26 December 2007

Mini online-shopping review: 2007

I may not have bought it all in 2007, but rest assured, if the "it" to which we're referring was a short-sleeved ruffle-front blouse, a cropped swing jacket, a slim leather bomber jacket, a 3/4-sleeved Winter coat, a classic Fall/Spring trench, a box clutch, a pair of skinny trousers, a pair of ultra dark-wash skinnies, a pair of black satin boyshorts, a pair of almond-toed pumps, a pair of prick-point platform pumps, a cocktail dress, a little black dress, a backless dress, or anything else you can think of in the colors gunmetal or wine with a high-waist, an exaggerated funnel-neck, or with "Alexander McQueen" affixed to the label, I found it - along with 10 others similar but not identical to it - during one of my hours-long online boutique binges.

The benefits to immediately knowing where to buy what style in what color with what promotional coupon are obvious. Not only have I become the go-to person among my friends for everything from advice on specific brands ("Is a Generra tee really worth $88?") to providing clarification on return policies ("When heels.com says they have '115% price protection,' what does that mean?") to weighing in on the ever-difficult "I love this, but I don't need it -- should I break the bank to buy it?" dilemma, but I have also developed a discerning eye for the good, the bad and the getting-there when it comes to online boutiques.

If you're a regular reader, you probably already know to which websites I'm partial based on how frequently I link to their merchandise. For those who are new to ASJiNE, as well as for those who haven't paid close attention to the vendors, please take a moment or two to peruse my inaugural 'best of'/'worst of' online-shopping review in the five critical categories of layout, customer service, volume of merchandise, volume of new merchandise and model quality:

Best Layout:
- clear navigation instructions
- fantastic merchandise
- high-resolution photos
- every item shown in every color at every angle
- great styling

Worst Layout:
- chaotic homepage
- photos extremely tiny during 'search' phase
- offers only front/back photos
- has a very "bargain basement" aesthetic
- poor styling

Getting-there Layout:
- fantastic merchandise
- clear navigation instructions
- extremely detailed 'advanced search' options
- every item shown in every color at every angle

Best Customer Service:
- instant e-mail notification of order
- purchases arrive in 24 hours, including Saturday delivery
- superior packaging
- clear return instructions with enclosed pre-paid shipping label
- instant e-mail notification of returned item's arrival
- five-day reimbursement turnaround

Worst Customer Service:
- delayed e-mail notification
- unpredictable arrival date
- unpredictable reimbursement turnaround
- "contact us" hours very limited

Getting-There Customer Service:
- instant e-mail notification
- hand-written "thank you" note
- arrived sooner than anticipated

Best at Putting In-Store Merchandise Online:
- the only shopping destination, in my opinion, that has more available on its website than it does in-store
- much larger (and better) sale section online than in-store
- though unrelated, I love their 'sort by color' option

Worst at Putting In-Store Merchandise Online:
tie: www.bloomingdales.com/ www.urbanchiconline.com
- both stores easily carry 10x the merchandise in-store that they do online
- what they offer online is not their best - or newest - merchandise

Getting-There at Putting In-Store Merchandise Online:
- that's what a little bird in the Georgetown store told me last week!

Best "What's New" Merchandise:
- items organized by the week they were added
- option available to only view that week's newest additions
- inventory updated every week, regardless of how few/many new items there are

Worst "What's New" Merchandise:
- rarely and sporadically updated
- newest additions lumped in with months' worth of other "new" items
- only able to search within "what's new" section by designer

Getting-there "What's New" Merchandise:
- frequently updated
- section is of a manageable size -- nothing stays for more than two weeks
- option to arrange items by designer, price or addition date

Best Models*:
- in addition to having perfect "hanger" figures, damn, these girls are beautiful
- their poses are varied, their expressions are pleasing and overall, their photos have a very 'fashion magazine' quality to them

Worst Models:
- these poor girls look like they were picked up at a mall, given no styling, plopped in front of a camera and told to "work it"
- though the clothing at both stores is high-end, the low-end-edness of the models can't help but detract from the overall shopping experience

Getting-there Models:
- if you can't find or can't afford professional models, do us all a favor and do it the N-a-P way: use mannequins

Feel free to chime in with your own opinions in the comments section!

*just like no one wants Tammy Faye helping them at Sephora or Queen Latifah motivating them in a spinning class, who wants to look at a funny-looking, overly ordinary, greasy-haired model while contemplating a three or four-digit purchase?


Anonymous said...

models TOTALLY matter in the online shopping process.

16th streeter said...

agreed. I want to *want* to look like the woman selling me the dress, not relate to her in a girl-next-door kind of way.

I've always wondered what N-a-P's packaging looked like...

Candid Cool said...

so it's not just me! the revolve models are awful!!!! and very distracting to the clothes.

sara said...

I laughed out loud at the two "work it" models. That is some pretty awful posing.

I second Net a Porter's awesome customer service. I've only had the pleasure of doing business with them two times, but in both cases I felt like a VIP customer. And the packaging is so lux.

1blueshi1 said...

ooh, Johanna, grrl, I bet you can totally work some black satin boyshorts (contemplates own cellulite, renews membership in Hemlock Club).

dc stylist said...

one annoying thing about Net-a-Porter, though, is that their search function totally sucks. You can't type in a designer's name or part of the item's name and be guaranteed it'll come up in the results. Highly annoying. other than that, they're top of the heap.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the list I love net a porter and shopbop they get most of my $. Love that shopbop uses models though love looking to see what the shopbop girl is trend setting in the hair dept.

manhattan_darling said...

yoox gives me a migraine. maybe they have some good things on there (that's what my friend tells me), but I cannot get past all that anime on their homepage. shopbop is where it's at, fo' sho'.

Anonymous said...

i hope your little bird was telling the truth - i've been waiting forever for CM to put their stuff online!

what did you buy from net a porter this year, jo? you never share your purchases with us anymore :(

olivia said...

good call on urban chic. they're website is a joke compared to their store.

K said...

Just got an email from Barney's letting me know they don't have one of the two things I purchased five days ago in stock anymore, but they've gone ahead and sent the one they do. I had to go on a mad scramble to find the missing item in my size in my color at a sale price. Bastards!

Good choices here.

etcetera said...

my gripe with shop bop is that i cant seem to narrow the categories. like i pick dresses, but then i want to narrow it further, by occasion or length or something. instead its just pages and pages of stuff that i can never get through. what's the secret?

Anonymous said...

that girl from Emily Grace is NOT a model. She must be somebody's daughter. Cute but definitely not the girl you want showing off three hundred dollar blouses and two hundred dollar pairs of jeans.

T. said...

Geez, is there a male equivalent to your site? This is a really useful blog!

Anonymous said...

tobi.com has terrible customer service.

Three out of the four times I've ordered from them my order was canceled because of an inventory error. Twice I was never even told that my order was canceled. When I finally sent them an angry email, they sent me a discount code as an apology... a discount code that didn't work.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree that BARNEYS.COM has the worst service !!!

The mail was delayed and you may not get what you want. Worst there'll be no explanation. Your complaint would never be attended too. If you call ... they would just say that they already sent a mail yesterday to tell you that we don't have the product.

That's happened to me. I gave them a second chance ... same thing happened.

In conclusion, NEVER EVER TRY TO BUY FROM THIS SITE, YOU'D MISS YOUR GOOD TIME, OR EVEN MISS THE CHANCE TO GET THE SAME PRODUCT FROM OTHER SITE (cause you keep hoping that Barneys.com will deliver the thing to you)