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Weekly Content Critique: Suit Yourself

Posted by on May 11, 2012

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I recently read about a new campaign Men’s Wearhouse launched to convince the younger generation the company is not, in fact, woefully behind the fashion times. To do this, they shot a video with young cool guys in suits (with tattoos visible around the edges). In what seems like a shortsighted move, they didn’t have any of those same young cool guys model clothing for their product pages. But the retailer has the right idea; Millennials are highly engaged in consuming and will soon be the most lucrative consumer group.

It’s wedding time of year, so I decided to shop for a new suit (that I know will look good with my new neck tattoos). After navigating the site’s awkward search toolbars, I found this Calvin Klein suit in charcoal gray.

The introduction: 2 pings2-pings (wide)

Squeezed between large images, purchase info, and a product recommendation toolbar, the written content of this product page reads like a poor attempt at poetic form. It reminds me of trying to write poetry in high school English class. Some of us had a sense of rhythm, and some of us tossed punctuation and line breaks around like basketballs. You can guess to which category this writer belongs. That said, the page gets 2 pings for an introduction because there is an overview sentence that conveys important detail–color and cut.

No bad poem would be complete without a cryptic end like “TMW_3829_3830_17.”

Informative copy: 1 ping1-pings (wide)

The overview sentence is most of the copy, save an abridged list of features. (More on the bad writing: “charcoal gray with a slim fit.” Charcoal gray doesn’t have a fit.) I doubt the lining is wool. No formatting. Who needs formatting? Someone must have told Men’s Wearhouse Millennials are minimalists, which they mistook to mean Millennials don’t care so much about pesky design details. If anything, it’s exactly the opposite.

Perhaps the copy would seem less stilted if the text was given more space. There’s also an issue with sizing information. The site provides a separate pop-up sizing window that is not only incomplete and confusing but also of such low resolution that it’s hard to read. Young people have bad eyesight sometimes, too.

Effective images: 2 pings2-pings (wide)

Apparel retail sites get away with a lot when it comes to content merchandising standards. A set of stellar pictures often makes up for slipshod copy. Those pictures must be of high quality and show all the details of an article of clothing. This page, while it does offer multiple pictures, fails on both those counts.

The main image, distinguished by its higher resolution and functional zoomability, is perfectly fine. For whatever reason, the other two images are of lower quality, are not zoomable (although I think they’re supposed to be, because the same zoom box appears when I hover over them), and are almost certainly not of a real person.

I suspect both the image to the right and a closeup of the jacket’s side vent are of a mannequin. Even better, the pants look a little wrinkled near the top. Wrinkled. This is the best you can do with a redesign aimed at style-conscious youth?

What I’m buying: 0 pings0-pings (wide)

I’ve been known to let apparel product pages off the hook when it comes to this criterion. Sometimes a boot is just a boot and there’s nothing much to be said. A suit is just a suit, sure, but there’s more to consider here. For instance, the red pocket square the charcoal gray suit seems to have–is that an included accessory? And if not, where on the site is it for sale?

Shipping information is available but similarly unorganized. It’s also on a separate page–going to read about shipping takes shoppers away from the potential sale.

Design: 2 pings
2-pings (wide)

This page is a perfect example of why pop-up zoom is a terrible idea. I’m cruising around, considering a purchase. I decide to look at the available sizes, and bang–I’m suddenly locked in a gaze with this dude. I finally understand, on a gut level, why clothing sites so often crop models’ heads out of their images. Attractive as he may be, is this what you want to be staring at while you’re trying to look at size options?

You might note three color options on this page. Each option effectively has its own product page, since both content and model change (I chose the charcoal gray version for this critique). This is a bad idea in my book, and not only because this setup somehow allowed the suggested products toolbar on the right to showcase two of those three options. Speaking of toolbars, the search toolbars on the home page are exactly the opposite of intuitive. They start with price and size rather than style and brand, while color is buried in the bottom third.

Final score: 1 ping1-pings (wide)

I’ve been harping on age and this retailer’s effort to target a certain consumer group. A recent study called “The Millennial Consumer: Debunking Stereotypes” highlighted six distinct segments of this age group, emphasizing that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. This means retail sites still need to get the fundamentals of content merchandising down first. Then, if they really want to, they can play around with ways to hook a target market.

Take note, Men’s Wearhouse: Other retailers are selling the same things you are. Also, shoppers will pay a little more for better service (this includes website functionality) or when they’re more confident about the purchase (which comes from better website functionality). If the look of your website says anything about the look of your products, I’m certainly not gonna like the way I look.

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