The experience of shopping for clothes online is better than ever before. It’s so good in fact, that 43% of UK consumers would now say they are most likely to buy their clothes online*.

5 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. There seemed to be so many barriers to shopping online.

How can you tell what the material feels like?

How do you know if it will look good once you put it on?

What if you want to return it?

How do you know what size to order?

Online fashion pioneers like Asos.com have gone a long way to abolish many of these perceived barriers. Free delivery, high quality product photography, catwalk videos, size recommendations and free returns. There’s literally nothing to lose.

Add this to the fact that online shopping is easier too. You can shop from anywhere, search for specific items, filter out unwanted results, read genuine customer reviews and use discount codes. None of these things are possible in-store.

Yes, online shopping has come a long, long way. But what about the in-store experience? There have certainly been plenty of innovations in retail too – but many of these haven’t come to mainstream high-street stores. You could even argue the contrary in some cases: that there are now more perceived barriers which discourage store visits.

Discrepancies between in-store and online pricing – the same jeans for 20% off online?

Long queues for changing rooms and checkouts

Difficult to find what you’re looking for, in your size

Disorganised shelves and racks

It’s time to revive fashion retail by creating a better experience that (1) caters to today’s ‘on-demand’ consumers, and (2) also makes the most of a store’s USP: physical presence.

Here are a few opportunities to differentiate:

  1. Easy pay – make checkouts the easiest part of the shopping experience, take it further with tech innovations that make paying speedier than ever (think Amazon Go-esque)
  2. Enhanced changing rooms – transform the sometimes-small spaces which are often dusty and dark into full blown experiences which take up a significant portion of the store
  3. Stock checker – integrate computerised stock levels with your website to provide estimates of item stock in physical stores so consumers can locate specific items easily
  4. Store navigator – build great apps for shopping online but also push maps of store layout to consumers’ smartphones so they can easily navigate your physical stores
  5. Knowledgeable staff – enhance consumers’ in-store experience with expert personal advice, fashion curation and events at selective stores

In the end, any retail strategy should complement (not compete with) the online shopping experience, and bring together what are currently very disparate user experiences into one coherent journey for consumers. 

*Nationally representative survey conducted by Morar with 2,000 UK consumers