Incorporating Adaptive Clothing Design Thinking to Close the Empathetic Deficit in Online Retail.

By April 8, 2019 June 1st, 2020 No Comments
Adaptive clothing

Many online retailers struggle to demonstrate empathy in their websites and put themselves in customers’ shoes to give that “extraordinary customer experience,” despite the abundance of resources, knowledge, and skills in the web and e-commerce space. Businesses, web designers and marketers tend to focus only on technology and creative graphics while failing to really understand how customers seek a better online experience. 

One of the key issues online customers still encounter is the inability to navigate websites with ease. Although these websites are usually designed with impressive images and stellar speed, the fundamentals are often ignored, which gives rise to the empathetic deficit. Yes, these creative marketing pieces can drive traffic to the website but customers will begin to lose interest if they can’t find what they are looking for in an easy and efficient manner. Unintuitive checkout process, poor site search, product filtering and refining issues, unclear or hard to find product information, and disengaged and mechanistic web designs are some of the drawbacks that have still not been addressed by most businesses, including multi-billion dollar retailers such as TheBay.com. TheBay.com is a half decade old website with poor site search options, and lacks product filtering and refining system, and has stumbled in trying to improve its online operations.1 

Closing the gap: 

Consider the thinking behind adaptive clothing design. Designers of adaptive clothing consider the exact touchpoints of how their customers interact with the products. They then take all intricate details into consideration to ensure proper function, minimize challenges customers face when using them. Like any other business, adaptive clothing designers are also in a profit-making business, but they have a reversed approach where they truly understand the customer to provide a lasting solution in the process of making profit 2.

How to simulate adaptive clothing design thinking to improve e-commerce website design. 

Customer Journey Mapping: A visual representation of every step of customer engagement with a website3. It aids in telling the story of a customer’s experience, from the initial encounter to hopeful repeat purchases. It helps focus on particular customer needs at different stages of the buying funnel; provides an outside perspective on sales processes; points out gaps between the desired customer experience and the one actually received; highlights development priorities, and allows to concentrate efforts and expenditure on what matters most to maximize effectiveness.4

Once the journey is mapped designers can use technologies to create empathy and humanize the web experience by:

  1. Connecting the gaps between an in-store and online experience (e.g. incorporate the aisle number, whether the product is in stock or not). 
  2. Search Bar: In this Google-Amazon driven world, it’s the first element that captures the attention of the online customer – search
  3. Precise filtering (not a random size, price, on sale filter) enables customers to search for products by type material and nature of construction of the product. 
  4. Megamenu and frozen headers: Designed to provide site users with simple top navigation and detailed options below
  5. Mobile App: A great way to create a differentiation over your competitors and repeat business
  6. Persona-based targeting: A personae based marketing precisely delivers what the customer is searching for based on their social interactions, past search behaviors, where they go, what they do, and their requirements to target the right customer niche.

An average e-commerce retailer may not need all the above technologies, so it is recommended to use them appropriately – but customer journey mapping is critically important to develop an exceptional web user experience. 


  1. Strauss, Marina. (2018, March 28). Hudson’s Bay CEO says ‘no sacred cows’ as retailer looks to shake up business. Retrieved from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-hudsons-bay-posts-first-profit-in-eight-quarters-but-misses-2/ 
  2. Matchar, Emily. (2018, May 8).  Designing “Adaptive Clothing” For Those With Special Needs. Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/designing-adaptive-clothing-for-those-with-special-needs-180968976/
  3. Salesforce UK. (2016 March 23). What is Customer Journey Mapping & Why is it Important? Retrieved from: https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2016/03/customer-journey-mapping-explained.html 
  4. Ibid Cornershop Creative.(2017 April 12). Go Big! Use a Mega Menu to Improve Your Navigation.Retrieved from: https://cornershopcreative.com/blog/use-mega-menu-improve-navigation/)

Waruna Kulawansha, MBA (November 2018)

Image credit: Ezrahomecare