Actionable Insights for Fashion Retail

The fashion industry is a fast-paced, always-changing environment. In the blink of an eye, styles could be outdated. Those familiar with the industry know just how relentless the climate can be.

This is also true of the multi-billion-dollar retail fashion industry. Not only are stores pressured to keep up with the fashion changes, but there are also visual merchandising changes (in-store), supply management (to know which item would be in demand), managing high turnover rates, etc. All to make sure that the quality of service provided to customers is on par with the brand image.

Companies look towards performing market research of their own to gain insight into their own process. Gaining Actionable Insights into their service standards would help not only in improving the quality and standards of the service provided. It would also allow companies to understand consumer behavior.

Constant Change in Visual Merchandising

Retail stores constantly change the visuals at the stores to reflect new seasons and collections. However, they also change the layout of the store. The theory behind constantly changing the layout is to keep this fresh and unfamiliar to the customers. Allowing the customers to browse and be curious about the new collections.

There are many strategies used when it comes to Visual Merchandising. Essentially merchandising specialist will think about:

  1. The Customer’s Journey
  2. The Product’s Narrative

From there, they will try to understand why customers ‘Do Not Buy’. As the whole point of Visual Merchandising is to connect with the customer and engage them.

Training and High Turn Over

When a store hires a new employee, this new employee is given some form of training before they are let loose on the sales floor. What kind of training did the employee receive?

At this stage, more often than not, a company would train the new hire on the basics of customer service, company SOPs, branding, brand history, etc. On the floor, the employees would have to familiarize themselves with the collection, where each item is placed, how everyday operations work, etc.

These very employees often do not understand or know the concept behind the visual merchandising. Yes, they are briefed on what it is all about – more like a general overview. Not many will understand the concept of the visuals or the Customer’s Journey and Product Narrative. If the employee doesn’t understand, it would be difficult for the employee to share the information with the customer.

It has also been difficult to provide monthly/ quarterly training to improve on the weak points of customer service. The average turnover rate for Hourly store employees is 65%, while retail distribution positions have a 23% turnover rate.

This shows that companies are constantly training new hires instead of focusing the training on their customer service weak points. Hence, these service weak points need to be highlighted during the introductory training.

Finding Weak Points

There are a number of ways companies try to find weak areas to improve on. In terms of products, each branch manager will consistently take note of the best and least popular selling items. These are shared between the outlets and the merchandising manager will move more popular items to the front, as these would catch the attention of the customer.

Another method would be to use Mystery Shopping as a tool for improvement. Many retail companies are using Mystery Shopping to collect data from the customer’s perspective on the approach and methods of the sale staff. This also allows the companies to understand if the staff is following the company SOPs and whether they are effective.

From the data and opinions of the customer, we are able to view the bigger picture as well as get insights into the effectiveness of the companies’ SOPs. The data would also enable companies to spot trends in weak areas.

From my experience, I realized that there is usually one attention area that is often the culprit, whether that be closing the sale, dealing with objections or offering additional items.

These procedures add value to the customer’s journey. The data gives us insightful information and a better overview. From there, companies are able to gain actionable insights into improving their business.