The apparel market is worth around 1.3 trillion USD  in retail sales globally per year. The fashion retail sector alone (only clothes) is bigger than the Russian economy; its value is similar to the combined GDP of the world’s 126 poorest countries. (Source: Market research provider, Euromonitor International)

Analyzing the 4 largest online retailers in the US

The value of eCommerce apparel sales in the US is projected to reach 100 billion USD in 2021. We’ve checked the game-changing features of most visited sites. What features help them to become the best eCommerce shops in the industry? Let’s take a look at how the biggest players approach investing in digital channels and PWA development. Our data is based on the SimilarWeb (Lifestyle > Fashion And Apparel in the US) traffic statistics. 


Nordstrom.com (overall monthly traffic 38.8 M)

www.nordstrom.com

First impression

After landing on the page I know what to do, I don’t feel lost or confused.  Colors are subdued, photos are natural and fit the site perfectly. The overall impression is great. Strength is in simplicity.

Content

There is a healthy balance between pictures and text on the site. Voice and tone are nice and consistent. Instead of video content on the home page, there is a graphic of clothes with only two animated objects. It gives the seemingly ordinary picture a dose of dynamism. 

The quality of the photos is great. It’s interesting that the product photos are much bigger than on average eCommerce sites, allowing us to see almost every little detail of the picture.

Design

Clean and well-balanced. Everything is readable, scannable, and flexible by the looks of it. 

51% of the NORDSTROM target group are in the 18-to-34 age range. Pastel and toned colors around the site tell us that it’s rather not a shop for rebellious teens. 

Navigation

User flow from the landing page to ordering a product is cohesive and intuitive. Even though various sections of the site feel different, uses never feel lost when they’re navigating around.  Forms are well-labeled and checking out is straightforward.

Only one dead point was found; after clicking ‘Sustainable Style’, there is no result. I’m not a fan of creating categories that have nothing inside and it is something site builders should certainly avoid; however,  I think it’s a bug that will be corrected anytime. 

Features

The variety of Nordstrom features is impressive:

clear size guide; proper color swatches; product reviews; pictures that change based on the color selected; material descriptions; matching pieces suggestions; shop by occasion; return information on product pages; sort by customer rating, newest, price (high to low/low to high), percent off; at the search page turn on a pick-up point; check the order status; gift options; gift message, DIY gift kit; virtual style help; and much more.

Shopping by category on the Nordstrom website
Delivery options from Nordstrom
The Nordstrom mobile app
Gift card options from Nordstrom
A product video featuring a red dress from the Nordstrom website

On the product page, apart from the photos and description, there is a movie with detailed characteristics of the product.  Video content performs very well here, it’s a great addition and it helps to minimize the purchase risk and reduce the number of returns. Consumers are getting savvier and they need more and more information to feel convinced to buy a product online.

A feedback request from the Nordstrom website

As a retailer, don’t be afraid of receiving feedback. While shopping on the Nordstrom site, a pop-up appears with information that invites client opinions. They are trying to improve the site and make it even better. 

Loyalty

An advert for personal styling from Nordstrom

‘Nordstrom’s reward program gives you fashion access, exclusive services, and amazing experiences. “Nordy Club” members earn points that add up to Nordstrom Notes that can be spent on anything in stores or online at Nordstrom Trunk Club, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, and Hautelook.’

How does it work? Write your budget, style, and size preference. Pay a $25 styling fee which goes towards your purchases. Schedule deliveries or order when the mood strikes—no subscription required. Try on your new looks at home before you buy. Keep everything you like and send back the rest. 

Shipping and returns

Free

Mobile experience 

Is the site mobile friendly? Is it fast on mobile?

Yes. And yes again!

Nordstrom has rebuilt its mobile site with a PWA for their 20 million+ monthly visitors. With an estimated 500 M USD in eCommerce revenue in 2018 and continuous digital growth, this is a fashion retailer example to follow. From a very early stage, the company was heavily investing in digital channels. Now, as the number one fashion eCommerce player, it is definitely paying off.


Macy’s (overall monthly traffic 56.9 M)

The main page of the Macy's website
www.macys.com

First impression

The website looks good. On the homepage, the first thing that we notice is an eye-catching banner with promotions and special offers. After scrolling down, we can see more current discounts and occasions.

