Apparel and accessory retailers focus on finding the right fit, sustainability and gifting in their branding.

When apparel first launched online, many of the pundits suggested it would be a tough category to sell online. What we have seen over time is that it has proven to be one of the strongest. Reflecting back and looking ahead, it is instructive to showcase branding, supporting tools, imagery and social media’s influence to drive growth.

Tools take the category to a new level

To me, it seems there’s significant advancement in the tools. It’s not that these tools didn’t exist before, but rather that they weren’t nearly as sophisticated. Savvy retailers have moved beyond the basic size guides and elevated the customer experience.

Untuckit uses a quiz format to guide the shopper. The experience can be found under “Find Your Fit,” which is labeled as the retailer’s new fit finder. There are four steps in the process beginning with accounting for height and weight. The next step zeros in on where you carry the most weight (torso, legs/hips, shoulders and one’s belly shape (flat, average, round). Visitors confirm they are accurately represented with an option to rotate the figure and go smaller or larger. Fit choices can then be added along with one’s typical size. Seeing the figure adjust in real time is valuable and not standard in sizing applications I have tried in the past.

Apparel retailer Untuckit's Find Your Fit tool

Untuckit’s Find Your Fit tool

Indochino also offers measurement tools under the “Get Measured Up” section on its website. Knowing the variations in the way shoppers may handle these numbers, the retailer has wisely included a video to guide its customers. The emphasis is on being yourself and convincing prospects how simple the process can be.

Apparel retailer Indochino includes an instructional video to guide measurement

Indochino includes an instructional video to guide measurement

Third Love appreciates the complexity of a bra fitting and helps shoppers build their fitting rooms accordingly. And customers know the brand has a sense of humor when the message is, “Let’s find you a bra that actually fits.”

There are at least 15 steps from what brings you here today and they include questions such as what’s changed recently, size, strap fit, cup fit, discomfort areas, band fit, age of bra, style of bra you are seeking and colors. The results live in a fitting room and the marketing emanates from there. One additional positive is the 15% off one’s first order that was part of the initiation to the process.

Apparel retailer Third Love has a robust fitting tool

Third Love has a robust fitting tool


Branding assumes a bigger role among online buyers

Customer behavior is certainly changing, though it is more like an evolution than a revolution. Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights conducted a survey of 1,064 online shoppers in September 2022. In it, we found 14% had purchased apparel from a retailer based on their sustainability stance.

While just 13% of survey respondents had purchased a used/previously owned product from an online retailer, I believe this is another category that will see exponential growth in the coming years.

Urban Outfitters showcases its Urban Renewal brand, which also has a presence in its retail stores. It highlights the practice of “giving new life to used and vintage goods.” Urban Outfitters ties these initiatives to its commitment to sustainability, circularity and reducing its impact on the environment, which is commendable from any company.


Allbirds ReRun is the shoe retailer Allbirds’ marketplace that gives shoppers somewhere to shop some of its imperfect and gently used products. This is certainly a natural fit with the retailer’s brand and part of this emerging trend.

Site branding evolves with the times

One thing that has certainly changed is retailer’s site presentation. While of course the overall look and feel of the site experience tops the list of being important to 64% of respondents, sustainability and diversity have also risen in importance in the online shopper’s mind. 21% of those surveyed said they factor in the brand’s sustainability practices. Almost on par: 20% noted a brand’s story is important to them.

Eileen Fisher practically pioneered sustainability in the U.S. market and keeps an onsite journal of ways shoppers can help the cause. This “How to Hand Wash a Sweater” is just one example of getting practical with its customers and reinforcing its beliefs.

Apparel retailer Eileen Fisher's Journal on How to Hand Wash a Sweater educates customers

Bombas dedicates important real estate to the impact shoppers’ purchases make. Its visual execution shares its model, partners and the 75 million donations the retailer has made. This is impressive and of growing importance to shoppers as they have choices in the companies where they choose to spend their dollars.


Shoppers embrace social media

Our research revealed that social media is part of apparel/accessory shopping for seven in 10 online shoppers. Components of that include everything from getting inspired about brands and products (22%) as well as looking to learn from others (18%). 14% indicated they follow influencers.

While only 9% say they watch livestreams, it feels like a bit of a chicken and egg issue. In the past year, my sense is that more retailers are embracing it and dedicating valuable real estate to it, which means more shoppers will be watching in the years to come. I came across some varying approaches as I reviewed apparel sites this month.

Upon arrival to Steve Madden, one finds a section on their home page calling out “How do you wear Steve Madden?” What’s new for me is their Shop Live with their favorite influencers.  Visitors can sign up to view upcoming livestreams.

Steve Madden allows visitors to shop live with their favorite influencers

Steve Madden allows visitors to shop live with their favorite influencers

Gap has a shop with Selma Blair who, along with a Gap stylist, highlights gift buying for a range of recipients.

Gap positions livestreaming in its gift center

Imagery matters. In researching for this post, I couldn’t help but zero in on imagery as this is truly a visual category.


Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights conducted a survey of 1,108 online shoppers in January 2022 about attributes that lead to shoppers placing orders on retail sites. 39% of online shoppers cited ample product information and imagery as attributes that would most likely lead them to place an order on a retail website. M.Gemi’s powerful images are sure to catch the shopper’s attention. When introduced as part of “as seen on” content, its impact is even greater.

 M.Gemi imagery guides site experience

M.Gemi imagery guides site experience

Membership has its privileges

One aspect of the shopping experience that is receiving the retailers’ attention is a “members-only” approach. That can manifest itself in many ways including first access, as seen on Nike’s site. The ability to get access to these products has strong appeal to the sporting goods shopper. Ideally, it will also inspire shoppers to join Nike’s program.

Nike gives first access to members

Nike gives first access to members


Lastly and on a positive note, post-COVID-19, there has been discussion among holiday shoppers about their interest in giving an experience versus a product as 11% of those surveyed in our pre-holiday research suggested. REI has been a leader in that regard. Its promotion of outdoor enthusiasts to “Give the Gift of Adventure” reminds all of us what matters this holiday season. Purchasing a trip or a specialty school is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

REI's "gift of adventure" is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts

REI’s “gift of adventure” is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts

Elevating the ecommerce experience comes with innovation. That’s just what we find in the apparel and accessories category. It’s a wonderful time of year to be thinking about innovations from branding to sizing tools. At the same time, it’s critical to continue to inspire our customers year-round with livestreaming and social activity. And, of course, why not make the time to toot your own horn when it comes to sustainability and philanthropy. Particularly as shoppers positively embrace brands that care.

Sign up

Stay on top of the latest developments in the ecommerce industry. Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 Retail News.


Follow us on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook. Be the first to know when Digital Commerce 360 publishes news content.