Ecommerce Trends: New Ways to Increase Sales & Decrease Returns

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Like a lot of people, I like the convenience of purchasing clothing and shoes online; however, a lot of items don’t look the same in person as they do online, or sometimes the fit isn’t quite what I expected. 

In the end, I return a lot of unwanted clothing and shoes, often at the cost of the retailer.  If you have your own online store, then you know how costly and time-consuming returns can be.  Thankfully, a lot of online retailers are taking steps to decrease the number of returns they have to process, as well as increase their sales.

Lighter Image to Show Detail

Dark coloured clothing doesn’t photograph very well, which makes it harder for online shoppers to determine exactly what a black dress or shirt will look like in person.  Esprit, an online retailer of clothing for men, women, and children, has tackled this problem by providing its customers with multiple photos, including an image that has been lightened to show details like draping, stitching, pleating, and even fabric quality and texture.

lighter image to show detail

Videos to Show Movement

A lot of online clothing retailers provide still photographs of people modeling their products, but Marks and Spencer goes one step further by including videos of their apparel in action.  A video of a model walking up and down a runway not only shows customers how an item of clothing actually moves, but it also enables viewers to learn more about the garment’s fit, quality, details, length, and material.

videos to show movement

Customer Reviews

It’s not unusual for shoppers to feel uncertain about ordering products, especially clothing, online; however, customer reviews of individual items can do a lot to help people feel more confident about their purchases.  Debenhams enables customers to submit reviews of various products, including clothing.  Because these reviews usually come from people who have actually purchased these items, hesitant customers can glean valuable information, such as sizing (whether it runs small or large), quality (if the fabric or stitching is of poor quality), and colour (if a shirt  actually looks blue like in the image online).

customer reviews

Provide Model’s Measurements

While most people don’t have the same figure as the average model, providing the measurements of the person modeling a particular item of clothing can give customers a better idea of how it will look on them.  Letting customers know the size the model is wearing, as well as their height and other measurements, enables potential buyers to better visualize how an item will look on their figure, as well as which size will offer their desired fit.  For example, if a small tshirt looks loose on a model, then a customer who normally wears a medium can assume this particular item runs large.  Instead of ordering a medium and returning it because it’s too big, this shopper can purchase a small and get the snug fit they’re after.

provide model's measurements

Video Descriptions

A video description is a great way to showcase the unique attributes of a particular item, including features a customer might not be able to see just by looking at images or watching a video of a model.  Zappos, an online retailer, includes video descriptions for some of their products.  While most of these videos only show someone modeling their items, a large number of these videos feature people describing and interacting with products, demonstrating the flexibility of a shoe’s sole or the functionality of a sandal’s zipper closure. If a customer is uncertain about purchasing a pair of shoes or a new coat, a video description can provide them with the extra information they need to make a decision.

video description

Customer Fit Survey

A customer fit survey provides prospective buyers with at-a-glance information about how a particular item actually fits.  Like a review, a fit survey contains feedback from the customers who have purchased a product, except a fit survey quickly tells shoppers if a dress runs large or a pair of sandals are true to width.  A customer fit survey can work in conjunction with product reviews–some shoppers just want a quick snippet of information about an item, while others prefer in-depth feedback.

customer fit survey

Q&A Exchange

Walmart allows shoppers to ask questions about items that other customers can answer.  Walmart’s Q&A Exchange is a great way for people to find out more information about an item–even if other shoppers have written reviews about a particular product, they may not include details another person might find vital, such as the length of a dress or the thickness of a jumper.

question and answer exchange

Live Chat

Online retailer Isabella Oliver provides a live chat function to its customers, so shoppers can easily ask representatives for more information about an item of clothing, such as its thickness, texture, or colour.  Live chat is a great feature for ecommerce stores–it enables customers to get instant answers to their questions without having to pick up the phone.  To make the most of this feature, the chat window should be in a prominent place on the website, so shoppers notice and use this function.

live chat

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  1. On September 19, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Bridal Jewellery said:

    I think video is definately the way forward for customers to see details of items bought online, I’ve just started putting some on my site and will continue.

  2. On July 17, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Payday Vault said:

    I agree with most of the points above and make many purchases solely on the strength of the customer reviews of a product. In fact when buying books of Amazon I don’t tend to bother with anything less than 4 stars!

  3. On July 5, 2011 at 10:08 am

    The Best Casino Guide said:

    Coupons urge customers to come back and shop. Promotional coupons work for both advertising and some forms of joint venture.

  4. On June 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    B. Jack said:

    Eight out of 10 people shop online at least twice a week, but everyday more of them use their phone rather than their desktop.

  5. On June 18, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Paul said:

    I admit that I’m a newbie to e-Commerce and online shopping but this post really helped me understand several things I spend a hard researching. Indeed having an online shop that offers clothes is challenging but you provide excellent ideas to go around them especially providing videos, live chat and Q & A. Great work 🙂

  6. On June 13, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Adam said:

    I know that online shopping is a growing industry, but there are still many people that are hesitant. I think with many of the innovations you discussed in this blog, skeptics will start giving it a try. Thinking like a consumer and brainstorming possible shortcomings of online shopping is a great way to figure out how to more effectively provide what the customer is looking for in a shopping experience.

  7. On June 12, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Seo Bolton said:

    great post, I agree with you when u buy clothing 0n line its never the same as it looks in the pics

  8. On June 10, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Web said:

    Anymore I do most all of my shopping online. I just find it easy, and the selection is always better. Buying cloths is one thing I still do in store, I’ve never had luck. But for other items, i do spend time reading reviews, and it does way big on what I decided. I’ll even look at the people profile (if the site has one) to see other comments they’ve made, and if there all ways to happy or to negative. Chat back is great, but i think it depends on the service. I have spoken to people who were only interested in collecting my information so the email or call me to death, but others provide a good helpful direction in the products they sale. When the chat back service is has good help on something I am looking at buying, as soon as I’ve asked every question I could think of, I buy from them.

  9. On June 8, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Michelle said:

    Thanks for the important info. We haven’t thought about the live chat option. We may have to include something like that. Thanks again.