Are fashion brands losing their identities online? A research study by Keep It Usable

Have you noticed how similar websites look these days? Cover up the logo and can you really tell one from the other? How effective and identifiable is their brand once you cover up the logo? Is their identity getting lost online?

Walk down the high street and each brand has a clearly identifiable shop front. They each have their own unique style. So why is it that these very distinguishable brands have websites that all look very similar?

Of course this could just be our opinion so we decided to put 11 female fashion brands to the test to see if their target consumers (young females aged 18-24 in this case) could correctly identify online websites with their brand (logos removed and provided separately). We used a mix of well known and lesser known brands, high street and online brands. We also tested both desktop and mobile versions.

Try it for yourself…

Have a look at the following brands (notice how similar a lot of these look already?)

fashion brands

Which brand do you think the following website belongs to?

Desktop Brand

To make it a little easier, we’ll give you a clue, it’s either Topshop or River Island. Here’s a photo of their high street shop fronts to help you even more.

River Island / Top Shop

If you think the answer is River Island we can understand why. The website looks more consistent with the high street River Island shop front doesn’t it. However, the correct answer is actually Topshop.

Did you find that difficult? Well, unsurprisingly, so did the people we interviewed. The Topshop logo was correctly matched to the website just 21% of the time (so only 1 in 5 attempted matches were correct).

“I don’t know why I don’t recognise Topshop, I’m confused.”

Everyone found matching the brands to the websites much more difficult than they anticipated (they thought it was going to be really easy) and they struggled to match the brand with the correct website, even if they were a regular shopper and therefore very familiar with the brand.

And the winner is… Very

Very was the winner of our online brand identity research, closely followed by Asos and Zara. Look at their websites and you’ll see why. They each have a very distinct look and feel, their brand identity is carried through the whole user interface through the font, use of colour, imagery used, layout and style.

Very website

Findings

Those brands with the lowest scores included Forever 21, Missguided, Miss Selfridge and Glamorous. Interestingly, three of these brands scored higher on mobile than desktop which could be a sign of their younger audience being very mobile heavy consumers.

The research confirmed the initial hypothesis that brand identity is being diluted online and that as far as consumers are concerned, the brands are easy to confuse with one another and are relying too heavily on their logo as their sole differentiator against their competitors.

An interesting association that we discovered was that participants viewed websites with similar layouts as selling cheaper and poorer quality products. The layout affected their impression about the quality and the uniqueness of the product sold.

For the target consumers of brands tested in this research, quality is one of the most important factors for making the decision to buy an item online. A poor and cheaply perceived layout or bad usability of the website can affect the impression of the product’s quality and undermine the overall image of the brand.

Brands that scored the more correct matches tended to have a stronger identity on desktop than mobile. The market predictions for 2016 forecast that mobile will play a bigger and bigger role in the e-commerce market and fashion brands should be aware that the income of mobile traffic will have a strong impact on their business.

Moreover, the 2016 trend in retail will be the omnichannel approach to shopping; that is a continuous and smooth shopping journey through different channels, online and offline. It is crucial that high street brands create a strong brand identity on all their digital platforms to create a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints. The aim will be to provide costumers with a frictionless, continuous shopping experience.

Discover even more insights in the presentation below and if you need to improve or test your fashion website in order to increase your conversion, we can help! Contact us

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