This is a guest post by Julie Cobbe, Founder, Fashion Trainer and Presenter with Stylefish.ie
Retailers are entering 2015 with a fashion industry & retail landscape that has never seen such a pace of change. It’s not just an increase in online shopping you must contend with, but you also have to adapt to shifts in how your customer interacts and connects with your brand through mobile phones, tablets and wifi enabled devices in your store.
All of these things are causing fashion retailers to reassess their business models and customer service processes. These days, the model wherein store associates only serve as salespeople just won’t cut it anymore. Retailers need to offer something more than just the ability to purchase merchandise.
A topic close to my own heart within this is the female shopping experience. We all know women are emotional creatures when it comes to fashion. They don’t just buy clothes, they buy feelings. They are buying how your clothes make them feel and how your shop makes them feel. This is something that every brick-and-mortar store should consider. Because in an age of more and more disconnectivity through the use of the internet, what your customer craves is something real.
When your customer (especially your female customer) has an amazing experience with your shop or brand, this facilitates an emotional connection that leads to loyalty, high retention & high referral rates. All good stuff for your bottom line. I believe one of the key challenges for fashion retailers right now is in providing this amazing experience for your female customer through every touch point in your store.
One of the obvious ways you can achieve this is in giving your customer access to trained personal stylists who can interact and help them in a unique and meaningful way. Here are my thoughts and tips on empowering your staff to become in-store personal stylists.
1. Train your staff to have a better understanding of body shape styling.
Having a detailed understanding of various body shapes will give your personal stylists the confidence to do their job, and to more importantly, have a very unique understanding of not only your customer, but your shop floor and brands.
Trained personal stylists should be able to go through your new season collections, get marking styles and ideas for each different body type, and then deliver a unique and personal element to your customers’ shopping trips.
2. Your personal stylists should have the ability to both stick by the styling rules and the confidence how know how to break them.
A great personal stylist will have the confidence to stick by the body shape style rules, but they should also exercise creativity with trends, accessories, and different fabrics to have fun with the customer and be flexible in their approach.
This also means your stylist should have an understanding of your shop floor and products like no one else, seeing the shop as a whole and not just the products or items they may have a liking for. This is essential when thinking about ABV and bringing a commercial reality to your stylist’s role.
3. Create a culture and reality where your shop is a place of discovery for your customer and an exciting place for budding stylists to work.
Your trained personal stylists should have the ability, support, and tools to create elements of discovery for your customer.
You can, for example, allow your stylists to create weekly ‘looks’ on in-store mannequins to inspire your customer. Attach your stylist’s name to the mannequin with details on how the customer can meet them, and add clever signage with info about all elements used in the look.
4. Teach your personal stylists to embrace the customer not shy away from them.
Most women do like to get help but they have to trust the person giving it to them. Educating your customer on the fact you have an in store personal stylist by having fun and friendly signage is so important to building this trust and in showing your willingness to go the extra mile.
This also supports your stylists’ in their role. Training your stylists ‘how’ to approach your customer, what your company culture represents and the appropriate approach for your shop as well as the questions they should ask the customer will all help to break down barriers with your customer and help your stylists be the best they can be.
5. Train stylists on how to make a good first impression.
Well-trained staff should be able to make that all important connection with your customer while being able to quickly assess their needs.
Your personal stylists should make your customer feel relaxed and at ease from the moment they meet. This can be achieved using subtle but powerful body language elements like making good eye contact, smiling, looking the part and being confident (but not intimidating) in their approach.
Once they have achieved this, the customer is much more likely to open up, explain her needs and worries and hence give your stylists the knowledge they need to recommend items and looks their customer should try.
6. Empower your Personal Stylists to create their own customer database.
Styling is a very personal and unique experience for your customer.Your customer now has a special relationship with the personal stylist that helped them. Empowering, supporting and equipping your stylists to capture vital customer details like their body shape, preferences and purchases means you can personalize their shopping experiences on an ongoing basis, market to them in a personalized way and run VIP events using your stylists as your key drivers for your VIP customers.
Final thought. Personal styling provides you with the ability to create a fun and intimate experience for your both staff and your customers; and as we all know, keeping these two parties happy is a winning formula for your retail business.
Stylefish offers companies, brands, retailers and women access to a professional and fun niche fashion brand that runs fashion masterclasses and events swell as retail and personal stylist training programmes. We also consult with retail companies on how to utilise fashion and training in revenue stream enhancement and creation. We are passionate about the business of fashion! Log onto www.stylefish.ie for more or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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+.