Being “fashion-forward” in retail isn’t just about the new designs and styles that you bring to the table (though they are a big factor). In today’s retail landscape, fashion-forward also entails being innovative and progressive with how you engage with customers.
In other words, achieving retail success in the fashion industry goes beyond selling beautiful or trendy clothes. It’s also about offering experiences that make clothes shopping a delight to your customers.
Not sure how to accomplish this? The following fashion retailers are setting some great examples of how to provide winning shopping experiences. Have a look at what they’re doing and see if you can follow in their footsteps:
Stitch Fix is a subscription-based service for clothes. Members complete their style profiles and share information about their body type, lifestyle, and preferences. Stitch Fix will then take that data and then curate a personalized selection of items called “Fixes” for each user. Members then receive these Fixes in the mail, and they have three days to try on the clothes and decide what to keep and what to return.
What’s great about Stitch Fix is that it leverages a combination of technology and human insight when curating their Fixes. The company uses an algorithm to generate recommendations based on each user’s profile, but a real-life stylist handpicks each item for the customer. These stylists also read feedback from users and incorporates their input into each Fix.
This enables Stitch Fix to efficiently personalize each member’s experience without sacrificing that all-important human touch.
Proprietary fashion algorithms may not be in cards for you, but one key takeaway from Stitch Fix is its use of analytics and human insight. It’s important to recognize the power of making data-backed decisions in your business, but don’t forget to add that human touch when running your stores.
For example, you can use data to drill down on sales and determine your top performing items, but don’t forget to chat with your associates to get qualitative information on what your customers want.
Everlane is an e-tailer that carries modern basic clothing and accessories. What makes it unique though, is that it has a radically transparent way of selling its merchandise.
Everlane shares detailed information about the factories that they do business with, so customers know that their products are sourced from ethical suppliers. Not only that, but the company also reveals the true costs of each item. Everlane breaks down the costs of their merchandise, allowing shoppers to see exactly how much every item is worth.
An increasing number of consumers are looking for transparency when they shop, and they are more inclined to buy from retailers that source their merchandise through ethical means.
As we cited in our article on fast fashion, an informal study of 390 consumers found that “over 75% of respondents agreed that they would be willing to pay more for clothing produced using responsible labor practices.” Similarly, a YouGov poll found that 74% of shoppers “would be happy to pay an extra 5% for their clothes if there was a guarantee that workers were being paid fairly and working in safe conditions.”
If your business stands for ethical product sourcing, be sure to communicate that to your customers. Perhaps it would benefit you to be more transparent with your retail practices, so your customers know where your products are coming from and how they’re made. This will help you build trust and allow you to differentiate yourself from other retailers who remain hush-hush about their practices.
Late last year, Rebecca Minkoff and eBay made waves when they unveiled the Connected Store, a tech-centric shop that enhances the shopping experience. The store sports a large, touch-screen mirror display that lets shoppers browse the latest looks, order drinks, and a request a fitting.
The store’s fitting room is also equipped with a high-tech mirror that lets customers adjust the lighting and control the environment. The room also uses RFID to recognize each item in the room, and when the shopper needs another size or color, she can request for it simply by using the mirror’s touch screen controls. Then when she’s ready to buy, the customer can request for an associate with a touch of a button.
The elements in Rebecca Minkoff’s Connected Store may be out your budget (we reckon those touch-screen mirrors don’t come cheap), but one key takeaway here is the retailer’s focus on the shopping experience.
Rebecca Minkoff is offering a highly interactive experience that lets customers engage with the brand. See if you can apply some of those elements in your location.
Your customers may not be able to order drinks via a touch-screen display, but why not offer them refreshments anyway? Or, your store mirrors may not display the latest runway looks, but perhaps your associates can showcase the latest styles using iPads.
Also note that while some of the technology in the Connected Store may seem a bit advanced, they’re actually not too far off into the future. RFID, for instance, is becoming more available and affordable these days, so it could be worth looking into the technology to see if it’ll work for your stores.
Macy’s has made huge strides towards helping customers shop across devices and channels. In addition to its typical click-and-collect initiatives, the department store lets customers browse its local inventories online, so customers can either order their products and pick them up or have them delivered on the same day.
Macy’s also lets mobile shoppers see if a product is available at a nearby local store so if they’re on the go, they can easily swing by and check it out.
Macy’s of course, is not alone in its efforts to let shoppers browse and buy across multiple channels. Plenty of retailers have similar initiatives, so if you don’t have any omnichannel programs in place yet, you risk getting left behind.
If you haven’t done so yet, start connecting your offline POS system with your ecommerce site. This is the first step to letting customers shop across your physical and digital stores.
Once you have your system set-up, you can then offer services such as buy online, pickup in store, to enable your customers to purchase items from your website and pick them up in your physical location.
If you’re a Vend customer, you can do this easily by either integrating your POS with your online shopping cart or by using Vend Ecommerce. This will enable you to have a single view of your inventory system so you can track and sell items from different channels.
Apparel retailer Johnny Cupcakes may not have touch-screen mirrors or advanced algorithms, but they sure have a very interesting store concept: their stores all look—and even smell—like bakeries.
At Johnny Cupcakes, shirts are showcased in baking racks and industrial refrigerators, and their stores actually smell like frosting. The retailer even makes use of pastry boxes instead of traditional shopping bags.
According to founder Johnny Earle, he came up with the cupcake concept because he wanted to set his store apart from all the T-shirt shops out there.
“We have so many choices,” he told Forbes. “I always ask myself, what are the ways a complete stranger would talk about my business? What would get them to talk about my idea? I want to recreate that excited feeling I used to get at Christmas. I want people to feel like kids again.”
Creating unique in-store experiences isn’t just about using fancy technology. It’s about giving customers something they can’t find anywhere else.
Keep this in mind whenever you’re trying to reinvent your store. Come up with concepts that none of your competitors are implementing, test it in your stores, and if it takes off, go full steam ahead.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to be innovative and fashion-forward. You just have to be creative with how you address your customers’ needs. We hope the above-mentioned examples and takeaways gave you some ideas on how to accomplish this.
Are you implementing any innovations at your store? We’d love to hear about them. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.