“The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurement anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
– George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Understanding your customers’ fashion needs, preferences and behaviors is more important than ever in the age of the always-on, connected consumer.
These days, customers tend to be less loyal and more discerning. They can buy almost anything, anytime, from anywhere. Staying on top of their constantly changing needs means listening to what they’re saying and taking their ‘measurements anew’ with each and every interaction.
Rent the Runway and Rebecca Minkoff are two examples of progressive retailers that are listening to their customers and responding with innovative, personalized experiences that meet their ever-evolving needs.
Rent the Runway
As more people began to embrace the sharing economy, Rent the Runway (RTR) brought the trend to high-end apparel by allowing customers to rent rather than buy the latest fashions. When customers need a holiday dress, something to wear to a gala or New Year’s Eve party attire, RTR lets them rent or buy clothes and accessories directly from their website. They can do so with a mobile app or by visiting a store where they can try on clothes and accessories and rent them on the spot.
With each interaction Rent the Runway learns more about each customer’s preferences, behavior and needs. When a customer returns an item they’re asked to complete a ‘happiness survey’ that gathers information about how many times it was worn, how well it fit, etc. These insights around style preference and product feedback inform future interactions, design and initiatives that continuously improve the customer experience.
Rent the Runway also partners with other retailers to offer added value. Previously, RTR owned the inventory on their site. They now let partner brands use their platform to rent out their inventory. It’s a win for everyone: Rent the Runway gets new revenue streams, partners gain access to a new channel and a treasure trove of customer data, and customers get a broader selection of items to choose.
The clothing rental business, or clothing-as-a-service, enables fashion retailers to get more value out of their products, much like Uber does with cars and Airbnb does with homes, while helping customers constantly update their closets with the latest fashions.
Rebecca Minkoff is another apparel retailer responding to their customers’ constantly changing needs. The brand brought what customer loved about their online experiences to their brick and mortar stores. Understanding their customers’ need for personal connectivity, they found ways to deliver frictionless experiences and build community, both online and in their physical stores.
The changing rooms in Rebecca Minkoff stores are digitally enhanced, connected walls that show videos and compelling content, encouraging interaction. Shoppers can touch the wall to request prepared fitting rooms, change lighting or order drinks. The connected walls recognize the items in the fitting rooms through RFID and identify other options for customers including different sizes, colors and accessories to finish a look. Instagram and selfie-ready backgrounds, personal connectivity and information and experiences that engage and inspire are all part of the Rebecca Minkoff connected customer experience.
Technology Led Digital Transformation is Changing the Customer Experience
While customer needs continue to evolve, new technologies are emerging at an unprecedented pace, providing apparel retailers with new ways to learn about and engage with customers. Just as Chatbots became a standard online feature, retailers are introducing robots to interact with customers in brick and mortar stores. Artificial intelligence is being used to greet customers and allow them to walk out of the store without the need to checkout. Augmented reality is being used for digitally enhanced fitting rooms like the connected wall in Rebecca Minkoff stores. Virtual reality is also enriching the customer experience. The outdoor apparel company, Merrell, uses a 4D, multi-sensory experience that simulates extreme landscapes using an Oculus Rift headset to give their thrill seeking customers’ memorable customer experiences.
Staying Ahead of Your Customers Constantly Evolving Needs
With all the disruption in the apparel industry, survival depends on a retailer’s ability to:
- Understand their customers’ behavior and motivations based on real-time customer analytics and insights
- Leverage new technologies to deliver innovative, relevant and compelling customer experiences, and
- Continually learn, taking their customers measurements anew each time they see them.