By Rieva Lesonsky


Clothing and accessories are still popular retail items. In fact, apparel was, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the in 2nd place on consumers’ shopping lists last holiday season. Still, many brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to get consumers into their stores, facing increasing online competition.

If you’re facing those challenges, the 2017 Apparel Industry Retail Study from Qualtrics has some tips for you.

Brick-and-mortar apparel stores have lost their edge

Not too long ago, consumers actually preferred shopping in apparel retail stores rather than online. They wanted to be able to touch and feel the merchandise and try on the clothes.

But that all changed when more online apparel retailers started offering free shipping and returns. The study shows both online and physical stores are delivering “extremely good” shopping experiences. Consumers say 42% of retailers and 44% of e-tailers have provided a positive shopping experience to the shoppers surveyed.

Word-of-mouth is vital

The primary way shoppers discover apparel stores is via recommendations from friends and family. But, word-of-mouth is not always a positive experience. About 25% of retail apparel shoppers who were disappointed with their shopping experiences not only stopped shopping at that store, but told their friends and family to stop shopping there, as well.

Customer silence can hurt your apparel store

Many SMEs fear getting customer complaints. Don’t. They are valuable tools which can help you improve your apparel store. Many customers, however, don’t share their negative feedback—about 40% who experience a “minor expectation failure” and 30% who experience a major one—ever bother to complain.

Shoppers stay silent because nearly half of them believe you’re not paying attention to their feedback, whether it’s in the form of a survey response, a social media post or an actual face-to-face conversation with a store employee. And 24% don’t expect to receive any response at all from an apparel store after complaining.

Handling customer feedback

Obviously, it’s important to pay attention to what your customers tell you. Listening to them will help you retain more customers—and even convince lapsed shoppers to return to your store. This, in turn, will boost your positive word-of-mouth. In fact, 80%  of the shoppers surveyed admit their perceptions of an apparel retailer improved if that retailer quickly solved their issues.

So, what should you do to keep your shoppers happy? Follow the 3 B’s of social media.

Be active. About 33% of shoppers follow at least one apparel retailer on social media. Engage them by asking—and answering—questions, and posting  quick surveys and polls.

Be responsive. You need to quickly respond to social media feedback, even (or especially) if it’s negative. Most apparel retailers don’t respond, so you’ll stand out by engaging and trying to make things right.

Be helpful. What do shoppers expect to get from following your apparel store? Most want discounts, to learn about sales and find out when new merchandise arrives.

When shoppers come into your apparel store, they also expect to find the latest fashions. You can provide that by sourcing new styles on, whether it’s rainbow dresses, men’s joggers, or women’s cross-body bags.

You can speed up the sourcing process by using’s new sourcing tool (for use with Google’s Chrome browser), Source Now.