonment rate, you must give these valuable information on the product page itself. These work aesthetically best in drop down selection frames.
28. Have your customer care email address next to product description:
We found that for a startup lifestyle and fashion brand where customers don’t know you, if you provide your primary customer care contact on your product page, it increases customer confidence and initiates a dialogue reducing customers abandonments.
29. Followed by your Social media sharing links or your USP’s:
Primary thing in the list of things to add after your description and call to action button is your authentic USP’s and then your social media sharing links.
30. Followed by curated customer images:
Don’t put auto generated customer content here, that’s the worst thing you can do for your brands position and brand experience.
Tip: Think of it like a magazine, curate customer images but do not automate instagram, bad images are worst than your worst review.
31. Followed by the look-book :
Secondary is your seducing bait your well crafted lookbook to further engross the customer.
32. Followed by what’s new:
You need to introduce your latest offerings on your product pages as you last strong point.
33. Show the product name, size, colour, quantity, total amount, shipping details:
Cart page is an important check point for customer to verify their order, we found out that if you keep it categories the same as the competition, customers feel comfortable & confident.
34. Most importantly have a continue shopping button:
This is the most important button that came out of research for cart pages. Absence of this button made spiked the cart abandonment results.
35. Have sign up with google, FB:
It’s fairly straight forward here, you need to make sure customers data entry job is minimal.
36. Have a guest checkout as primary option:
Having gest checkout as primary option secured the best results. All our volunteers were new and the felt most comfortable with this option.
37. Must have return to Cart Page:
This feature is not present in most of stores but having this feature reduced the abandoned cart results. Our study showed that customers on seeing the total amount wanted to change their order at the last stage. Hence having no option to go back from this page meant abandoning the cart.
38. Have at least paypal checkout option with your checkout:
Your startup lifestyle and fashion brand must have at least paypal checkout with traditional checkout methods. paypal still is most preferred one by customers, specifically for startups.
39. Have a 3 step process and show the steps:
Three step process means, register or login, providing the shipping address and confirming the order. You must show the steps as it eases the customer’s anxiety.
Having this initial structure is essential, a successful startup lifestyle and fashion brand built on this foundation more slick, optimized for the desired customer, atunned with competition. Implement them for better brand experience of your lifestyle and fashion brand.
Thank you for reading!