In many ways, shopping online is the optimal way to shop. It’s easy, convenient, fast, and accessible. Shopping at a brick and mortar store takes real commitment: customers have to set aside time to drive to the store, walk around shopping, try out or try on products, and wait in line at the checkout counter. E-commerce stores let shoppers find what they need without the drive, without the walk around the store, and without the line. They take what could easily be a one- or two-hour shopping trip and condense it into five minutes.
If there’s one drawback to e-commerce shopping, it’s that customers can’t see, touch, and feel the products. For instance, when it comes to clothing or shoes bought online, customers can’t try on items to check for fit and comfort. E-commerce sites usually have high-resolution images that display their products from a variety of different angles. However, simply seeing the product in a still-frame image is not the equivalent of holding it in your hands and trying out its features for yourself.
These factors illustrate why some customers continue to prefer shopping at physical stores despite the ease and convenience that shopping online provides. Some e-commerce companies try to rectify this shortcoming by making the product return process as simple as possible so customers can send back products that don’t match their expectations. But that’s not the only way to disrupt these reservations.
Put the “See, Touch, Feel” Element Back into the Shopping Experience
Some e-commerce brands are experimenting with letting customers “try on” or “test out” their products. Warby Parker, a designer glasses brand, sends each new customer five frames for a home try-on. This model allows customers to try out the company’s products before making a purchase. In short, it adds seeing, touching, and feeling back into the purchasing process to put their minds at ease.
It may be effective, but it’s a model that wouldn’t be sustainable for many businesses. Warby Parker pays for the shipping on the try-on pairs of glasses and provides prepaid shipping for customers to send them back after a five-day trial period. When customers choose a specific set of frames, they purchase them online and get a new pair shipped to them: they don’t just keep the ones they liked as part of the original try-on package.
An Alternative Option
Most e-commerce companies don’t have the funds to handle free shipping for a product try-on or test-out service. Companies like Warby Parker could feasibly start charging for this service, but extra expense mitigates the convenience of shopping online in the first place. It’s doubtful that customers would want to cover those extra shipping costs.
There are alternative ways to achieve a similar effect—not necessarily by actually giving your customers a chance to touch and feel your products, but by generating a similar level of engagement to make them feel completely comfortable.
Most customers have recognized that shopping online is the future of retail. As a result, they’ve come up with new ways to determine whether or not they want to buy products. Instead of going to the store and trying out potential purchases, customers read reviews from other shoppers. They engage with the opinions of other people who have bought a certain product before them, hoping that the review they read will answer key questions about the quality, functionality, fit, and usability of the product. Reviews may not recreate the “see, touch, feel” experience of brick and mortar shopping, but they provide the next best thing: they let customers see, touch, and feel products vicariously through people who have already bought those products.
Video reviews take the experience to another level. Instead of reading about people who have had the opportunity to use a product, customers can watch that person describe the product in real time. The video format gives reviewers a chance to add product demonstrations into their review. It enables them to pick up a product and show it to their viewers and reveal the product’s features or flaws.
Like text reviews, video reviews can’t actually give customers the ability to reach through their computer screen and touch or feel a product. However, by letting customers see a product in action—and see another person touch and feel that product—video reviews tell shoppers almost as much about a product as a true tactile or kinesthetic experience would. The seeing part of the “see, touch, feel” experience becomes more important here because customers get to see the product in action. They are seeing another person do all of the things they would do if they had the opportunity to try out a product in person.
Best of all, video reviews don’t come with the unsustainable price tag attached to your brand that something like a free try-on program would. Once you’ve implemented the video review system on your e-commerce site, all of the content is going to come from customers. All you have to do is promote it.