As Featured On WOMENinRETAIL
Imagine shopping with your friends and realizing as you look around the store that you’ll have to ask the manager for the “plus size” department. From experience, I can tell you it’s not ideal. With the average woman in the U.S. fitting a size 16, millions of people have dealt with this same familiar scenario, all because of outdated corporate norms.
That’s why I was thrilled to see Old Navy’s new Bodequality approach to commerce. It’s more than a marketing campaign; it’s a customer experience overhaul. Old Navy is bringing together fashions of all sizes so that women can shop the entire store rather than being relegated to the corner. And it’s a major shift that other brands should be paying attention to.
EXAMINING OLD BAD HABITS IN RETAIL
I can’t tell you the number of stores I simply walk by because I know they probably don’t stock apparel in my size. Or even worse, enduring the humiliation of discreetly asking the manager if they kept my size in the back, apparently not worthy of being featured on the floor. It can start to wear on a person and cause shoppers to fall into a set of habits that don’t exactly create a wonderful brand-customer relationship.
E-commerce is one such compromise that many people find themselves making, missing out on the in-person experience. At first, I was excited about online shopping — finally I was able to search for clothes that came in my size without any hassle. Tons of brands that have a meager selection in their stores actually do manufacture items I like to wear, and so I got used to going online to find them. But even online there are issues. Rarely are models similar to me, so I’m never sure how the clothes will fit until I try them on.
These experiences have led millions of perfectly good customers down a path of “making do,” and often brands are totally oblivious.
THE NEW INCLUSIVE APPROACH IN RETAIL
The magic of Old Navy’s Bodequality strategy is that the brand is embracing who its customers really are and showing that it’s committed to a great shopping experience for everyone. Body positivity is a mental state, and while it’s great for advertisers to add plus-size models to their marketing content, Old Navy has truly embraced the whole package.
Aside from the obvious revenue incentive — millions of shoppers buy larger sizes than the typical floor range of two to 12 — Old Navy is also strategically rethinking the entire journey. Shopping together is a huge part of the in-store experience, so why separate friends when you don’t have to? And now Old Navy’s customers won’t have to ask a manager to help them get what they’re ready and willing to buy.
In a typical merchandising exercise, it’s hard for brands to understand those important psychological elements that make shopping a social, enjoyable activity for everyone because so many consumers have already adjusted their ways. It’s hard to learn that people hate having to ask a store manager for their size if they’ve already switched to online shopping.
What Old Navy did was force the conversation to go deeper to see what it could be like if it was redesigned with customer experience as a priority. Suddenly, the convenience of online shopping doesn’t always win out; instead, the fun and inclusivity of in-store shopping re-emerges at the forefront.
It’s not just Old Navy — other brands have started implementing efforts to include everyone. For example, ASOS leverages online video footage to show how products fit on a range of shapes, making it much easier for consumers to picture what an outfit will look like at home.
And body shape isn’t the only element that can cause a consumer to rethink its approach to shopping. More than three-quarters of Gen Z (78 percent) believe that gender doesn’t define someone the way it used to. Adidas has been vocal about gender equality, and that value makes its way to the brand’s website. For example, Adidas displays results for sneakers and clothing that cross typical “male” and “female” categories rather than limit what shoppers see based on the old “black” or “pink” design tropes.
A VALUE THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
More than ever, consumers are voting with their wallets, supporting brands that share similar values to their own. Inclusiveness is one value that’s universal. The more that brands can create inclusive experiences, the more shoppers feel heard and the more they shop. As more brands pick up on that reality, their competitors will fall behind if they don’t.
Brands need to take the inclusive movement seriously. Truly inclusive commerce isn’t about getting on a trend. Inclusive commerce stretches well beyond the images in an ad campaign. It spans the entire shopping journey across digital and in-store. More brands should take a cue from Old Navy and brands like it to re-examine how they could make ALL their customers feel represented.