Mar 18, 2013

Trial in e-retail

In my earlier article on product trials, I briefly touched upon how product trials happen in the online world. This is something I'm really interested, especially in the case of e-retail and personal goods such as clothing, jewelry and perfumes.

Consumers would always choose to try out these personal items before they make a purchase. Apparel brands and retailers satisfy this expectation by providing trial rooms with full length mirrors in their retail outlets. Jewelers also help consumers to try out their varied designs before a purchase. In the case of perfumes, one actually experiences the fragrance and the feel when the customer care executive sprays the specific brand of perfume on your wrist.

Clearly, the different dimensions of experiential marketing come into play while we decide on these personal products in a physical store. Many e-retailers have been trying to recreate a similar experience while you shop online.

Appealing to the sense of sight, most of these e-commerce stores display the product offerings in bright and eye-catching pictures which make them look very appealing to consumers.

To experience the physical touch and feel of the product at your homes, many of them offer a try and return policy. Myntra and Jabong provide a 30 day return/exchange policy which help consumers to try out the offerings (clothes, shoes etc) at their homes and can exchange (if it is a size mismatch) or return the product.

Yebhi has recently launched the "Try-n-Buy" option where consumers can first try the product and if they like it, they can purchase it using cash-on-delivery. 

Their marketing efforts are focused around the same theme, with their latest TV ad campaigns emphasizing the trial-ability of the products.

Apart from trial-at-home, e-retailers have also started to provide virtual trial options. Zovi has a virtual trial room feature named Zovi Eye, through which consumers can virtually try any outfit using their webcam. 

There are also platforms available such as Imaginate's TRIALAR and Zugara's webcamsocialshopper which e-commerce stores can leverage to provide virtual trial benefits to consumers. If consumers are concerned over privacy issues, then such virtual trial feature will face resistance. Even if the resistance is lower, the bandwidth related issues will prevent wider adoption of such feature.

Innovative ways by which e-commerce stores can help consumers to try out personal products BEFORE making a purchase decision can be a sure shot differentiating factor. Return/exchange policies are good but because of the logistics and upfront payment, consumers feel the perceived risk and may not want to proceed further.

I was thinking of ways by which virtual trial can be implemented without privacy concerns. Instead of asking the consumer to allow access to his/her webcam, he/she can be asked a set of parameters to describe himself/herself. The parameters could be based on appearance, size and age. Based on these parameters, an appropriate mannequin can be used to wear the outfit. This would actually help the consumer to visualize how he/she would actually look rather than a perfect skinny model wearing the same outfit. Fitiquette's offering is similar to this idea.

E-commerce firms can also use the help of fashion designers to match right parameters with possible outfit options and can recommend mix-and-match combinations during virtual trial.

It would be interesting to see how the story unfolds in the next few years in the e-retailing scene in India, with a combination of the right technology, working around the bandwidth related constraints and helping consumers to experience their choice of clothing before they make a purchase.

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