As of 2012, eCommerce has become a trillion dollar worldwide industry and in such a competitive market, online stores are fighting tooth and nail to stay relevant and provide their potential customers with special offers hand over fist.

One of the most exciting aspects in the evolution of the eCommerce industry comes in the form of store features. Now more than ever, stores are starting to understand that usable and sellable are very closely related in the digital ecosystem and are becoming more and more creative in the experiences conveyed through their features.

Some features focus on emphasizing product assets and others on the product’s value or exclusivity but what we seem to be missing are features that close the gap between the convenience of buying a product from your own home and the importance of experiencing it hands-on before you buy it. With no illusions in terms of technical capabilities, here are three feature concepts, for three industries that I’d love to see in the very near future.

Redecorate your home from home

Buying anything decorative for your home can be rather difficult if you’re particular about all your stuff matching, even more so when you’re buying online. In a brick and mortar shop, you’ll be looking at whatever it is you’d like and trying to envision how it would look in your home. In an eCommerce store, you’ll also have to imagine how that particular item looks like in real life.

A feature that accounts for product features and harmonizes them with the product’s destination is exactly what you’d need in this situation. So how would it work?

In most cases, you’d have to shoot a 360° view of your product so it would be very easy to manipulate by the user and fit into whatever scene he/ she chooses. Then you’d have to come up with a plugin that, taking the product’s size into consideration, allows the user to increase or decrease the size of said product and include it into its desired environment. Once you’ve got it set up, you can then easily cross-sell or up-sell by offering a better product configuration or a bundle.

Actual size-view in the fashion industry

The fact that the world’s weight is swelling to unprecedented proportions while the waistline of our media models is shrinking to the size of that of a 6 year old, comes as neither news nor a shock. But you don’t have to be overweight to have trouble finding fitting clothing, you just have to be a bit out of the norm.

When buying clothing online, a lot of our concerns and hesitations regarding our choices stem from the fact that, unlike the model likely wearing a dress in the photo, the majority of us do not have a standard body shape. This means that while a particular item looks smashing on a model with long legs, it might look less so on someone with wider hips.

The fashion industry doesn’t account for these differences and generically responds to women’s needs by putting up measurement charts and instructions, rather than offering them the chance to actually experience the item of clothing in the parameters of their own bodies.

Such a feature implies the use of a digital model that, through the input of measurements, accurately represents a person’s physical appearance. It would then either adapt the item of clothing to that body shape by simply stretching the original or, ideally, reference images from a database of similar body shapes to morph the original item to the digital version as little as possible.

This feature works well with cross-sells and up-sells too, especially if you consider providing a selection of alternatives better fit for each body type. In time, you’d be able to expand your number and types of digital models, bringing the user’s experience as close to trying on the clothing item as possible.

A luxury store could even afford to have a fashion consultant come up with different outfits for each of them, thus scaling up your marketing efforts. Come to think of it, why make it a simple feature, when you can turn it into a complex Magento module?

Try on make-up without trying on make-up

How many times have you gone shopping for make-up and removed your foundation to try on a new one? If you’re like most women, you’re testing the stuff on your hands and/ or neck, meaning you’re only getting a ballpark idea about how well a shade works for you.

What’s more, not a lot of people have perfectly clear skin and removing your make-up in the public setting of a store might be unsettling for those with sever acne, scars or both. Buying your make-up online isn’t much easier when you’re making choices based on the assumption that the lipstick shade hasn’t been altered by studio lights and that it would fit your complexion.

An eCommerce store affords each and every one of us the comfort of going through as many options as we want without being suffocated by shop attendants trying to force free make-up sessions or product discounts down our throats. Can we than create the equivalent of having all these samples at our disposal to test, mix and match without all the hassle of going through a store? Of course we can.

In every configuration of this feature/ module, you have to first obtain a high-quality photo of the user, lit by natural light, so the first challenge is to establish a set of parameters that determine the quality of a picture uploaded. The second and more important step is to come up with a system of sampling the hex code variations of that person’s skin complexion and, create a database of products that work for each and in what combination.

I’m sure I don’t have to point out the number of up-sell opportunities on this one and, much like in the previous example, because you now understand your audience much better, you could easily improve the value of your marketing efforts by recommending products that actually fit their needs.

Of course, the assets you’d have to commit in order to implement any of these features are far more substantial than taking a simple photo of a vase in a studio or slapping a pair of shoes on a pretty model, but while the former offers a mere approximation that can easily come between the user and the add to cart button, the latter is much closer to experiencing the product in real life and, therefore, much more likely to convert.

The Bottom Line

Every time you develop a new feature for your users, do it with their benefit in mind and think about the best way you can get them to just put their feet up and shop! If you do decide to implement either feature in your eCommerce store, drop me a line and I’ll be the first one to test it out!

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