Ecommerce & Fashion – 4 Key Design Elements

The internet is filled with hopeful entrepreneurs intent to make their mark in the crowded fashion space. Ecommerce sites specializing in t-shirts, accessories, jewelry, kid’s clothes, shoes, beauty, etc. are sprouting up all over the world. Mass customization, flash sales and social shopping have proliferated, in addition to traditional online retailers. The internet has become a massive shopping bazaar and it is increasingly hard to get noticed. Fashion is highly discretionary and it takes a lot more finesse than selling toothpaste.

Undoubtedly, the outsized growth in ecommerce is due to the significant advantages of online shopping. Ecommerce is always open, has no lines, offers endless choices and makes bargain hunting and choosing easier. One can search for simple things like “white shirt” and immediately net out an entire site’s selection.

On the downside, websites are two-dimensional. They lack the tactile sense of touch, smell and usually sound. There is also a lack of trust, because of the inability to feel and try on the merchandise. Fashion is an emotionally driven purchase and it is challenging to create a fully stimulating brand experience with limited sensory elements.

A great fashion site has a strong brand identity relevant to the targeted audience.

A great fashion site has a strong brand identity relevant to the targeted audience.

Here are the 4 key design elements to create a strong fashion brand online :

Create a rich visual personality. The fashion business is about looks. The company needs to understand and visually appeal to the intended audience. Customers for apparel and accessories span a wide spectrum, from fashion obsessives to commodity shoppers. The elements of fonts, color, images and layout combine to tell a unique visual story about the retail or wholesale brand. This is the visual merchandising of ecommerce. It has to “say” something relevant to the viewer, like urban and sexy, playful and preppy or hip and edgy.

Nordstrom for instance, plays to a fashion-obsessed crowd. The modern look of their image driven site successfully speaks to their upscale audience. Zappos with its royal blue NAV bars and basic fonts, appeals to average consumers looking for depth of assortment and a no-nonsense approach. Color is a key emotional trigger for any brand. Net-a-Porter the designer fashion site for cosmopolitan fashion lovers, is appropriately modern and black. All American Kate Spade  and Lilly Pulitzer  brands are about high color and their sites are colorful and whimsical. The signature blue and delicately formal fonts of Tiffany’s  site reek of refinement and “pin-drop-quiet” luxury. Sites have to be visually rich and compelling to their intended constituents.

Speak with a unique voice. The content is the written voice of the brand and the copy writer is a story-teller, a painter of a picture. How do you sell fragrance when a consumer can’t smell it? The role is to evoke impulses, emotions and ideas with copy and images. They create a fantasy, possibilities and attributes that may not really exist. Content plays to our basic human desires to drive sales. Storytelling comes from active and colorful language and compelling images.

The copy is a combination of storytelling and informative language to make the sale. Informing is filling in the features of the product and terms to seal the deal. When the customer is convinced of your fashion authority, then they evaluate secondary considerations like price, guarantees, shipping policies, etc. Website traffic is driven by keywords, but engaging copy does the job of creating a brand personality. The copy needs to be crafted with both. Shopbop and Anthropologie do a great job telling the product stories with emotionally charged copy.

Entertain consumers and improve your traffic. Adding a blog, “must-have” suggestions, “look-books” or trend information to your site adds valuable searchable content and provides an element of entertainment and fashion authority to the site (see Tory Burch ). Some companies have added styling questionnaires, interactive games, etc. to engage consumers. A perfect example is Tacori’s  “Mating Game”. This game adds a hipness to their brand and whimsy to the ordinarily formal fine jewelry buying experience.

Provide a simple and fast experience. Ecommerce customers are busy people bombarded with choices. Websites are visited with a reason in mind and the consumer starts the dialogue. They have little patience for overly tricky Flash sites and complex navigation. The best ecommerce sites help viewers accomplish what they want simply and quickly. Fashion is about change, but keeping some expected conventions to the navigation and minimizing slow features will lower your bounce rate and convert more customers. J Crew  makes the buying process simple, quick and predictable.

These 4 key design elements will go a long way to create a great brand experience and successful fashion site.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Creative and strategic consulting for retail and wholesale apparel, shoe and consumer product companies.


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