CommerceCo Recap: Tailored Shopping Experiences

When eBay and Amazon were founded in 1995, e-commerce pioneers feared that product images would never provide the same experience as handling a product on a medium. Watching a pixelated shirt on screen wasn’t as rich as the experience of holding it in a physical store.

E-commerce has generally overcome this challenge, but there are still products that are more difficult to present online. Often these products are personalized, personalized or semi-personalized. For these elements, the ultimate solution may be virtual photography, three-dimensional models and configurators.

Too many options

“We have three physical stores. One in New York. One in Washington, DC One in New Haven, Connecticut. In each of them, we provide customers with personalized options, ranging from bespoke clothing to dress shirts, ”said Isaac Metlitsky, Senior Director of Web and Digital at J. Press, during a live interview for CommerceCo by Practical Ecommerce on April 15, 2021. The event also featured Marc Uible, the vice president of marketing at Threekit, who helps companies customize their products in 3D, in reality augmented and virtual photography.

One product category offered by J. Press is custom dress shirts. Shirts have a set of standard collars – buttoned, pointed, wide apart. They come in standard sizes. There are two cuff options and three pocket styles available – and around 70 fabric choices.

The tailored dress shirt is therefore available in 1260 configurations, excluding sizes.

Put aside how a business would handle 1000+ product variations from a manufacturing and inventory perspective, and ask yourself how you would present these options to an online shopper.

Custom clothing retailer J. Press uses virtual photography to show shoppers – online and in-store – what a made-to-order shirt would look like when finished.

Imperfect in store

“Before starting this project with Threekit, we didn’t even try to do it online because it was something that… had to be done in store, where the customer could smell the fabrics, look at the options and have a better look. idea of ​​what it looks like, ”said Metlitsky.

He continued, “But you have the same problem in store [as online]. You don’t really know what the end result will look like. “

The challenge is that even standing in a fancy shirt store holding a fabric swatch against an example of a white mock neck shirt still requires some imagination on the buyer’s part.

Again, these shirts are made to order. The physical store does not have all 1260 variants available in stock, even in one size. There is always a gap between what the customer orders and what he sees.

“Ultimately, being able to present [the shirts] online to a customer who purchases online or even in-store – so that they can actually see what the end result looks like – is a great achievement, ”said Metlitsky, adding that it is not uncommon for sellers of J. Press to use a tablet with the shirt configurator as a tool for consumers in the physical store.

Case and barrel

Custom shirts aren’t the only ones facing this challenge. Furniture made to order is also the problem.

“I recently bought a sectional sofa from Crate & Barrel,” said Uible of Threekit, adding that all sections on the Crate & Barrel website were virtual photographs, similar to J. Press’s shirt configurator.

Screenshot of Crate & Barrel's website of a sectional sofa product configurator.

Crate & Barrel also uses virtual photography to show buyers what a sofa would look like with custom fabric.

“So I’m in the store. I love the sectional. Then the seller comes with a fabric sample. There are 50 or 60 fabrics that we place against the sofa. It doesn’t give a very good impression of what it’s going to look like, ”said Uible from Threekit.

In both examples, J. Press and Crate & Barrel, the online configurator offers a better representation of the end product than an in-store experience.

The bottom line is maybe the shopping experiences in store and online are different, but one isn’t necessarily better.

What the pioneers of eBay and Amazon rather missed is that online and in-store experiences are part of a larger process. We now know that they can work together.

There’s room for pure ecommerce operations, in-store-only boutiques, and omnichannel sellers.

About Valerie Wilson

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