E-Commerce Localization for Fashion Imagery: 3 Things to Keep in Mind for Getting it Right
Fashion e-commerce is on its way to becoming a $1 trillion industry by 2025. With an expected growth of this magnitude, businesses are progressively expanding to farther and wider markets, making localization practices all the more indispensable than ever before. In e-commerce, localization is the process of tailoring the content of an online business to match the requirements of specific target regions. This includes, but is not restricted to text, graphic assets and layouts. User empathy is at the heart of this extensive exercise, where key elements of the e-commerce platform are aligned with the target user and their environment to ensure a seamless customer experience.
Seeing is believing, particularly for fashion e-commerce. According to data from Intent Lab, when shopping online for clothing, more than 85 percent of respondents respectively put more importance on visual information than text information. This reinforces the fact that consumers are heavily influenced by fashion imagery, placing images as powerful drivers of conversion. Therefore, when e-commerce brands launch localized versions of their websites, it's important to consider updating the imagery in line with other localization efforts. As impactful as images are, they can also be interpreted differently by consumers depending on where they're from. To help achieve positive results in this regard, here are a few things to pay attention to.
The Context of Styling
With endless varieties of styles to pick from, the online shopper is undoubtedly spoilt for choice. While each piece of clothing or accessory carries a story of its own, styling done well can impart new meanings to the ensemble. Understanding the relationship between the wearer and a piece, and how they’d prefer to style it, would prove immensely insightful while putting together looks for the online shopper. The way something is styled varies from region to region based on factors like climate, culture, pop culture influences, and lifestyle choices. For instance, a particular dress may be styled with a jacket and boots in Sweden, where it's generally colder than, say, Texas, where it may be styled with heels and without a jacket.
Outfits could also be styled to create occasion-based looks such as college fashion or night-out edits. This works especially well for cross-selling, when the customer purchases the whole set as seen in the photos.
Product imagery should ideally reflect the personal style of the target group and at the same time inspire a sense of oomph to go with it. This leaves enough room for styling innovations, enabling brands to showcase their products most appealingly. The key here is to find the balance between relevance and creativity.
Resonance in e-commerce fashion imagery boils down to how easy it is for the shopper to imagine wearing what they see. Aspects like the model’s nationality, complexion, hair color, and size all have a bearing on how the representation connects with the audience. The more relatable they find the model, the easier it is for them to see themselves in that space. Shoppers could feel alienated if they browse through an e-commerce website only to see apparel being showcased in a way that has no semblance to where they're from geographically or body type-wise. “There have been occasions where the style of model photography and choice of models have led to me leaving the site on those grounds. I want to see somebody that's representative of me — or at least a close match,” a shopper comments.
When styles cross borders, the imagery must translate the human elements which convey a great deal of information to the shopper — ultimately influencing their purchase decisions. Paying attention to these details goes a long way in not just enabling shoppers to get a clear sense of the product’s fit, but also in positively affecting their body confidence. For instance, Looklet’s efforts toward inclusivity and body positivity put retailers in a better position to digitally style on a wide range of diverse models to show the same garments on different-sized models, giving all consumers a better idea of how the garment would fit them.
Needless to say, brands need to brace themselves to thrive in a fast-fashion culture, traversing pressures and pushing limits to keep themselves on top of trends, and at the same time stay away from controversy. Add to this mix a global online presence, and it leaves an even smaller margin for slip-ups, especially cultural faux pas. Therefore, it's an essential exercise for brands to understand cultural realities to avoid any possible oversight, which could arise anywhere from a multitude of these differences. While no element of brand messaging must offend or hurt religious and cultural sentiments, mistakes, when committed visually, tend to get noticed and criticized with a lot more passion. It could be anything from misrepresentation of clothing and accessories, misattribution of religious symbols and cultural themes, to fallacies in styling. Simply put, even colors are interpreted differently by different cultures. For instance, red symbolizes fortune, celebrations and auspiciousness in India, whereas in South Africa it represents violence.
Cultural representation, when done sensibly and tastefully, can elevate a brand’s goodwill and ease its trajectory in newer markets. Local festivals, special seasons, and celebrations offer great opportunities for brands to showcase their products in native settings, as well as to connect and engage with shoppers from specific regions. The efforts put into research followed by thoughtful execution are sure to pay off, as potential customers appreciate and accept what they're being offered — not only from a transactional perspective, but also on an intimate level. After all, it’s not about ticking boxes but establishing authenticity and credibility.
In this era of hyperpersonalization, with no dearth of brands vying for customers’ attention, consistent efforts for localization are highly beneficial to brands expanding to new markets. Apart from increased levels of engagement and web traffic, personalized e-commerce websites (with content based on a potential customer’s location) see 10 percent to 15 percent higher conversion rates and 20 percent higher customer satisfaction rates. According to this Shopify research, companies with deep localization frameworks grow at a faster rate than those that don’t.
Robert Ahlborg is the chief product officer and co-founder of Looklet, a fashion tech solution that provides automated on-model fashion imagery for e-commerce.
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Robert Ahlborg is the CPO and co-founder of Looklet – a fashion tech scale up that provides automated on-model fashion imagery for e-commerce. Based in Stockholm but with offices in NYC and Paris, Looklet has worked with retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and H&M.