Content

The pictures look nice but only two pictures presenting the product are not much. In this case, video content could complete the description. 

Design

Graphics are done well, illustrations are on point. Overall typography suits the pictures. The chosen design style matches the intended audience of the brand.

Navigation

Navigation is easy to find and use.

Features

On the product page, there are all the basic features like a size chart, product details, shipping and return options information, price details, special offers, reviews. While we are viewing the product, on the right side there is a ‘Customers Also Shopped’ section. 

Macy’s also offers a free meeting with a personal stylist, which is a really nice-to-have feature in the fashion industry and can easily be really profitable. 

An offer for personal styling from the Macy's website

Another interesting feature is the “wedding & registry” section. Through the jewels, the shoes, the suits, personal stylists, and, of course, the dress, Macy’s can provide everything for “the big day.” That’s not all; the brand also offers exclusive coupons, bonus gifts, and a Newlyweds Discount.

Macy's weddings and registry page

Another option is ordering delivery straight to the car, which is particularly nice in the time of the pandemic. 

Curbside delivery from Macy's

Loyalty

An offer for the Macy's rewards program

In case of loyalty, you can become a Macy’s Cardholder and earn more on every purchase at Macy’s, except gift cards, services, and fees. Every time you shop, you’ll get closer to unlocking additional benefits. Platinum, Gold, and Silver members get even more outside of Macy’s with a Macy’s American Express® Card (1,000 points = $10 in Star Money).

Shipping and returns

Macy’s Star Rewards Platinum and Gold Members get free shipping and there is no minimum price when you shop at Macy’s with your Macy’s Credit Card.

All other shoppers get free shipping with purchases over $25. Returns are free of charge.

Mobile experience

Through the headless eCommerce and PWA, Macy’s provide the best possible site for their 60+ million monthly visitors. After implementing their PWA solution, they noted double-digit online growth and their site speed has improved tremendously; this has, in turn, boosted their search ranking and improved customer experience. 

Leonard Stofsky, Director of Engineering at Macy’s, states that the headless approach along with its microservices architecture makes them more agile and nimble. 

“Through automated DevOps, improved regression testing, and dedicated teams to scale and innovate, we can deploy every two weeks.” 

Leonard Stofsky, past Director of Engineering at Macy’s.

In-Store technology features to enhance the consumer shopping experience

Macy’s Mobile Checkout is as simple: Scan. Pay. Go.

SCAN: Open the Macy’s app and tap Store Mode to scan items as you shop.

PAY: Simply pay through the app.

GO: Go to the Scan & Pay Checkout for security tag removal, purchase confirmation, and shopping bags.

“As part of our test-iterate-and-scale model for innovation, we are excited to expand our launch of Mobile Checkout powered by the Macy’s app, providing our customers with the opportunity to self-serve and speed their transactions with us in-store”

Jeff Gennette at the Shoptalk Conference.

Virtual Reality furniture shopping

Macy’s 3D furniture experience allows customers to place furnishings in a virtual room they design using a tablet. They first map out the basic dimensions and shape of the room for which they are buying products. They then select the items they want from Macy’s furniture assortment and lay them out virtually in the room.


GAP (overall monthly traffic 48.8 M)

The main Gap web page
www.gap.com

First impression

I think that everybody who enters the GAP website knows they won’t find any high-fashion looks and models. GAP is all about casualness and naturalness. You can find clothes for women (including a separate maternity wear section), men, kids, and babies. 

The website looks friendly; at first glance, we can see that it should especially appeal to families. The site is full of pictures of happy kids which makes a really positive first impression.

Content

Natural, confident, friendly tone of voice, consistent with every other brand touchpoint.   Photography is gorgeous, on-brand, and features their products in unique ways.  

Design

Simple and professional. A balanced distribution of content and graphics. The design on the page accurately reflects the brand’s target audience.

Navigation

Clear, user-friendly navigation that allows visitors to quickly find the information needed. It’s easy to find, presented in a logical manner, and includes easy-to-understand labels.

