The growth in online shopping makes a mobile friendly website design vital for online clothing stores. By 2023, a third of retail could happen online, while fashion related shopping may already be past this point. Some retailers have reported more than half their online sales happen on a mobile phone. This picture of consumers using their phone to shop makes a mobile friendly website as important to a small fashion retailer as having a phone or a way to take payment by card.
Since 2016 I’ve reviewed the designs of mobile websites from well-known brands and high-ranking shops in the fashion industry. The review looks for how pages are laid out, what information they provide, and the functionality shoppers can access without having to open menus or move to other pages. This year I looked at over 120 pages from 50 separate brands, primarily focused on the UK, identifying the common traits and trends used in online shopping.
The good news is layouts are fairly similar, which suggests we know what works for fashion ecommerce. This should make it easier for independent retailers to design mobile friendly websites. What goes onto the page has seen some small changes, with an increase in “aspirational” product descriptions. Brands are using short sentences and emotive language that triggers a response in the reader.
This article features a summary of my findings on mobile friendly product pages. It looks at how brands use text and image content, online reviews and social media. I’ve included suggestions for your own site, as well as an infographic summary.
Mobile product pages are getting shorter
The trend to reduce the length of pages has continued. More elements are being placed in menus and within collapsible sections. Two sites took this trend to an extreme, removing everything but the images, descriptionand a call to action.
Takeaway: Consider carefully what’s the minimum information you feel comfortable providing customers with on the product page.
Product photography and video
Most brands are using product images that feature a model wearing the item with it in full view. Backgrounds are generally plain and non-distracting. There has been an increase in using BAME models, and different body shapes and ages. This applies for both male and female oriented fashion.
There was a small increase in editorial style images being used, such as where the model is walking outside or performing some task. These tend to be in carousels, with the main image still a “model on a plain background” style.
While much has been made of using video in fashion, only one in ten websites had videos promoting items on their product pages. This wasn’t a notable increase on last year, suggesting there may be a “wait and see” attitude. However, almost half of websites had a YouTube channel, suggesting video content is being used for promotion, just not for sales.
Takeaway: Use a plain background image as the first one the customer sees on the product page. In product photoshoots, capture 20-30 second catwalk videos in both landscape and portrait format.
Product descriptions and information
SEO-centric blocks of text have given way to shorter, aspirational descriptions. Product features, such as washing instructions and fabrics, are usually moved to their own sections. These tend to be collapsed to reduce page length. Descriptions are usually visible, with less than a third of sites hiding them.
One aspect that’s increased from last year was a description of the model. Almost half of sites included the model’s size and height. However, within sites there wasn’t a consistent application of this approach, with some products having it, some not. I also detected instances where the model’s description didn’t correlate with the model in the product image, or where multiple models were used.
Takeaway: Focus on creating a 2-4 sentence paragraph for the description. Use separate, collapsed sections for care, fabrics and returns information.
Online Reviews, where art thou?
There was no significant change in the number of sites using product reviews. 60 percent of sites had them, with 12% linking to or referencing an external service such as Trustpilot. The rest had incorporated them into the page design, usually behind a collapsed section. I noted most of these pages had no reviews available.
There was no correlation between the type of brand and whether it had on-page reviews.
Takeaway: Reviews need careful moderation to avoid spam and abuse. It’s also probable you will have products that have no posted reviews, which may undermine credibility.
Follow me on social media
There was no material change in how social media was used, other than a small drop in the number of sites offering a “share on social media” function. The most notable change was an increase in using Pinterest, both as a social network to engage with shoppers and as a share option.
Takeaway: Consider adding Pinterest to your social network channels. Check whether your social share buttons are being used, and if not remove them.
Hygiene still suffers
Over one in ten mobile websites had technical issues with its product pages. The most common problem was where elements extended beyond the browser window. However, two brands did not have a mobile friendly website, and a third had a website that had no purchasing capability. I excluded these latter three from the review.
Another hygiene issue is social media. 12 percent of sites still had links to Google+, both to their profile and as an option for sharing on social media. The social network was closed in early 2019 and links should have been removed.
Takeaway: Test your website thoroughly and make sure all social media links work.
Mobile friendly page layouts have high similarity between brands. This suggests it should be easier for small and independent retailers to design effective websites. Key areas to consider include:
- Consider carefully what’s the minimum information you feel comfortable providing customers with on the product page
- Use a plain background image as the first one the customer sees on the product page and start capturing 20-30 second catwalk videos
- Make product description aspirational and sales oriented as this is likely to be the first text a shopper will see before they buy
- Product descriptions should feature aspirational sales language and be short and focused
- Use online reviews with care and remember most product pages will not have any reviews.
Click to see the full-sized image (it opens in a new window). Feel free to share it, or post it on your own website. All I ask is you link back to this page.