Color Conundrum: why can’t I find items that match?

The human eye can distinguish about 10,000,000 colors, but the average website shows a palette of 16 colors to help shoppers narrow their search. We’ve seen Elon Musk shooting a rocket ship into space and Uber testing self-driving cars, but there isn’t a single innovator that has tackled the ability to shop by specific color… Until now.

My fruitless search for nightstands in a specific shade of green inspired me to create Vishion, a mobile application that allows shoppers to search by specific color. The nightstand nightmare was just one example in series of color-searching events that left me scouring the internet for answers.  Whether it was finding groomsmen ties to match my bridesmaid dresses or pillows to match my new ottoman, I am constantly looking for items based on color.

I’m not alone either: 85% of shoppers say color is the primary reason for purchasing a certain product. 

If we shop for specific colors, why can’t we search?

Blue search
These items are all classified as “blue”

Why haven’t retailers solved the color-search conundrum? It’s not because the problem has gone unnoticed.  Around 52 percent of shoppers said it was difficult to search for furniture by color online, with 33 percent having difficulty searching for apparel.

Shoppers not only suffer from search difficulties, but also from receiving items that are a totally different color compared to the product image online. The color error and disappointment from shoppers leads to unnecessary disappointment and costly product returns.

Merchandise returns account for more than $351 billion in lost sales for U.S. retailers, with 70 percent of apparel is returned due to wrong size or color. Of the shoppers we surveyed, 47 percent had returned a product because it was a different color than expected.

If we struggle to find items by color, how can we expect to find complementary products?  Many shoppers, 55 percent to be exact, have abandoned a purchase due to concern over finding matching items. If products lack the proper color identification,  retailers can’t suggest products that actually match.

Suggestion tools fall short

When search results and suggestions are the same, cross-sell opportunities are missed

If you’re trying to imagine how you can match your purchase with other items, you’ll realize that typical suggestion tools fall short. When it comes to decor and apparel, the suggestion section focuses primarily on four things:

  • Items you’ve viewed on their website
  • Products typically purchased together
  • Products that are similar to the product you’re considering
  • Popular items or items from the same brand

Shoppers want to see items that match their search results by color, follow fashion trends and fit their unique preferences when looking for additional products to match a dress. With current technology, we shouldn’t have to rely on a personal shopper to find that level of direction and inspiration.

When retailers can participate in a marketplace that recognize the shoppers’ unique preferences and goals, both parties benefit. One-third of retailers cited “targeting and personalization” as their top tactical priorities for 2018. That’s a good move, considering 64 percent of consumers want personalized offers.

Should retailers care about color?

I couldn’t find mint ties to match the bridesmaid dresses, so I had to get the ties custom-made.

We’ve been listening to shoppers color woes. Whether it’s finding the right shade of jeans or receiving a product that doesn’t look like the image, we know how frustrating the color journey can be.

If you have a color-search story, let us know! We will put your name on the list to preview Vishion before everyone else. 

Your shopping experience, online or in person, matters to retailers. More than 50 percent of retail organizations will invest significantly in customer experience by 2018.  This is most likely due to the estimated $1.6 trillion lost annually as a result of poor service. Any difficulty finding or understanding a product is a serious customer experience flaw that can lead to lost sales.

It’s odd that retailers haven’t focused on color when you consider decor and apparel design revolve around appearance. Most homes typically have a color scheme and outfits generally match by color standards. In their defense, color is a bit trickier than other pieces of product data.

What color is this dress?

Do you remember the blue dress debate of 2015? Or should I say the white dress debate of 2015? The image captured the attention of the world because it made us wonder: why can’t we agree upon the color of this dress?

The shoppers’ issue is not, “will my neighbor think I’m wearing a white or blue dress?” The problem is whether or not the image of the product is an accurate representation of the color. Blue-dress-sleuths discovered that the image of the dress had been altered, making it appear lighter than it is in actuality. To a certain extent, this is the same problem faced by retailers.

It’s impossible to require all retailers to meet the exact same photography standards. If the image isn’t accurately portraying the color of the product, you can’t rely on its hexadecimal code to properly direct shoppers. That is why Vishion is taking the steps to better identify the products true color for retailers to use in their product descriptions.

The colors used to create furniture and clothing are identified when the product is being created, but the crucial data is usually lost as the item goes from conception to production. The missing step in the journey means the appropriate color classification is not typically included in the product description. This forces almost all retailers to put their products into basic color categories, limiting color-focused features.

If a retailer understood the specific color of this dress, they can accurately suggest a matching bag and shoes. It doesn’t matter if the dress is blue in my opinion, as long as it matches the shoes that go with it.

Vishion is the solution

Vishion is a mobile application that allows shoppers to search for products by specific color across retailers. Working with strategic partners, we are helping retailers identify and classify their products by specific color.

We are using our blog, Vishionary, to better understand retailers and consumers needs in the Charlotte market.

If you want to learn more about Vishion, tweet me or connect with me on LinkedIn.

-Sam, Founder and CEO of Vishion

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