Survey Finds Online Shoppers Are Open to Recommendations if Stock Is Low and Retailers Can Personalise

Lucidworks surveyed shoppers to understand how the pandemic has impacted online footwear and apparel shopping and how consumers respond to recommendations and inventory-based notifications

Lucidworks, the provider of next-generation AI-powered search applications and the pioneer of the Connected Experience Cloud, surveyed consumers in the U.S. and U.K. who shop online for apparel. Respondents said there has been a noticeable increase in “out-of-stock” messages during the pandemic, but they are open to relevant substitutions that match their taste, preferred fit, and price range. On-point recommendations require apparel and footwear e-tailers to understand a shopper’s precise desire, predict inventory availability, and promote the items that shoppers are most likely to add to their basket. The survey report outlines consumer preferences and behaviours around online apparel shopping during the pandemic.

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Shoppers Are Open to Relevant Substitutes
76% of shoppers say that they’ll sometimes or always buy a substitute, even if they’re shopping with a specific apparel item in mind. However, openness to substitutions differed geographically. U.S. shoppers overall are more than three times as likely to buy an alternative apparel product anytime as compared to U.K. consumers. When consumers were asked if there was an apparel item they’d never substitute, non-negotiable categories included jeans, footwear and underwear, with consumers unwilling to budge on preferred brands, styles and fit.

Inventory-Based Notifications Are a Reliable Engagement Tool
Nearly a quarter of shoppers say they rarely buy a substitute because they know what they want, and they’re willing to wait for their beloved trainers, jeans, and underwear to come back in stock. Proactive notifications help prevent the unpleasant surprise of an “out-of-stock” message. 91% of shoppers want to be notified when an item they like is back in stock and 61% of shoppers say they’re more likely to buy an item in their size if they know it’s low-in-stock. Alerts via email, text message, or app notification are an effective way to make sure shoppers get what they need.

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Smarter Search Sells What’s In Stock
Mismatched recommendations aren’t the only reason your shoppers are leaving empty-handed. 15% of shoppers said they usually end up on a “no results” page when an item they’re looking for is out-of-stock. That means that retailers are failing to offer relevant substitutes in place of a preferred item. Retailers that invest in semantic vector search technology learn from customer behaviour to associate queries with products that have a similar purpose so that shoppers never end up on a dead-end, “no results” page, even if their intended item isn’t available.

Other key findings in the survey include:

  • 57% of shoppers say that they find the specific apparel item they’re looking for online is out-of-stock frequently or every time they shop.
  • 86% of online shoppers prefer to have apparel purchases delivered to their home (versus picking up in-store).
  • More than two-thirds of shoppers (69%) will shop with a different apparel retailer if they can’t find what they need on their preferred app or website.
  • Of the respondents who want to receive back-in-stock notifications, 75% of those prefer to receive notifications via email and 38% prefer notifications via text.
  • Men are more than three times as likely to buy a substitute anytime as compared to women.

The survey was conducted in March of this year and was limited to respondents who shop online for apparel at least once a month. 401 respondents located in the U.K. and 401 respondents located in the U.S. participated.

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