Last month, we headed to Las Vegas for Shoptalk, a retail and ecommerce event that focuses on how today’s consumers discover, shop and buy. Shoptalk is only in its second year, but it’s already grown impressively. This year’s event had more than 5,500 attendees and 330 speakers including Lionel Richie, as well as executives from some of the largest global retailers including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and Amazon.

During the event, we spent part of the time at the PowerReviews booth in the Exhibit Hall. We always enjoy attending shows like this so we can hear firsthand about the challenges brands and retailers are facing today and chat about how user-generated content can help them better connect with their customers.

We also spent part of the time in sessions hearing industry pros discuss a wide range of topics about online and in-store shopping across a variety of different categories. Throughout the event, we noticed a few themes emerge:

  • The interplay of online and in-store shopping
  • How experiential retail is building connections with consumers
  • The potential for artificial intelligence to change the way we shop

In this post, we’ll focus on the interplay of online and in-store shopping or what we call the new omnichannel. Future posts will focus on the other themes from Shoptalk.

The New Omnichannel
We’ve all seen the statistics about the growth of online shopping. With more and more consumers shopping online, does that mean traditional brick-and-mortar retail is a dying breed?

Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO at Target, opened his keynote session about the future of retail in a connected world by comparing the question of “digital or physical” to the old Miller Lite question: “Tastes great? Or less filling?” It isn’t a question of either/or. Instead, both online and in-store play important roles in the customer journey. The challenge for retailers is to provide shoppers with rich experiences, regardless of how they choose to shop.

Physical Stores Driving Online Success
Throughout the conference, speakers shared examples of how brick and mortar stores can be a valuable asset for driving ecommerce sales. The key is to successfully connect the online and in-store experiences.

One way retailers are leveraging physical stores to drive online orders is by offering in-store pick up of ecommerce sales. Approximately 85% of Americans live within 15 miles of a Kohl’s store, and currently, around a third of online sales are fulfilled in-store.

And 50% of Americans live less than four miles from a Target Store, with 55% of all digital sales being fulfilled in store. The bonus for retailers is that when consumers pick up online orders in-store, it often drives additional in-store sales.

Emerging retailers talked about using physical stores, including pop-ups, to test products and branding, create buzz, and most importantly, to drive online sales. Apparel innovator ModCloth used pop-ups to test the radical idea that clothing for women of all sizes be displayed together– no “plus size” section. They described woman literally in tears because they felt included. For ModCloth, a pop-up tour validated their body-positive branding, created buzz, and fostered real emotional connections with shoppers.

Just days before ShopTalk, Walmart announced its acquisition of ModCloth, another bold move by the retail giant, who is aggressively working to complement their status in the physical retail space with key ecommerce acquisitions including Hayneedle, Jet, and now ModCloth.

The future of retail will be the best of both worlds. Retailers that successfully connect emotionally with shoppers and combine the online and in-store experiences will be those that are most successful.

By now, most brands and retailers recognize that ratings and reviews play a key role in the purchase journey. A huge 96% of consumers consult product reviews, and more than 86% say reviews are an essential resource when making a purchase decision. But if you’re an apparel brand or retailer, your review content might be missing something that could help you drive even more traffic and sales: user submitted images.

Read on to learn why visual review content is key for apparel brands and retailers:

  • If you’re wanting to get in contact with our team, feel free to call us at 312-763-6406 to talk to our team!

Increase Conversions
Today’s consumers have become accustomed to visual, engaging content, which is driving the demand to see a product being used before they buy. For apparel brands and retailers, visual content is no longer optional, it’s expected.

Photos provided by the brand or retailer have their part to play, but they’re not enough to satisfy today’s information hungry shoppers. Our Centennial Shopper Study found that 40% of Centennials (age 13-18, aka Generation Z) won’t purchase a product if there are no photos of people using the product. 

People want to see photos of real people using a product. This is especially true when a consumer is purchasing clothing or shoes online without first trying on the product in a store. For example, let’s say a shopper is searching for a dress on a brand’s website, but she wants to know what a particular dress looks like on different body types. She notices several shoppers submitted photos of themselves wearing the dress as part of their reviews, so she clicks around and finds someone with a similar body type to hers. She also notices that the shopper paired the dress with a cardigan from the same brand. She confidently adds both the dress and the cardigan to her shopping cart.

Reduce Return Rates
One of the biggest challenges apparel brands and retailers face is keeping return rates at bay. According to a study conducted last year by Shorr Packaging, consumers were predicted to return more than 30% of items purchased online during the 2015 holiday season.

The study found that the top two reasons people choose to return a product are:

  • “The product was not what I expected.”
  • “My product did not fit properly.”

It’s key, then, for brands and retailers to provide shoppers with an accurate picture of what to expect from a purchase so there are fewer surprises when the item arrives in the mail. The professional photos you feature on your site are a great start, but allowing reviewers to submit their own photos allows future shoppers to see what a product looks like “in real life.” For example, a shopper looking for a new handbag can get a better idea of what the bag looks like on a real person who has actually purchased the handbag rather than an anonymous model or mannequin. Armed with this visual information, the shopper can make a well informed purchase…and be less likely to return the product she purchases.

Get Started Collecting More Visual Review Content
Collecting visual review content doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the PowerReviews write-a-review form is an easy way for consumers to submit authentic, visual UGC along with their written review. Visual UGC enriches your product details pages, while providing consumers with multiple examples of your product being used by real buyers. If you’re an existing PowerReviews customer, ask your Client Success Director or Community Manager about some upcoming enhancements that will make image collection even easier.