Features

Size guide, color swatches, product reviews, pictures that change based on color selected, material and care descriptions, matching pieces suggestions… GAP has all of the most crucial eCommerce features. What is important is that the brand and put a strong and credible focus on sustainability.

“Committed to the planet. Designing for the future.”

For GAP, these quotes are not just empty words. The brand partners with the Better Cotton Initiative, which trains farmers to use water efficiently, care for the health of the soil and natural habitats, reduce the use of the most harmful chemicals, and respect the rights and well-being of workers. Their recycled fabrics have reused over 9.8 million standard plastic water bottles.

“Do more than sell clothes”

Don Fisher, GAP founder.

Since 2015, their partners are the “Breast Cancer Research Foundation” (so far GAP have funded over 6,047 hours of research).

On the website, we can also find a “The way we do things” list containing information about values and rules which are crucial to the company such as equal salary, transparency, fighting discrimination, helping protect the environment, and many more. 

After visiting the site, the customer has the feeling that through buying GAP’s clothes he’s doing much more than just paying for a piece of material. 

Matching product recommendations on the Gap website

Loyalty

GAP offers a program called “GapCash” for customers to get more savings at Gap and Gap Factory. The coupons can be earned and redeemed during specific ‘GapCash’ periods throughout the year.

The customer receives one coupon per transaction while supplies last. For customers shopping in retail stores, the cashier will hand the appropriate coupon based on the purchase total. For online customers, they will receive a GapCash coupon via email based on purchase total, within approximately 24 hours of completing a qualifying purchase. 

Shipping and returns

– Everyday Free Shipping (5-7 business days) – Minimum purchase total $50
– Standard (3-5 business days)- $7
– Expedited (2-3 business days)- $17
– Next day (1 business day)- $22

Returns and exchanges are free when using prepaid return shipping labels or when returning in store.

Mobile experience 

An advert for the Gap loyalty app

There’s no doubt that GAP’s mobile app still has a lot to offer. Old rankings suggest that it didn’t perform well in the past, and the overall score is not very encouraging. Reviews show that there are still some bugs that need to be fixed. Thanks to these user opinions, GAPs team can draw conclusions and try to improve the app to achieve the best possible shopping experience. 

That’s a good lesson for all retailers: read the comments and collect feedback about your app, then take care of mobile experience. There is nothing worse than a poor, useless app. It needs to be constantly updated and developed. If not, associations with the brand may worsen and lead to losing sales. The app is like a living organism that needs to be looked after and cared for all the time.


NIKE (overall monthly traffic 88.4 M)

The main Nike web page
www.nike.com

First impression

This brand probably needs no introduction. When you hear the claim “JUST DO IT” you immediately have the characteristic signet in front of your eyes. In case of the website, it makes an amazing first impression. The brand is represented well and gives a feeling of the company within seconds.

Content

A consistent tone of voice, great pictures that suit the brand’s value and vision. The copy is light and easy to read.

Design

User flow from landing page to ordering a product is cohesive and intuitive. The site looks like a brilliant piece of UX/Design. Clear, minimalistic, and seamless checkout process. There’s really nothing more to say.

Navigation

I can’t find any weak points on the site. Simple navigation, well-labeled forms, straight-forward check-out… the nike.com is a really good example of a role model website.

Features

New releases; bestsellers; shopping by trends, sport, brand or celebrity. All the features seem to be relevant and useful. The category tree is not confusing and the user never feels lost, which is a huge win with a large and varied product catalog. 

Member exclusivity

Everybody wants to feel special and elite. Nike introduced products that can only be purchased by people who sign up for the Nike club.

The Nike members club web page

Personalization

Personalization isn’t just including the customer’s name in the subject line in the email. It’s a multi-tiered approach that becomes increasingly more personal as the customer progresses through the sales funnel.

Nike gives a great opportunity to customize their epic shoes. You can remix them with your favorite colors, materials, and personalized text. 

How to personalize sneakers on the Nike web page
A pair of green personalized sneakers

Sometimes the packaging is as important as the product. A Nike gift card packaged in a tiny shoebox it’s an excellent, very creative idea. The minimal, well-designed card adds to the perfect and unique brand experience.

