While news of the retail apocalypse has been overblown for most retailers, department stores still face existential challenges from vendor brands, off-price retailers, resellers and pure-play online retailers.

When it comes to assortment and content merchandising on sites, department stores have long held key advantages over both vendor brands and Amazon to help customers find the right products. However, as Amazon increases its line of exclusive apparel, works with influencers on its new The Drop collections and builds vendor brand stores for premium brands like Calvin Klein, department stores should further invest in content and tools to retain primacy in their categories, as well as remain differentiated from mass-market retailers.

Most department stores offer the basics, with 94% of brands tracked in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Department Stores showing products on models, and 52% now offering details on the model’s dimensions so customers can better understand how products might fit. At the same time, department stores have pulled back on interactive sizing guides — which declined in adoption from 46% to 30%.

While sizing and fit information is crucial, department stores are wary of customer blowback when these tools fail to accurately size customers. Instead, department stores should provide sizing information and give customers the confidence to easily replace products that don’t fit with free in-store or online returns — information promoted by 52% of brick-and-mortar retailers on the product page.

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