Sportswear brands exude a sense of athleticism and wellbeing through their lifestyle imagery. Click onto the home page of any well-known retailer, and you will quickly be seduced by innovative and creative rich media.
Buy those trainers or purchase that pair of leggings and perhaps you will look as chic - or run as fast - as the models in the video. But what happens when you click through to the product page to investigate garments and footwear in more detail?
To obtain a comprehensive picture of the online sportswear retailer landscape, we carried out an exclusive survey for Sports Insight looking at how three popular styles - running leggings, hoodies and trainers - are showcased to shoppers by the top 20 UK online sportswear retailers. Thirteen of these retailers also have high street stores.
Pre-purchase confidence is proven to increase customer satisfaction and reduce returns, but, according to our research, many retailers are failing to carry through the tempting visual proposition offered on the home page to the product display page.
Here are our suggestions on how sportswear retailers could improve.
1. Show what consumers want to see
Online shoppers have a keen eye, so retailers need to ensure their product images give as much valuable and in-depth information as possible to encourage them to make a purchase. This is particularly true for sportswear retailers where customers will want to scrutinise garments in detail to ensure they are fit for purpose.
Consumers require a decent selection of clear, high-quality images showing different views of the item - front, back, possibly a fabric swatch and details of particular features. Remarkably, four of the retailers we reviewed rely on just one static image to illustrate a particular product. Overall, the average number of pictures is five.
Shoppers often compare like for like, yet our survey revealed that only 15 per cent of retailers display running leggings, hoodies and trainers in a consistent way - using the same quantity and type of image across a category - and all show a different number of images for each of the three products reviewed. One retailer that does offer consistency in presentation is JD Sports, providing the same choice of wellsized and informative images for all of its women’s running leggings.
If you’re buying a garment online you can’t try it on, so model shots are essential. Seven out of the 20 retailers (35 per cent) don’t use models, which makes for flat and dull imagery. Among the exceptions are the brands Adidas, Nike, Puma and Sweaty Betty, alongside retailers JD Sports, SportsShoes, Surfdome and Pro:Direct Running.
2. Integrate technology to improve customer experience
With the rise in popularity of performance wear, shoppers increasingly want to be able to interact with a product and examine technical features close up. Imagery needs to include granular detail of intricacies from the fabric and stitching to the zip and fasteners.
Although nearly all of the retailers studied (95%) employ a zoom function, only 20% use 360 spin imaging technology to enable shoppers to experience the sensation of digitally picking up an item and viewing it from every angle in one image. It can make a real difference to the customer experience, as Wiggle illustrates and removes the need for any additional imagery.
Video injects a sense of energy and dynamism to a page, yet interestingly only six retailers include it. Five of those add a thumbnail with a ‘play’ icon alongside the product images, which does little to enhance the feel of the page. In contrast, Nike has a much neater approach, integrating a video stream in its display of images.
3. Make the best use of space
If a shopper has clicked through from a category to a product page, it’s likely they’re serious about buying. In order to improve its chances of converting, a retailer needs to make sure the page contains as much useful content as possible. However, half the retailers we reviewed (55%) leave substantial areas of unused white space and don’t seem to have given much thought to the overall design of the page. Why not make images larger - including thumbnail shots - add in a lifestyle shot and possibly some user generated content or brand imagery, such as Asics does below.
4. Be innovative
Sportswear, even performance wear, is now as much about being fashionable as function. People are looking to buy complete outfits, yet none of the retailers we looked at thought to present their products this way. Sweaty Betty comes the closest by tagging lifestyle shots in its ‘Shop Looks’ section with product images and making them directly shoppable.