The Nike gift card presentation pack

Loyalty

After creating a Nike Member profile, the customer gets first access to the very best of Nike products, inspirations, and community. Members can also buy more products than average users. Getting a Nike Member Reward every year on your birthday may also be an encouraging factor to create the account. 

Additional benefits:

  • Priority access to events and occasions like matches and competitions
  • Products only for club members
  • Early access to the latest premieres and products only for club members, booking favorite products in the member’s size.
  • Professional advice and recommendations from athletes
  • Birthday present

Shipping and returns

Standard (12-16 business days):

  • Free for signed-in Nike Members
  • Free for guest orders of $150 or more
  • $8 for guest orders of less than $150

Two-day (2-3 business days):

  • $5 for signed-in Nike Members
  • $15 for guest orders

Mobile experience 

As mobile devices increasingly become the centerpiece of the customer journey, brands that prioritize their app experiences are pulling ahead. For Nike, that means having a whole suite of apps, each with its own unique purpose. In the mobile-first era having just a shopping app isn’t enough. It also needs a compelling value proposition.

In 2016, Nike hired its first Chief Digital Officer and, in 2017, launched an initiative called the Consumer Direct Offense. The initiative is Nike’s Triple Double strategy: “2X Innovation, 2X Speed and 2X Direct connections with consumers.” 

“through the Consumer Direct Offense, we’re getting even more aggressive in the digital marketplace, targeting key markets and delivering product faster than ever.”

Mike Parker, Former Nike CEO 

In Nike’s second-quarter earnings results for 2020, the brand reported that its digital business grew at 38% and the Nike and SNKRS apps were the primary contributors to that growth.

Putting focus on a narrow segment of your top fans can be a BIG deal

Retailers are afraid that focusing on a narrow segment can be risky.  It can but if you will use your website data you may find breakthrough insights. Nike’s apps generate a wealth of data, try to use it, you may find a specific niche which is going to be a game-changer for your business.

In 2015, Nike launched its SNKRS app which is targeted at sneakerheads; that means customers who are fanatical about in-demand limited-release sneakers. By focusing on superfans who tend to be the most vocal brand advocates, this narrow segment of customers can create a halo effect that draws attention to the brand as a whole.

The SNKRS app has been widely successful. In 2016, the app generated less than 70 million USD; by 2019 it is estimated that it will generate 750 million USD in revenue, which is approximately 20% of Nike’s digital business. Overall, Nike provides unique and unforgettable mobile experiences. Each app has its  own compelling value proposition:

  • Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club log users’ fitness goals and progress.
  • SNRKS is for sneakerheads, providing insider access to launches and events for those customers whose footwear purchases are less function and more fashion.
  • NikeConnect and Nike Adapt accompany smart clothing items. The former uses near-field communication to scan the tag of a jersey, allowing users to unlock exclusive content. The latter controls connected footwear, adjusting its fit or customizing the lights.
4 different apps offered by Nike

Behavior-based push notifications

Used well, push notifications and in-app messages can be just as effective as email. If you’re a particularly engaged Nike app user, the retailer uses its in-app message center as an extension of its email marketing. Users receive a mix of shopping information, trending items, and personalized content and product recommendations.


Summary and opportunities for the best online clothing sites in the US

According to Fireclick index findings, conversion rates for fashion and apparel are at 5.9%. Boosting this rate will involve employing all sorts of strategies, from personalization, AI and SEO optimization, to design. There is no one recipe for a perfect strategy. Every business is different and it requires unique, innovative features tailored to the specific business needs.

What can smaller businesses learn from top players to improve site performance? Here are the key lessons to learn:

  • Optimize for mobile
  • Treat sustainability as the new cool
  • Put your trust in personalization
  • Reward customers with great loyalty systems
  • Give customers the opportunity to collect feedback about your site
  • Use collected data to know your customers inside out

A short comparison with some of the most basic features:

A table comparing the four sites.
All sites are equal though neither Nike nor Gap allow adding pictures to reviews.

If you are wondering about how to improve your on-site customer experience, our digital transformation consultants are happy to help. Write to us hello@divante.com Learn more about mobile-first commerce and PWA development.

Magdalena Zaremba

Researcher and Outreach Specialist at Divante eCommerce Software House | LinkedIn | Twitter

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