Jason tipped me off about a new website launched in April for Martin + Osa, a spin-off of American Eagle Outfitters, that has built a full-motion video merchandising area called "Shop by Outfit"
M+O stylists have put outfits together that customers can buy all at once, and the outfits are shown on real models that move around as you view the page. You can zoom in by rolling over an image, and the model does a 360 degree spin so you get a feel for what the outfit looks like (well, on the perfect model anyway).
If you click to refine your outfit results to just "Moonlight," "Seashore" or "Sunshine," (which I don't see serving much purpose), the girls whose outfits don't fit your criteria gingerly walk out of the scene.
Shopping by outfit can save a shopper time as traditionally, one would need to navigate to different categories and add items individually. And by choosing from pre-selected sets, the fashionably clueless get some ideas of how to dress.
Shoppers can also build their own outfits using "Layer Your Own Look," (link removed, feature no longer exists) which turns traditional site navigation on its head - essentially you can shop multiple categories without leaving a page, and see how items "work" together. Looks can be saved for a future visit or added to the shopping bag for checkout.
More and more fashion retailers are adding some form of "shop by look" merchandising. Other stores include Rampage, Lacoste and Arden B (a quick search for "shop by look" in Google gives you more examples). When you click on a look, you see all the items listed individually on the same page, so you can check off the items you want. The problem with this is you navigate away from the look unless you're savvy enough to open a new tab or window to hold your place. Martin + Osa smartly uses AJAX to show detail without navigating away from the page:
Product details can be viewed by switching tabs. The tabs may be too subtle here to notice, but it does help pack more information in a smaller space.
M+O also provides detailed product images that show extreme close-up views of fabrics, pockets and other item details.
For most online merchants, this type of rich media investment simply is too expensive to implement. But as more and more large retailers add video and Flash applications to their e-stores, customers are going to become more spoiled and will expect to see 360 degree product views, products in context (clothing on people) and very detailed product images. This is reasonably easy to implement for any retailer using static images. Though this is also not cheap, it's far less expensive than what M+O has done.
It's also important for any retailer who does use a "shop by look" approach to allow customers to see cross-sell detail information without clicking away from the look page.
A side note: as I mentioned in my interview with Rich Page, American Eagle has one of my favorite navigation menus in terms of design, placement and usability. I'm happy to see Martin + Osa doing the same.