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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : May 26, 2013 study reveals emotions of online clothes shopping gone wrong

New research conducted by virtual fitting room provider and retail psychology expert Phillip Adcock reveals that when online clothes shopping goes wrong shoppers go through emotions similar to the key five stages of grief.

by Helen Leggatt

A whopping 86% of consumers described symptoms of grief when clothes ordered online do not fit or live up to expectations, according to's latest research. A cycle of emotions comprising denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance were evident when clothes purchased online did not fit or suit body shape.

"The first thing to note is that this study applies uniquely to clothes shopping," says retail psychology expert Phillip Adcock. "The study therefore applies to fit above all else. People accept, for example, that the color may be different from what they saw on a screen, while it's obvious that a shopper can't handle the fabric itself when shopping online. But people definitely tend to blame themselves for clothes not fitting properly."

The research found that women, in particular, are affected by fit failures and, as a result, spend longer in denial than men, often keeping the clothing for a while to see if they can lose weight to fit into it.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to enter straight into the anger phase, focusing their anger on the retailer or the situation.

At each stage, says Adcock, is the potential for brand damage.

"At each stage their feeling towards the brand is less than positive: think of phases like Denial, Bargaining and Anger and words like 'disbelief', 'puzzlement', 'frustration' or 'anger' make perfect sense."

Key findings from the research include:

Denial - 58% of consumers experience denial, with women age 25-34 most likely to try on an item of clothing several times before giving up. However, 17% are prepared to wear clothing even if they are not happy with it.

Anger - Clothing that doesn't fit or meet expectations causes 71% to feel anger. Most (57%) felt anger at themselves for being the wrong shape, or not trying on an item before purchase. Anger caused 25% to complain to the retailer or tell friends to avoid the store in future.

Bargaining - This is the stage where consumers try to relieve feelings of anger and denial. Experienced by 51% of clothes shoppers, this stage is the one where retailers can help by offering solutions to the problem.

Depression - Women are more likely to suffer from depression (85% compared to 64% for men) and it is usually the result of upset due to clothing that doesn't fit due to shape or size.

Acceptance - Another important stage for retailers, because this is when consumers take action. Most (86%) reach this stage and either move on or take steps to rectify the situation.

Retailers who make themselves familiar with the grief process associated with online clothes shopping can use it to their advantage, says Adcock.

"Obviously, no brand wants to disappoint a customer," he says. "But if a retailer knew that a customer had been disappointed, and was most likely to be experiencing grief, think of the possibilities for following that up: the brand could almost come across as a close friend who understood what the shopper was going through, turning a negative experience into something positive after all."

Tags: brand management, brand marketing, clothes shopping, ecommerce, online shopping, retail trends

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