When exploring options to develop and grow your fashion business, there are many decisions that need to be made.
However, before embarking on any of them, a fundamental matter has to be attended to, one that shapes the strategic behavior of the business.
As businesses develop and invest their resources to scale and access new markets, one of the most important strategic decisions that have to be made relates to understanding whether the business follows a product or market orientation.
In this post, we’re going to explore what are the benefits and limitations that come from each orientation and how you can find out which “school of thought” you are following with your organization. With no further ado, let’s dive into the topic.
Product\Market Orientation and Organisational Culture.
A fashion company is likely to find itself following a product or market orientation mostly due to its organizational culture.
Organizational culture is defined as a set of values and beliefs that impact management philosophies and contribute to creating a sense of belonging in the organization that ultimately shapes employee behavior.
By looking at your company’s organizational culture, its history, at the “myth of the founder” you may be able to tell, whether your business, traditionally has been following a market or product orientation, because of the values and mindsets shared in the organization.
- What Does Product Orientation Mean?
If you follow a product orientation then your business will be following a philosophy according to which, the primary goal of the business is to offer products and services with high intrinsic quality. This degree of quality goes beyond what customers may be able to appreciate – or understand – but can be assessed by industry experts.
As a result of this approach, companies that are putting more emphasis on their product will be more prone to invest in innovation, so that through continuous improvement, an organization will be able to maintain high standards of quality.
At the same time, being too product-focused can provide risks. This is because sometimes companies don’t realize that they are not always competing in the market through their products, but mostly through their overall value. Companies following this approach may realize that customers may not be able to understand or recognize the intrinsic qualities of these products.
Moreover, customers are not always buying a product due to its quality, as they take into account its symbolic value. Certain brands, for instance, are perceived as valuable to customers because they provide a sense of belonging and identity, not necessarily because of the craftsmanship involved in the manufacturing process.
What Does Market Orientation Mean?
On the other hand, we have a market orientation. Market orientation is a management mindset based on the belief that the main objective of the business is to achieve customer satisfaction.
A market-oriented company will prioritize the establishment and reinforcement of relationships with its customers. This will be a consequence of the company being able to understand customer needs and satisfy them in the most effective and efficient way possible.
At the same time, there are some risks connected to a market orientation. First of all, customers don’t always go through a full customer journey when buying a product, they are likely to follow a pre-established habit or pattern. In other words, once they find a product they like, they tend to buy it again and again. Moreover, a company that is trying to follow the market, will risk losing some of its identity and edge.
How To Find A Balance Between the Two Orientations.
As we have seen, both orientations provide benefits and limitations. Ideally, companies don’t have to settle for one or the other extreme. There can be ways in which an organization is able to connect to the best of both worlds.
One approach to doing this is by connecting the innovativeness of a product orientation to specific market segments. Using marketing theories like “Jobs to Be Done” a company can better understand why customers buy a particular product and how they use the product in order to “get a job done”. If a company is able to understand how a product is being used, then it will be better able to make improvements that matter to the customer.
On the other hand, a company should be able to use a marketing orientation to pursue an education of its customers, so that they will be better able to appreciate the innovativeness and intrinsic quality of the products that are offered in the market.
As a result, these two orientations will not be in potential conflict but will be synergic and brand-building.
Where Does Quality Fit Into a Market or Product Orientation?
As a result of what we’ve discussed so far, we could extend our analysis and see how quality becomes a relative concept. Many companies in the world of fashion pride themselves on high-quality production. In reality, however, we can see how there are two different approaches to quality which can be broken down as follows:
This approach to quality refers to a product’s intrinsic characteristics. These characteristics relate to a company’s skills and competencies throughout its “value chain” and supply chain. This type of quality ultimately relates to the companies’ suppliers, procurement, and raw materials.
This dimension of quality instead relates to the concept of quality as perceived by customers when they choose and consume a product. This idea of quality has to do with the information, knowledge, and competencies that customers may have available.
As a result, we can see how having limited access to information can completely change the perspective that customers acquire as they try to establish the level of quality of a product. This is because ultimately customers may not be able to recognize product quality.
A company to counter this issue should try to understand what are the determinants of a product’s perceived quality and make sure that the elements of intrinsic quality can be seen as aligned with the customer’s ability to tell products apart.
Great, now that we’ve clarified the distinction of both product and market orientation, we can move to draw a few conclusive remarks.
As we’ve seen, a product or market orientation relates to a company’s mindset and organizational culture. In this respect, there are benefits and limitations with both orientations, but there are also ways to build upon the benefits that both orientations provide and develop a strong management approach for your company.