Soft Good Retailing: Is it a Rubik's cube or simply 1+1?
On behalf of : Anup Kumar
With the empowerment of consumers by technology in various ways, the style of shopping has changed over the past few decades and if given a deeper thought shopping for apparels has seen the biggest shift. Is it only to do with the changing life style of consumers or is it also a lot to do with the adoption of retailers to the changing life style? If it is more to do with the second option ever wonder what more needs to be done?
Yes, retailing is not just about understanding the consumer behavior but it is more about acting in a way so as to match the customer expectations and then supersede their expectations. Focus on downstream supply chain has become dominant in this industry and so has the complexities within the various stakeholders increased to better match the customer needs. Each stakeholder understands that - collaboration within the organization is as important as collaboration outside the organization.
However, the argument continues on how far and in what way collaboration with the consumers can be increased. In recent times retailers have evolved in many ways to address customer needs, such as:
- Used 'Big Data' to understand consumer behavior
- Expanded their designer base to turnaround latest fashion within 4-5 weeks (e.g. 'ZARA')
- Offer trendy fashion at a lower cost by shifting their production unit to Asia, etc.
So, retailers now provide customers the apparels with latest fashion, within budget and as per their need. What next?
Today's consumer is empowered by technology, i.e. today even before buying an apparel they would like to check similar designs in various online stores, upload photographs during trials of new dresses and then purchase the one which is most appreciated by their friends on social network. A real time appreciation of dress is much warranted by today's consumer. As a retailer are we prepared to meet these expectations? Yes, this is what a sales personnel in the store does, and the personnel is empowered by an understanding of the consumer's buying pattern using 'Big Data'. Let us take our sales personnel a step forward and replace them by a 'smart mirror'.
This 'smart mirror' lets the consumer try all kinds of dress that are in collection and that are in the pipeline. The consumer just needs to stand in-front of the mirror and choose the type of apparel they need - a jacket, a t-shirt, a suit, trousers, etc. ; just select the color and designer from the list and the dress appears in-front of you. As the consumer stands there and makes his choices, the mirror continues to notice his changing requirements, matches it with his past buying behavior and throws its suggestions. Thus the consumer can have real time appreciation for multiple dresses and designers can test their upcoming collections in real time. Retailers can also take this as an opportunity to expand their stores presence by implementing these mirrors as a kiosk in multiple locations.
So it turns out that it is only a matter of understanding the consumer and to continuously adapt to their changing needs. Just match 1 change of the customer with 1 change within and retailers can continue to supersede the expectations of consumers - simply 1+1 strategy.