Fashion With Isoken: Retailers, Fashion Brands – Strategic Partnerships Needed
Fashion brands invest considerable sums in marketing and public relations, seasonally or otherwise – the goal? Manufacturing the desire for the products created across specific categories, with the end result (hopefully) culminating in a retail purchase.
However – this crucial step is frequently left completely out of the brand’s control. Despite the fact that all PR and branding efforts are focused on this final validation by the end consumer, brands are quite often happy to leave this step to a third party to determine.
The retail purchase and by extension – the retail experience (the context in which the customers interaction with the actual product occurs) is possibly the single most important step in the fashion cycle.
So why don’t more brands (exclusive of brands with their own flagships) take more of an interest in this process? Collaborating with retailers on how to carry through the brand perception from launch to sale should be a priority. Afterall, a positive brand experience can create a life-long customer, whilst a negative one can turn one away for good.
Although the wholesale channel is still an emerging one in the Nigerian fashion scene- multi-brand retailers being a nascent trend at best, buying budgets are rapidly increasing as the consumer becomes more sensitized to the budding retail fashion eco system. Designers also have a multitude of online retail channels, varying from commission based third party selling to direct operation of their own site like Nigeria’s Cart.com.ng. The knock on effect? A less than uniform end-consumer experience across these channels.
We advocate constant communication with retailers aside from the usual stock- in stock out conversations. Engaging your retail partners in your brand story and how it can be communicated within the context of their sales channel is critical to increasing sell through.
Engaging the sales force at retail level is arguably the consumers most important touch point in a brick and mortar store. Product and brand knowledge are just as important as service in the purchasing process. Rarely perceived as a fundamental strategic function, the ‘front- line’ is responsible for supporting marketing resolutions and reinforcing brand identity.
Prioritising retail service as a crucial factor in their brand marketing elixir, fashion companies can ensure their brands are not inadvertently tarnished by something as innocuous as a lack of brand insight by the sales force or a less than stellar customer experience.
Product training is primarily the responsibility of individual brands, however, where they are unable to commit the resources to training the sales teams, it stands to reason that they make brand- training a priority by giving their stockists all the information needed to empower the sales team. Unfortunately we work in an environment where merchandising and sales performance is far more important to budding fashion companies, sacrificing the short term for the long term. The misalignment of the retailers objective vs the fashion brand can cost not just money but missed opportunities.
Nevertheless, forward thinking brands are investing in a more direct relationship with retail stockists with market –specific information from the retailer who has a ‘helicopter’ view so to speak with regards to consumer behavior across different brands. For example, where specific collections are manufactured with a particular consumer niche in mind.
A brand that makes efforts to convey their brand story and engage the sales team at retail level will see enormous results in its sell through. This is simply because a sales specialist with more information and understanding is more likely to suggest the brand to customers; consequently – more suggestions increase the likelihood of conversions to sales.
Partnering with your stockists and committing to product training makes for better business along the value chain. It incorporates service as an extension of the marketing function and this necessity also includes seeing sales specialists as pivotal brand champions at retail level.
We believe open and direct communication on both sides, regardless of the sales channel, about both challenges and opportunities enhances product performance, and is the key to achieving your brands full potential.
FASHION INTELLIGENCE is powered by ZAZAII. Look out for tips, tricks and ideas for fashion businesses to stay ahead of the curve this year. ZAZAII is a multi-brand retail store specializing in African fashion, lifestyle and beauty brands. They drive discovery for new and emerging brands in the African space. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter @experiencezazaii . For more visit www.zazaii.com
Isoken has been in the business of fashion since 2009 as the Creative Director of Obsidian, and as half of the CEO Duo of leading lifestyle brands ZAZAII and LPM Nigeria. Isoken is multi-award-winning, multi-hyphenate entrepreneur committed to growing the fashion industry in Nigeria. Follow www.obsidianfashion.com www.lpmnigeria.com . Instagram & Twitter @experiencezazaii @theobsidianway @darified