Despite all of the paradigm-shifting events that have shaped the fashion industry in the latest years trends show that physical retail is anything but dead. On the contrary effective management of a physical retail store is key to the success of your fashion brand. With so much action happening on the online retail space, we may tend to believe that physical stores have become unnecessary, but far from it, a retail location can allow your brand to access a totally new sphere of interactions with customers.
Physical stores, in fact, can be better understood and managed once we focus on the simple priorities that store managers have in mind to convert visitors into customers.
So now that we’ve clarified what are the goals of a store managers let’s look into all the best practices that need to be followed in order to achieve this result. To help you navigate the topic we’ve divided our article into the following sections based on a three-fold division of the retail experience: locating, exploring and dreaming.
Let’s remember that the primary goal of a customer entering a store is locating a product they’re willing to purchase. It is with this specific goal in mind that stores are managed. In the fashion industry, we can see how – especially in the luxury market – companies tend to simplify the shopping experience by:
In more general terms there are four areas whereby the store manager can act to make the store work and impact the sales revenue.
Again, following the 5-step process discussed in the introduction, all of these tools that the store manager has available are adopted to develop a shopper marketing approach, which is essentially designed around the idea that visitors can be transformed into a customer by planning the right interactions. In developing a management strategy, however, we need to remind ourselves that there’s a fine balance we need to strike between:
Now that we’ve covered the most basic functions which are connected with the location element of fashion retail, it’s time to move to the next stage, which already starts delving into experiential retailing, by looking into the exploring stage of retail.
It’s important to notice that in each of the three perspectives we have discussed: locating, exploring and dreaming also refer to three very different types of shoppers.
In the locating model, the one addressed in the previous paragraph we discussed the mindset of a customer who is looking to identify a place to buy a product, where we can assume that the purchase decision process had already been conducted and that as a result, the customer is simply looking for a location to buy the product physically and make the transaction.
For context, when we mention the purchase decision process we refer to a 5-step process that customers go through before making a purchase. The process entails:
In this second shopping dimension the one revolving around exploration, we’re instead looking into a different model. A shopper who is exploring has not made up his mind in term of which product to buy and therefore:
Customers in “exploration mode” provide store managers and brand ambassadors a broader opportunity for interaction, however, interacting with customers depends on a series of variables which entirely depend on the individual:
This, however, should not make us feel as if we don’t have some control over the success of our interactions.
Because of the human dynamic of store interactions, there are potentially a very wide variety of variables to consider, but the idea that managers follow is that there are two main determinants in the behaviour of customers in stores: arousal and pleasure.
These two psychological dimensions can be conjured through two sets of cues:
Let’s now move to the third part of our article, where we’re looking into a new challenge: converting customers who have undefined needs and wants.
Customers who are “dreaming” are the customers who have undefined needs and wants and maybe skipping between categories and brands to find inspiration for the fulfilment of their desires.
This area of store management is much more undefined as there is no single way to assist customers who are experiencing undefined needs. What managers can do however is to provide trails to explore this yearning in different ways, for instance:
However, we must consider that the “dreaming” customer can be approached from a variety of angles, and in this sense, different types of store experiences can effectively serve the purpose of inspiring him\her to buy. One leading theme that can be found in many store experiences is the engagement in a process of co-creation. A good definition of co-creation can be the following:
Co-creation is an iterative process where ideas are shared and improved together, allowing for a brand to build a strong relationship with its audience. In co-creation, to some extent, a product becomes a gateway to developing higher-tier values which bond the customer and the brand together.
In this sense, the customer gets involved with the process of co-designing a garment and participating in its development. This activity, because of its practicality can really allow to materialise the customer feelings and create a product that is able to embody something which would otherwise be purely emotional.
This category of customers is surely a challenge for many retailers, but at the same time, by developing experiential retail formats we can better assist this audience. To understand in more detail what we mean by experiential retail here’s a video for you.
If successful, however, fashion retailers can make a store provide the same function of a bar, a cafè, or any other entertainment environment, impacting the habit and frequency of store visits, and as we all know, the more frequent the visit the more likely are the conversions.
Now that we’ve explored these three alternative approaches to store management, based on the location-exploration-dream framework let’s draw some conclusions to wrap up the article.
Here we go! In this article, we discussed how to manage a physical retail store by looking into the mindset and attitude of our customers, by making choices, picking priorities and most of all understand the balance between the tangible and intangible experience we want to provide to our clients.
We are certainly experiencing many transformations in the ways that customers shop but at the same time, we need to remind ourselves that according to this location-exploring-dreaming framework we may be much better able to identify what kind of needs we have to satisfy first to make our customers loyal.
In such a disruptive moment for fashion distribution, this framework can help us focus on what matters more for our customer and provide memorable and meaningful shopping experiences.
Don’t hesitate to browse our online blog to access more content on fashion distribution, retail and experiential branding.
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