You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

The Wrath of the Customer: Why Fashion Retailers Need to Invest in the Customers' Needs

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/04/2016 Advertising Week

2016-04-04-1459800140-5709153-AbandonedStorefronts.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-04-04-1459800140-5709153-AbandonedStorefronts.jpg By St John Dunne, US Managing Director & Client Partner, Rockpool

Customers have outgrown huge retail brands. They are no longer accepting of generic marketing and customer service practices that newer companies – both inside and outside the fashion industry – have already put at the heart of their brand DNA.

To elucidate this point, let’s look at the likes of retail brands: J.Crew, GAP, and Abercrombie & Fitch. While all of these companies are working hard on their brand and product updates, they have neglected to invest in a larger customer experience.  In particular, Abercrombie and Fitch has a long way to go: the retailer was revealed as America’s least liked brand in 2015 by the recent American Customer Satisfaction Index

So, what happened? Without a doubt, many fashion retailers have negated to see omni-channel as the future method for connecting with their customers. If they so much as looked outside of their industry to companies such as Starbucks and Warby Parker they would see tailored personalized customer experiences that drive sales and enhance loyalty. When each channel is treated independently the customer has to make a conscious effort to start and stop each transaction.

Here’s how brands like the aforementioned can avoid this fate and achieve loyal lifetime customers, simply by putting them first. Personalized customer experiences are no longer just a perk, they’re an absolute necessity and brands need to reflect this by reacting strategically.

Closing the gulf between employee and customer

Employees on the frontline of customer service – both online and offline – often take on a sizable chunk of consumer crises firefighting. Customers want to be able to speak to a member of staff who can help them resolve their issue as quickly as possible. It means the dark ages of companies like Abercrombie and Fitch employing staff on the merit of their looks as opposed to their skillset are coming to an end as businesses’ find themselves held increasingly accountable. It’s clear that brands cannot afford to lose customers to negative interactions with their own employees. Luckily, we can avoid their wrath…

Consumers want clear, concise information in real-time; this grinds down to an intelligent use of data collected across multiple touchpoints. Brands need to arm their staff with a rich pool of data ranging from insights on customer location, device, time of day, season and so on, prior to any interaction with a customer.

Data captured from all channels must be funnelled together to give a single customer view. This can prove to be a difficult task in businesses riddled with silos that create hiccups in the user journey, but with the correct process and partners in place it can be done. It requires the dismantling of channel silos and replacing them with a single retail model owned by a new role such as a ‘chief customer officer’ and supported by a customer-centric executive team and board.

Help your customers glide effortlessly from on-to-offline

Sometimes it can feel like there’s a moat around the online realm and no bridge to connect it to the real world. Buying online and picking up in-store, setting clothes aside in a dressing room, showing all purchases in one place are no longer best practices and should be a baseline. While the larger fashion retailers play catch-up, newer fashion companies such as Everlane are accelerating. Everlane has partnered with Postmates, an on-demand delivery company, to send a limited number of stock keeping units direct to people in New York and San Francisco.

Our recent customer research reinforced the continuing desire for consumers to make full use of both the on-and-offline shopping environments to test out products first, with 59 percent saying they like to try items ahead of purchase. Make sure your physical retail space and the employees who populate it all support interactive experiences with product showcasing and comparison.

To achieve the omni-channel goal you will need to develop a unified commerce capability that provides a single view of inventory and keeps order across the enterprise. By putting in place real-time, accurate inventory awareness across all channels, distribution centres and stores, brands will be able to better co-ordinate the movement of goods. This, in turn, offers brands the capability to provide a host of accommodating services: from physical in-store purchases, personalized digital experiences, right down to integrated digital systems that combine speed and reliability i.e. ensuring a package is delivered to your home within two hours.

Fully integrate tech to enhance the customer experience

Once customer experience and operational improvements have been evaluated, they can be plotted onto a roadmap. In today’s fast-paced times, brands can’t afford to wait around for long-term IT cycles or year-long initiatives. This roadmap must combine a monthly versus yearly multi-phase strategic planning with tactical execution, analytics and iteration. The end result should be an intuitive and quick response to evolving customer demand.

As a key facilitator for situational and behavioural personalization, you need to identify the customer as early as possible in each interaction. By using a combination of in-store location proximity technology, cross-channel loyalty programmes and process re-engineering, brands can gain a more holistic view of each consumer and ensure that their product, employee and online interaction is tailored specifically to the individual. This also means there can be tailored offers, which will reduce the stigma of never paying full price because a sale always exists.

Retailers need to stay ahead of the game when it comes to customer experience. Innovative tech, customer data and new frameworks for using it allow us to have a much franker conversation with the lifeblood of our businesses: the customer.

We’re going to see more disruptors both inside and outside the industry crop up leaving no option but to keep up with the pace of change, because our customers certainly won’t wait around – something Abercrombie and its school of retailers are learning the hard way.

More from Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon