"Neither of the two channels can survive alone long-term"
The spoga horse FASHION DAYS 2020 will not only be presenting current fashion trends, they will also occupy themselves with the economic development of the specialised trade for equestrian sport fashion. In general, cognitions gained from the fashion industry are worthwhile for dealers. In the run-up to the trade fair, spoga horse talked with Dr. Simone Kerner, Area Manager Marketing & CRM at Applrath Cüpper GmbH, about the current challenges and areas of activity of the fashion trade.
Which global mega trends are currently particularly influencing the trade - especially the fashion trade?
Dr. Simone Kerner: The trade and also the fashion trade have been undergoing radical change for years. This is above all due to technological developments such as the digitalisation, which not only affect the sales and communications channels, but indeed the entire process chain from the production of fashion, through to the payment process. Parallel to this, the relation to the customers is also changing fundamentally. Not least because of the digitalisation, the customer now has the choice where, when and how he consumes. Here, he has long since been playing an active, emancipated role compared to in the past and he decides how important he considers fairly traded and sustainably manufactured products to be and how important quality, service and price are. When assessing the products, he increasingly relies on the assessment of other customers rather than that of the dealer himself. This faces the trading companies with new challenges of interacting with different segments of customers across the entire so-called customer journey and shaping the offer in the various channels available. On top of this, the fashion trade also has to address the demographic development, primarily the ageing society, which in turn also brings with it changed fashion demands and the way they are purchased.
What is particularly important for the customers today when buying clothes?
Dr. Simone Kerner: It is difficult to make a general statement in this connection, especially since the purchase motivation is an important influential factor, i.e. is the purchase needs-oriented, does it arise from a certain occasion or is it spontaneous. Basically, there is still always the customer segment that appreciates high quality and which is less price-sensitive. The demand for sustainable fashion also plays an increasingly more important role. Especially own brands benefit from the desire for a good price-performance ratio, however a large majority of the manufacturing brands find themselves battling more and more frequently against dwindling brand loyalty. On the other hand, for many customers the focus lies more and more on the price. The phases in which the customers buy fashion at regular prices are becoming shorter and shorter. Price campaigns that quite often end up as "discount battles" at the end of the season, are meanwhile no rarity and they put even more pressure on the trade.
Beyond the product and price, the customer has equally high demands regarding the purchase itself across all of the channels. On the one hand, the requirement for convenience in finding the right goods as fast as possible is particularly mentionable here, which the dealer often does justice to today with "curated" product ranges and an appropriate shop design. Regarding the desire for inspiration, a wide and attractive presentation of the goods that also pick up on the latest trends is important for the customer. Long since established services, such as an extended period of time for exchanging goods, as well as omnichannel services that link up the online and stationary channels with each other, such as "Click & Collect", "Click & Reserve", as well as "Return to store" are indispensable nowadays.
What can fashion dealers do to make buying on-site more attractive again – or is there simply no turning back?
Dr. Simone Kerner: The bricks and mortar fashion trade is still important today and always will be in the future, as long as one anticipates the customers' expectations at the stationary channel. The much-cited "experience at the point of sale" and personal consulting are the key factors here.
Basically, it is initially eye-catching and "activating" window displays, a shop design that corresponds to the target group, the attractive presentation of goods as well as making sure the goods are constantly available that the multichannel suppliers should at best ensure via the online channel as a quasi extended store shelf.
Enhancing the product range with fashion-related items such as jewellery and cosmetics can also lead to a further upgrading. Of course, personal consulting is per se decisive for opting to purchase on-site rather than online and is thus a big opportunity for the stationary suppliers to bind the customer long-term. In many cases, the dealers already offer "personal shopping" today, which precisely cashes in on the desire for individual consulting services.
But above all shopping becomes an experience if one invites the customer to spend more time on-site, i.e. with food service offers and regularly alternating themes and offers on special areas, as is often the case with pop-up stores. Exclusive customer events are also tools that have often already been successfully implemented. The customer thus experiences diversity and an element of surprise as well as the necessary convenience. Whereby, it is not only the dealers, who are called upon to make shopping attractive on-site, but also the cities and the communities that have to provide a corresponding transport infrastructure and sustainably invest in classic city marketing tools.
In spite of the described possibilities, on-site shopping should be enhanced by the online channel. Depending on the target group, the weighting and significance of this channel has to be individually defined by the dealer. Neither of the two channels can survive alone long-term, as the stationary commitment of global dealers that were originally purely online providers, such as Amazon & co., demonstrates.