I’ve been hearing from readers and followers about how challenging they find shopping online for clothes. So today, I thought I would map out some of my best tips to help you navigate the world of e-commerce so you keep more of what you buy and save yourself trips to the post office.
Our Current Situation
Retailers and malls were experiencing dwindling sales and low foot traffic long before the time of social distancing. Shopping, for many consumers, was getting not only frustrating but boring.
Many of the stores and shopping destinations currently on the cusp of never recovering from the freezing of our economy were in dire straits before this because they didn’t adapt to the changing world.
Now, all retailers are going to have to overhaul how they do business.
Yesterday, I drove my car for the first time in two months and headed to Target. If I didn’t need a few things to help celebrate my daughter’s birthday this week (that I couldn’t get delivered on time), I wouldn’t have gone at all.
Given the current situation, my Target, from a logistics and safety standpoint, is doing a great job. I felt safe, the staff was friendly and all the customers were in masks and followed the well laid out guidelines.
But it wasn’t a “Target Run.” And so much of what makes Target, Target is the general joy women get out of picking up Starbucks and getting an hour to ourselves, roaming aisle after aisle, looking at things we don’t need all under the guise of “running errands.”
In my “expert” opinion, as long as we have to wear masks in stores and there is general uncertainty, consumers are going to be all business. Which means we’ll get in and out and skip the stuff that adds up, like pillows from Target, or an impulse beauty buy from Nordstrom.
Without an in store experience, retailers will find more ways to incentivize us to shop online, like deep discounts, bonuses and free shipping.
But that brings along its own set of frustrations. So let’s net out how to do it well, so you save time, money and sanity.
My Best Tips for Shopping Online
Know Your Measurements
The long held belief by almost all of us that we are a certain size is pointless. I can wear anywhere from a small to a large, and a six to a 12 – all depending on the brand.
You need to take your measurements and have them on hand to compare to the size guide provided on store sites. I keep mine in the notes app on my phone. You want to have your shoulder, bust, waist, hips and inseam.
Use Retailers Sizing Guide
Next, you must refer to each retailers size guide before you add to cart. Every single one is different. The reason is because sizes are not regulated in the retail industry. Manufacturers can (and do) create their own size scale, with no rhyme or reason.
Below, I captured the size charts from three of our most popular retailers: Old Navy, J.Crew and Banana Republic.
Let’s say your bust measures out at 38″. You would be a large in Old Navy and a Medium in J.Crew and Banana Republic. That’s a full size difference (which hold true in real life) and these brands are all under the same ownership.
The discrepancy is even larger with brands that target different demographics – for example, I would swim in a size 10 suit from Talbots, but be a perfect fit in Theory.
Many retailers offer customer reviews that provide both a star rating AND comments. If you see something you like with a low star rating, be sure to read the accompanying comments. Often, customers write poor reviews because of shipping issues, or matters of personal tastes that have nothing to do with the fit and quality of a product.
Check the Return Policy
As the retail landscape changes, I can guarantee return policies will become more generous, and additional conveniences will be offered, like prepaid shipping labels, pick up, etc. Just give it some time.
However, it’s still important to check.
Not long ago, I made an impulse buy off of Instagram to try a brand that kept showing up in my feed. By the time I opened the package, a few days after receiving it, I had pretty much missed the window to send it back. They had a ten-day return period with convoluted requirements for return and refunds.
It was so much extra work I ended up eating the order and learned a valuable lesson.
What (and Who) to Avoid
Speaking of what to avoid, proceed with caution when it comes to “social media brands.” These are brands like the above example that focus their marketing entirely on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Their shipping times tend to be so long you forget you even placed an order and have impossible return periods. More so, they’re not transparent about manufacturing practices.
This will change with time, and more legitimate, ethical businesses will have to sell on social, but the first round feel predatory.
If you see a product or brand you’d like to try, first do a quick Google search to find as much information as possible. Always read their “about” page. If they don’t have one, it doesn’t sound professional or they don’t provide key information like a customer service number or address, avoid it.
Wear it Three Ways
Follow the same guidelines online that we recommend for in store purchases. This is where I find online shopping incredibly helpful. It’s just you shopping!
Before you pull the trigger on a purchase, ask yourself a few questions:
Do I LOVE it (assuming it fits the way you hope)?
If it’s a mix and match item, can you wear it at least two, maybe three ways?
If it’s a better basic, how frequently will you reach for it?
Depending on the price, could you use multiples?
What’s nice about online shopping is you have no pressure. You can toggle back and forth between your Pinterest boards and your shopping cart. You can search for discount codes, or options at different stores. You can walk away for a minute without feeling bad about wasting someones time.
Online shopping can be incredibly efficient and fun with just a little prework!
Our Content is Inspired by Our Readers
Our readership inspires all of our posts and is not sponsored or paid for by brands or retailers.
Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail.
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