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How Clarks and Hanna Andersson Conquer E-Commerce UX and Virtual Fitting

Building a meaningful experience has never been easy for apparel brands, but as the Covid-19 pandemic has lessened the role of stores, online shopping needs to pull more weight. Whether it’s through ease of use, excellent site search capabilities, AI-driven personalization or a clean and concise UX, these are all parts of e-commerce experience that are required if brands have any shot of getting a one-time shopper to become a recurring customer.

Kristin Smith, senior vice president of digital at Hanna Andersson, a premium children’s apparel brand that sells matching pajamas for the family, pointed to the company’s recently launched “Matching Family Builder” as a top innovation that is powered by a strong UX and ultimately creates a personalized experience.

In a recent CommerceNext webinar, Smith described the experience as a consolidated product detail page that enables shoppers to build a pajama set for their whole family, one individual member at a time where “customers can choose mom, dad, the kids, the dog, the cat, whoever they want to shop for, all in one experience,” Smith said.

“In Q4, that is a significant driver of our business,” Smith said. “When you think about buying family matching PJs for the entire family, you’ve got five, six or more pieces sometimes that you’re adding all in the cart, obviously that’s a big transaction for us, so we want to make sure we get that right.”

“Meaningful” can mean many different things, especially if an e-commerce experience eases the decision-making process for a high-consideration purchase. Chris Hardisty, senior vice president of digital, Clarks, noted that the most innovative experience the U.K.-based footwear retailer created for its shoppers came in the company’s back-to-school season. As the “go-to for school uniforms in the U.K.,” Clarks created virtual fittings where parents could set up virtual appointments online using Zoom to work with a customer care representative to find the right fit for their kids.

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While the fittings were part of a pilot program, Hardisty says Clarks is aiming to expand the technology elsewhere in the future.

And although Frederic Fekkai Brands carries less than 20 SKUs of its haircare products online, chief technology officer Alex Richardson doesn’t believe that the limited array should prevent his company from being as personal with the shopper as possible, especially since new consumers often don’t know which product to buy.

After Richardson took a computer vision and AI class at MIT, he and his team created a chat-based quiz that enables the shopper to take a selfie that analyzes their hair. The software grabs 125 elements from an individual’s hair from the photo so the chatbot can respond with questions about the hair’s condition and the shopper’s hair goals, and even illustrations showing how their location’s temperature, air quality and UV risk affects their hair.

Upon completing the quiz, the consumers receives a recommendation about a “custom bundle.” Richardson said consumers who go through the quiz process convert at a rate of three times higher than customers that browse elsewhere on the site.

Throughout the pandemic, more brands across the board flexed their editorial muscles, whether it was the launch of more blogs, videos, how-to guides and other user-generated content to build communities, according to Gaetan Gachet, chief strategy officer of AI-powered site search company Algolia.

Gachet noted that he is working with more retailers to actively include the editorial portion of the shopping experience within a site search bar or box so that browsers can access content and advice.

“More and more, you’re seeing that the websites are targeting the entire funnel, not just the conversion,” Gachet said. “This relationship that you had in the store that you don’t have anymore when it comes to guidance, now you have to have it online.”

Targeting the entire funnel cannot be overlooked in today’s environment, especially as brands still sell through wholesale channels. In the case of Clarks and all other wholesalers, the online experience extends far beyond its own brand.

“We have a very large wholesale business that we support on our site, so for us, conversion rate is very important and it’s how we judge our performance,” Hardisty said. “But we’re also mindful that our experience be very informative, quick and insightful for those that are buying it at Macy’s or anywhere else we may sell Clarks.”

When it comes to delivering effective search and navigation experiences, retailers feel like they have plenty of room for improvement. In an in-webinar poll of attendees, 53 percent said these experiences were “about average,” while 28 percent called it a weakness for their brand.

But the truth is, many times, especially for fashion companies, the shoppers search process begins during the discovery and inspiration stages. This means retailers must be in tune with the kind of search experiences their shoppers want, even if that means a more minimalistic experience.

“For a beauty brand, the search starts way before they get to the site, certainly on Instagram and Facebook,” Richardson said. “We spend a lot of time on data and the funnel analysis. If we spent all this money driving to the site, why did they abandon it and not convert? It all comes down to either, A: They are trying to solve a problem, or B: How can I be inspired? It’s important to look at the data and see what’s right for your customer.”