By Emma Vickers for HOLM
Closures and portfolio consolidation are sure bets in the game of fashion retail results bingo, right up there with unseasonable weather. While the e-commerce boom has admittedly left the sector with too much space on its hands, bricks and mortar has been unfairly dismissed as a dying channel. This has resulted in customers feeling short changed when their local store gets the axe or, worse, watching it slowly decay due to under investment.
Here are five reasons it’s more important than ever to invest in stores and make sure the baby doesn’t disappear with the bathwater.
Stores are your IRL touch point
Stores are not mere sales channels, showrooms or even click and collect locations; they are the physical touchpoint that convinces a customer to choose you amid the hundreds of brands fighting for their attention online. Stores are where the customer decides whether your online credentials measure up in real life (or ‘IRL’ to use the millennial parlance). Imagine your brand on a first internet date – does it look like its photo? Putting the same thought into your brand’s physical appearance as you do to its online image, creates trust and the right impression across all channels.
Customers want a useful experience
Customers need a reason to visit your store. Value no longer cuts it, they can get this online. So why not offer them an experience they can’t get elsewhere? This can be as simple as basic customer service – a human interaction versus a chat bot – or something more sophisticated like in-store styling technology. Neither of these require huge capital investment, but a reimagining of the store staff’s role from stock minions to brand ambassadors.
Stores are data goldmines
New GDPR regulations mean that you have to ask for a customer’s permission to store their data. This is not only a legal permission, but an emotional one. People know their data is valuable and guard it accordingly. While it’s easy for a customer to dismiss an online check box begging for their marketing information, there is a wealth of opportunity to collect their data in store. The very shopper that is reluctant to give their email address to a chat bot but would happily share it with a sales assistant who’s just helped her find the perfect outfit.
Stores can reduce returns across all channels
A well-designed store experience that educates a customer about a fashion brand’s style, size and fit will result in reduced returns across all channels. The majority of pure play fashion personalisation software relies on the user inputting or ‘guessing’ their measurements, body shape and preferences. Not only is this time consuming, it produces flawed results (and more returns) from the off. ‘Face to face’ service not only provides the opportunity to give the shopper instant and accurate recommendation, but also ticks the customer experience box. When your brand ambassadors make shoppers feel good, they will buy again (and again).
Customers enjoy stores (when done well)
While the internet gives us convenience, it doesn’t provide the immediate gratification of a pay day purchase or the social side of a shopping trip with friends. Both these scenarios involve a strong customer expectation of a positive experience. Providing this results in brand loyalty and sales across all channels. Present your customers with a shoddy store experience and you could lose them forever both on and offline.