Assuming that your customers are all the same is possibly the biggest error that could be made and the crucial part of growing any business is knowing intimately who your customers actually are.
Understanding the profile and lifestyle of the consumer very well is key to determine that the most appropriate product is developed to cater for the relevant customer segments and to ensure that the product information is effectively communicated through an integrated marketing plan and packaging policy.
Various factors have an influence on the profile of customers and knowledge of these will assist in the categorisation of customers and apply the most fitting methodologies that are a prerequisite to best serve them. Generally the typical segmentation of customers is determined by their behavioural needs, their psychological characteristics and the environment wherein they exist. The strategic objective is to provide the customer with products that have a combination of integrity, quality and service, represent great value and create an enjoyable shopping experience in a pleasant environment that best suits the target market.
Behavioural influences are those that in the main are habitual and accommodate the personality traits of the customer. The motivating factor for making a purchase can be varied. A consumer may not be too influenced by the on trend level of the product but will possibly prefer to have an offering that will be durable, practical and functional. If these expectations are not met they will no doubt reject the product whereas at the other end of the scale these factors may be of lesser importance.
The potential customer could be more influenced by that which is socially acceptable and reflected in the media such as magazines, television and exhibited by role models like sports stars, actors and professional people who will play an important part of the selection process. The perception of fashion could differ considerably and therefore the fashion retailer will have to rely more and more heavily on practices that will assist in analysing their particular customer’s profiles or that which characterises them more accurately.
Other behaviour traits possibly are where purchases are infrequent and will exist based on a need that a shopping experience will be more of a special assignment to acquire appropriate clothing for special occasions such as returning to work, weddings, holidays or sports events.
Buying habits may include the infrequent visit to stores in order to replace the entire wardrobe on a seasonal basis in order to remain relevant and replace those clothes that have reached their performance expiry date.
The satisfaction of psychological needs such as status and image is a strong motivator in the selection of the styles that will help to achieve this objective. Included will be the perceived expectation that needs to be met by the social circle in which the purchaser moves or reflects a level of wealth that is enjoyed.
There might be the natural drive to exploit the best bargains available and some shoppers may even develop a hobby out of pursuing the greatest values available at a maze of factory and value outlets.
Trawling the glitzy malls and frequenting coffee shops and eateries can be the past time that successfully satisfies the social interaction compulsion.
The more down to earth factors that influence the shopping patterns can be the geographical location where the customer resides. As an example is that a definite difference is detected in style preference between the urbanized to those who live in remoter places where the differing demographics have a probable direct relationship to the social economic environment particularly in terms of gender, occupation, age emphasis, household income and life stage.
With the advance of till technology and the introduction of loyalty programmes it is now possible to gather a wealth of information that describes purchasing behaviour. The information that is harvested is the details of the product purchase such as style, colour, size, fit and price. The frequency and time of purchase and the relationship to other purchases can be analysed as well as the determination of the average spend per customer in different geographical areas is invaluable in building the profile of the customer base. What is of particular importance is the ability to assess the success of promotional launches and the impact they may have on other products during the time of the promotion.
There are some fundamental factors that need to be considered in terms of the population composition which needs to be taken into account in the longer term. A prime example is the greater number of older people who are still economically active at a much riper age. This is evident especially in the case of those individuals who were born at end of World War II when there was a significant baby boom and those babies are now embarking on their so called twilight years. With improved medical technology, healthier eating and lifestyles together with the explosion of health clubs as well as the trend to extend the years of economic activity has had the effect that the twilight years are going to be somewhat longer than in the past.
Another key factor is that the post war boomers enjoyed the availability of easy credit and a large number have accumulated high levels of debt with the result that when they should have been saving for their retirement years and reducing mortgages instead are landed in the situation that retirement is delayed or even worse some will have to continue working until their last.
Forensic auditing studies on mortality rate (SALT Table 1 – 1984-1986} compared in the National English tables for the period 2011 to 2013 showed that the mortality rate improved by 2.5% and 1.9% per annum for men and women respectively. Therefore the assumption can be drawn that a similar improvement going forward is likely to lie at least between these two extremes.
The impact on retailers is the need to make provision to accommodate the active aged in their store design. Store layouts will be required that are easy to shop with minimal confusion, lighting has to be bright and colour corrected to account for failing vision, noise levels need to be reduced to cater for the increased use of hearing aids, product weights must be considered and include an increased carry out service, font sizes need to be larger, shelf heights will have to be such to minimize bending and reaching while packaging should make for easier carrying and opening, queuing philosophies should be reviewed as well as the fitting rooms to permit the comfortable trying on of garments.
At the other end of the scale, the younger generations typically born in the seventies and eighties known as the millennial generation or generation Y are evolving into an extremely different personality to their predecessors and have become legendry in their prolific spending, their brand awareness and because they are technologically advanced this makes them more adventurous. Such characteristics may be in pursuit of their career aspirations as they tend to progress through various places of employment while carving their career at a whim in contrast to their parents who often followed the same occupation for a lifetime. Because these cool, energetic participants are screen junkies they are easily influenced by social media trends and fads. They are therefore able to make informed comparisons and as a result the loyal practice of only shopping at one destination is almost non-existent which places a real test on the retailers to capture a core base market.
Marketing is left with an incredible task to innovate and communicate with this new breed of customer that is arriving on the scene at a rapid pace. Retailers have to start thinking like their customers as in place of window shopping this new breed trawls the internet and stays in contact all the time via the social channels and consequently the retailer need to ramp up their image amongst the channels through financial investment in top class copy writing and superb photographs as well as actively interact on line with their customer. The location of the on line sites should, as with bricks and mortar outlets, be in the best possible space where the greatest exposure to the target customer through the measurement of the number of click troughs is achieved. The offering must be easily found on websites that are advertised forcefully among local advertising vehicles, public relations efforts, promotions and word of mouth.
A popular trend emerging amongst digital enthusiasts is the support for blog sites where the brands are able to speak to an audience in a different light. There is a word of caution in that what they tell the people must be well accepted because should it be met with resistance the consequences could be equally disastrous. Examples exist of some successful fashion blogs that attract thirty thousand hits a day and may have up to two hundred thousand followers on twitter and therefore brands are happy to pay a lot of money to purchase advertising space in these forums. Some brands spend more than fifty percent of their advertising provision on electronic channels and collaborate with bloggers to gain the most editorial exposure. Many designers view the bloggers as their spokespersons as they develop strong relationships with customers by offering fashion tips and advice, the provision of educational material and programmes that help with the customer decision making process as well as at the same time enhancing brand awareness.