Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

How to go bust in apparel retailing – 5: Communicating with customers

Communicating to customers is essential. Here’s how not to do it:

“2009 will see a proliferation of customer touchpoints in the way of stores, mobile devices, social commerce websites, blogs, wikis, etc. Apparel will be more than just a simple product and service. Successful apparel brands will be those that will learn to build a successful brand community across these multiple consumer touchpoints.

Social networking websites, event marketing efforts, designer blogs, online competitions, store advertisements and events and sales campaigns will all have to come together in offering one consistent brand and lifestyle identity. Retailers will need to build or partner with relevant social networks. Retailers will also need to learn to diversify their predominantly print media driven marketing mix and include newer media vehicles.”

“Retailers will need to partner with social networks” How on earth can anyone think such nonsense? Some retailers might find it useful to use Facebook or whatever. But if their target customers don’t have anything to do with social networks, it’s a complete waste of time. And if they do – no-one’s really discovered how to use the Web to create a buzz round specific new garments – even for the tiny miority of customers interested in the Web as a source of clothes shopping ideas – in the way that a PR photograph in a lifestyle magazine manages. Or – to cite the most crucial single medium available any cvlothing retailer – that’s one millionth as important as getting the shopping experience right. From windows if you have them, through how the store looks to mall shopper walking past to – most vital of all – how garments are presented in the store. Recessions are time for cutting out the fat. Self-indulgent games with new computer fads has tio be high on any list of priorities for junking, unless there’s clear evidence your customers are motivated by it more than by the fundamentals

And as for “Apparel will be more than just a simple product and service” – well, words fail me. If getting the right garment – that is a garment that persuades a customer to buy when he or she didn’t intend to – is that simple, how come so few people get it right? Nothing – absolutely nothing – is less simple than developing a range that motivates customers to buy and that’s affordable in a recession. And anyone who can bring themselves to talk about “just a simple product” clearly understands nothing about selling clothes – and is so up themselves that they don’t understand how contemptuous such a sentence is of professional retailers.

Selling clothes at any time is mainly about getting the right clothes, at the right price, in the right condition, in front of the right customers. Anything else (except making sure they pay for the clothes) is secondary. In tough times, getting those essentials right is so fundamental – and so difficult – that if you’ve got the manpower to partner with social networks, the likelihood is you’re carrying too much overhead. Unless of course you’re one of the 0.0000001% of retailers whose customers decide where to buy their clothes on the basis of some Twitterer.