In this episode, I answer the question “Do you have any tips for making online shopping easier?”. And yes, I do! Online shopping is becoming an unavoidable option, but there are things you can do to make your purchases more successful. I also share the thing I hate most about online shopping.
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Read the full episode transcript below! – Ep 33 Office Hours Become a Better Online Shopper
Today’s episode of Office Hours is sponsored by Holding Hangers. Ladies, when I lived in Virginia, I had a dream closet–a large walk-in all to myself. Space was never an issue, and I could keep all my clothes in there year-round. My Minnesota closet is a very different story. I share a small, narrow walk in with my husband, and even with switching out seasonal items, space is at a premium.
One of the things I love most about Holding Hangers is how slim they are. Because holding hangers hold your items from the inside, there are no bulky clips taking up space and getting tangled together. Holding hangers give you twice the space on the rail as traditional pant and skirt hangers.
I know lots of you have already switched out your regular hangers for slimline versions and love the extra space–Holding Hangers will do the same for your bottoms and shoulderless items. You’ll be amazed at how nice your closet looks, and how much extra space you’ll have. Just one more reason to love Holding Hangers.
Everyday Style listeners can take 15% off their first purchase by going to holdinghangers.com and using code STYLE15. That’s STYLE15 in all caps.
Welcome back to Office Hours–the weekly show of the Everyday Style School podcast, where we answer one question, submitted by you, to help make style easier, and getting dressed more fun.
Today’s question was emailed in by Michelle who emailed and asked – “With more stores closing all the time, I feel like I don’t have options besides online shopping, but I never have much luck. Nothing fits right or looks like it does on the website. Do you have any tips for making online shopping easier?”.
Indeed I do, Michelle–thank you for asking! Before we get to them though, I want to say that online shopping is here to stay. You’re right, more and more brick and mortar stores are closing, and retailers are focused on their online operations.
Specialty sizes have largely been moved online, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard when shopping with a client “We don’t have it in-store, but I’d be happy to order it for you!” Stores are carrying less and less inventory because keeping it centralized means more accuracy in buying, which is better for the retailer’s bottom line.
However, if you feel you’re alone in your frustration, you’re not. A study that was sent to me a couple of months ago said that 32% of women prefer online shopping–which means, 68% don’t.
I hear weekly from women who are frustrated with online shopping, and another study I found said that almost 50% of all Cyber Monday clothing purchases get returned, which is a little higher than the numbers I usually see, which say the online return rate for clothing is 40-45%.
That’s a big number. But that’s just what gets returned. I think if we looked at how many online purchases we settle for because returning them is a hassle, I think the percentage of how many online clothing purchases are truly successful would go way down. So, Michelle, you’re not alone.
With that in mind, what can we all do to be better online shoppers? Here’s my advice:
First, Shop retailers and brands you know and trust. If you know you do well in Banana Republic pants, or that Halogen blouses usually fit you well, go to those resources first. This doesn’t mean that your go-to styles have to be narrow and repetitive, but every woman has brands that work well for her. Start there.
Second, Know your body, and what works best for you. You should know the necklines that work for you, and those that don’t. You should know roughly how long you like tops to be. You should know what to look for in pants to know if they have a chance of being successful for you.
I say often that my advice is meant to keep you from taking 100 things into a fitting room, to find 5 that work. It’s the same thing online. When you can look at an item’s color, shape, fabric, length, etc, etc and know if those components work for you, you’re going much more successful.
You should be reading clothing descriptions like food labels–to see what the item is made up of. There is so much information in those descriptions, but if you don’t know how it applies to you, it’s pretty meaningless. This is also why it’s important to know clothing vocabulary and fabrics.
Next, read reviews like a detective. Reviews are online shopping gold, but you’ve got to dig a little deeper to use them well. Again, this goes back to knowing what works for your body and your style, and you should be reading reviews with that in mind. Don’t discount something just because people rated it poorly–find out why!
Yes, if everyone is saying the same thing, that the color was off, the quality was poor, whatever, chances are you can believe that. However, when women are describing how something fits, look for clues to see what it means for you. Let me give you an example.
I just pulled up a trench coat from Loft, and the reviews are mixed. Some people have given it 5 stars, and some have given it 3. I want to read one of the reviews for you. And this is for the Modern Trench Coat which I will link to. Here’s the review:
I fell in love with it at first sight. I purchased both the XL, then Large and they are both too big. The Large fits in the front, but there is way too much room in the back, Extra fabric just sits above your backside. So disappointing!! Returning both.
Remember a couple of episodes ago when I said you can’t fix a silhouette issue with size? That’s what’s happening here. I guessed, before I read her body type description that this is a very straight cut coat, that is catching on her backside and causing the extra fabric to fold over her butt, instead of drape, like it’s supposed to. Sure enough, she listed her body type as curvy. No size of this jacket would be right, because the silhouette is wrong.
Another reviewer called the coat “boxy” and described her body as smaller on the top than on the bottom. I can see why this wouldn’t be the right jacket for her.
This is not a bad coat–it’s just the wrong coat for these ladies. But what I learned from these reviews is that this is probably a darn good coat for ME, who prefers less structure. Based on all the reviews which all say to size down, I’ll size down. This is probably going to end up being a pretty great coat, from a fit and flattery perspective. But if I didn’t know what to look for in the reviews, I might have passed on it.
I want to encourage you to be good online citizens and leave reviews, too. Because you’re listening to this podcast, you have knowledge that can help other women, and educated reviews that go beyond “it looked bad” are so helpful. Tell people why. Tell people that you have narrow shoulders, or you have an undefined waist. That’s the kind of information that can make online shopping easier for everyone, so do your part.
Finally, shop online anticipating the returns. When I shop with clients, we often try on more than one size of an item. Even when they thought they knew their size. Even when it was from a brand they know well. Online shopping is a fact, and it’s here to stay.
The other fact is that sizing, even within the same brand, can be wildly inconsistent. Its a topic we can tackle another day, and you can write your congress person about it if you want, but I guess I’m just resigned that it is what it is, for now, and we just have to work around it.
I had a client the other day who does a lot of online shopping, and she said that every time she puts in an order, she puts in a big order, knowing most of it will go back. She tries different colors and sizes and styles, and she usually ends up successful. To compare it to shopping in stores, most women take more than one thing into a fitting room.
We take different styles, colors, and sizes, and then we buy what works. When it comes to online shopping though, we buy one thing and then get defeated when it’s not perfect. Returns are the worst part of online shopping, so I recommend shopping from stores with a great, even free, return policy, or buying enough that you’re not paying return shipping fees for one item. I’m hoping more retailers will jump on board with free returns as online shopping becomes more of a necessity for everyone. We’ll see if that happens.
The last thing I want to say about online shopping is this. Normally I tell women to shop with a plan, and that’s true here as well, but my biggest issue with online shopping is that it discourages us from trying new things, which is sad.
I always say “it costs nothing to try it on”, but that isn’t quite true when we’re shopping online. Instead of buying a tee you don’t need to get you to free shipping, put something in your cart that grabs your eye, but is outside of your comfort zone. Or place an order of things you’re just trying for fun–again, from a place with free returns is probably best. But don’t let online shopping force you into a boring style rut.
Thanks to Michelle for asking a question a lot of women are struggling with. I hope today’s show helps make online shopping a little more successful for you!
If you’re listening, and have a question you’d like me to cover in Office Hours, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again, I’d like to thank Holding Hangers for sponsoring this episode and don’t forget to visit holdinghangers.com and use code STYLE15 (all caps!) to take 15% off of your first purchase
That’s all for today–see you next week!