The Importance of Material Knowledge in Online Fashion

How many times have you bought outfits over the internet only to be disappointed? How many times have you put on clothes you bought online only to find out that it did not fit you despite its proclaimed size? If you felt that you have been burned at least once, welcome to the club. Here’s the shocker. A lot of the times, the reason why you felt let down has nothing to do with the online merchandiser.

That’s right! The website that you went to to buy that nice summer outfit that you’ve had your eye on for several weeks now is not at fault. I know it’s hard to believe. A lot of people would readily blame online merchandisers and online catalogue stores for talking a good game. It’s very easy to point the finger at them and claim that they over-promised and under-delivered.

But let’s get honest here. If you’re just going to go by the pictures of the clothing these online stores offer, you’re taking a big risk. Please understand that these companies are doing their best to let you know what exactly you’re getting.

They give you the size. They obviously show you the pictures. They tell you what kind of material the outfit is made of. They give you all sorts of details. In an ideal world, once people can wrap their minds around these details, they have more than enough to go on.

In other words, they would have all the tools they need to make a truly informed decision. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In reality, people return clothing items over and over again. In fact, according to one industry estimate, around 40% of online apparel retail goes through some sort of return process.

Now, not all 40% actually go all the way through to the refund stage. Maybe the customer ends up changing his or her mind. Maybe they take credit instead. Whatever the case may be, according to many estimates, up to 40% of all online apparel sales involve severe customer dissatisfaction.

Think about that for a second. For every 10 clothing sales online, 4 are going to run into problems.

The root of online fashion disappointment

What is the ultimate cause of the disconnect between customer expectation and customer experience? Let me break it down for you. It is a simple case of a disconnect between the customer and the website they are buying their clothing from.

You have to understand that clothing websites are very competitive. They try to beat each other in terms of pricing. They try to get a competitive edge by offering a wider selection than their competitors. They’re doing the best they can to stand head and shoulders over their competitors.

This means that their profit margin is slashed to the bone. They really bend over backwards as far as customer care and customer services are concerned. They make sure that they have a top notch website. But the problem is despite all these efforts and all the information these online fashion merchandisers can give customers like you, they can’t give you one thing.

Unfortunately, this one additional element is what makes or breaks the typical online fashion buying experience. What am I talking about? I’m talking about your experience with materials. In particular, your clothing material knowledge.

Please understand that online retailers buy and large are honest. They have to be. Otherwise, their competitors will call them out. Otherwise, people will write nasty reviews about them and this will mean that the market will shift to their competitors. They have a lot more to lose than they have to gain by cutting corners and being dishonest.

This is why it is 100% in their favor and in their interest to accurately describe the clothing that they’re trying to sell. 99 times out of 100, the issue regarding this disconnect between customer expectations and customer experience has nothing to do with the online fashion seller.

The problem is when an online clothing store says that an item is made out of cotton, different customers have different impressions of cotton. Some people think that cotton is always fluffy and soft. Others equate it with rough canvass. Even others think that cotton is somewhat bright, shiny and light.

Do you see the problem? Different people have different experiences with cotton products and they bring these different expectations with them when they check out these different online fashion stores. Unfortunately, we become prisoners of our past experiences with different kinds of material.

We automatically assume that if an online store says that a shirt is made out of 100% Egyptian cotton, then that would fit closely with our experience with cotton overall. This is not always the case. Please understand that it’s really important for you to know your materials before you even bother with online fashion shopping.

You would do everybody a big favor if you just brushed up on what nylon is supposed to look and feel like. You should also research the different varieties of cotton and how cotton is processed and what exactly you would be getting from a particular online apparel store.

Without this advance knowledge, which is only a Google search away, you can spare yourself from all sorts of unnecessary headaches. This is the bottom line. Brush up on material knowledge because it’s crucial to online fashion.

The website that you go to can tell you all the details that they have access to regarding the materials that their clothes are made of. But until you have a good understanding of what these materials are and whether they fit your needs, there will always be a good chance that you would have to return those items.

Everybody ends up wasting their time. So do yourself a big favor and avoid unnecessary disappointment, frustration and simply wasting your time by doing some advanced research first. At the very least, when you’re taking referrals from people you know on Facebook, make sure that they’re people who share your fashion tastes and preferences.