I do 85% of my shopping online. Mostly because I sit at a computer all day and it's a convenient procrastination tool. But also because I know exactly what I'm getting. I can visit a website and find the exact item in the exact color in the exact size and order it instantly. E-commerce search engines like Shopstyle—and increasingly, Google Shopping—make a search for something specific even easier. Shopping at the mall, or New York City (which can seem like one three-mile-long mall), is a little more spontaneous. Unless I want to devote three-to-five hours to search for something very specific, it's only good for browsing and buying off-the-cuff.
At least that's how I felt a few weeks ago, when I started searching for a pair of not-too-pricey pale pink jeans. However, the experience made me realize that sometimes, getting off your butt and visiting the mall is just easier—and that there needs to be more of a connection between online and offline retail.
Here's how it went down: I saw a woman wearing a pair of pale pink jeans and thought "Wow, those would look really good with a grey sweatshirt and a pair of white Keds." I had a feeling Rag & Bone probably made a nice pair, but I'm not willing to spend more than $100 on a pair of colored jeans. (I know myself—I like colored jeans, but I won't wear them frequently enough to justify the purchase.) So I took to Shopstyle, where I found several options.
First up was a pair of Current/Elliott "Stiletto" jeans for $55 from Last Call by Neiman Marcus. (Right now they're $79.) They were called Day Glo Pink, but on the screen they looked pastel, so I figured I'd try them out. While the fit was great, they were indeed Day Glo, so I sent them back.
Next, I decided to try Delia's (yes, Delia's is still around). I figured that they would have tons of affordable/colorful jeans on offer. I was right, so I bought the Super-Skinny Color Ankle Crop in Pink Blush for $39.50.
The color on this pair was better, but not perfect. Then I tried them on. They fit pretty well—as well as a pair of way-too-stretchy jeans would fit—but they were HUGE in the knees. Super baggy. Super weird looking. My husband tried to convince me that they were okay, but they weren't. (Now it's going to cost me $7 to return them.)
Finally, I found a pair of truly pastel pink, ankle length denim jeans called the "Brittney" from Guess. I've never bought Guess jeans before, so I used the widget they've embedded—it's called True Fit—to see what size I'd be. They suggested I order a size down from my normal, which made me nervous. But I tried it anyway.
These fit. They look cute. They're the right color, the right fabric, and the right length. And at $79, just the right price. But they took more than a month to procure. Would I have been better off blocking two hours to walk around the city and just try on a few pairs?
Yes and no. Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Delia's don't have locations by me. But Guess...well, not only does Guess have several New York stores, but it also has a store locator for every product on the site, as well as a "store pickup" option. Guess already made it easier with True Fit, but it would have been seamless had I used those other tools.
What I learned from this experience: the next time I have a very specific hankering for a very specific item that I've never tried, I'll definitely be more cautious about ordering online. But hopefully I won't have to for long, if more retailers follow in Guess's suit.
Last week, I interviewed Farfetch's Jose Reyes, and he spoke a lot about the "omnichannel" retail experience--facilitating shoppers being able to go back and forth between online and instore shopping. That may sound like a whole bunch of marketing bs, but it's a real thing that will make shopping for clothes online way more convenient. Retailers need to figure out how to make our lives easier, because what we really want from our digital shopping experience is efficiency.