To celebrate the beginning of spring, I recently decided to do a bit of shopping and refresh the options in my closet. Like many of us – whether we admit it or not – I like having something unique and hip to wear. So, I set out excited, happy, and fully prepared to spend some money.
Fast forward a few hours later, and you would find me scowling, empty handed, thirsty, and very discouraged. The romance of shopping quickly slammed into the reality of shopping, and I felt overwhelmed at the options and frustrated as I tried to find my size, color preference, or the components that made up the outfit the mannequin out front was wearing. Also, as much as I try to rid myself of this, I have the bad habit of gravitating towards the same types of products and then getting upset in the dressing room because nothing looks new. Or, I pull one piece in the dressing room, but not the coordinating pieces that capture the entire look, which results in me thinking the fashion industry must do more drugs that I realize.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.
So this is where I was mid-day in my spring shopping experience. And then I walked into a little boutique and met Andrea. She found me midway through the racks, with three ordinary pieces in my hand, all tops, and she started me a dressing room. And then she helped me shop. What was I looking for? What type of style? What did I already have? What size was I? Was I shopping for work or play?
Fifteen minutes later, I was in the dressing room with multiple but well-chosen options, and even shoes to try on with the clothes. As I tried everything on, Andrea got new sizes, different coordinating pieces when I disliked something, and brought in accessories to show how to complete the outfits. She paid attention to my comfort level in certain types of clothing, my style preferences, and then chose additional options based on this information. An hour later, I bought a stack of clothes and spent at least more than six times what I would have if I had gone through the whole process alone.
What’s my point?
Personalized shopping experiences and personal shoppers are nothing new in the fashion world. Now let’s create this in the outdoor and fitness industries. I’m not talking about just providing good service; I’m talking about raising the bar and providing personalized service. I’m not saying meet expectations; I’m saying exceed expectations.
When customers into your store and say they need to buy a ski jacket, first determine if they really need a ski jacket as opposed to another type of jacket and then show them multiple options. Help them find the best fit, teach them about the different features, find a styling and color that complements them. Then, show them ski pants that they may also want to consider, as well as midlayer and baselayer pieces. Help them understand how the pieces function together and how they will perform. If a customer responds well to these suggestions, talk about socks, hats, gloves, goggles, or helmets that also make sense for the conditions they will be in. Stay with your customers. Be helpful and sincere, not pushy or general in your suggestions. Tell them your name. Make them feel special and customize the pieces you pull. Don’t hand them a jacket and disappear.
What if your store allowed customers to call in ahead of time and describe a trip, sport or fitness pursuit that they needed gear up for? What if, when customers arrived later, possible options were already set-aside for them? What if customers were guided through each department by one salesperson or kindly introduced to a new salesperson each time they moved to a new department? What if you had iPods, cell phones or other accessories available to show customers how these integrate with compatible jackets or packs?
What if customers started spending at least six times what they would have without the personalized service?
© Dawn Rae Knoth 2007 (reprinted exclusively by SNEWS® with permission)
Dawn Rae Knoth is a colorist and surface designer specializing in the outdoor industry. She provides clients with valuable market direction information allowing them to succeed as industry leaders. Her services include trend forecasting, color merchandising, and textile design. Crave, Dawn Rae’s free newsletter, highlights emerging trends and interesting products. For further information on Dawn Rae’s services or to receive the newsletter, email her at email@example.com or call 541.389.2525. Visit www.dawnrae.com to view her work.