People carry shopping bags in New York, New York, USA, 01 August 2017. A report released today by the United States' Commerce Department showed moderate consumer spending growth in June of this year.US Consumer Spending, New York, USA - 01 Aug 2017

As the subscription economy continues its march toward the center point of all marketing and distribution patterns, many have jumped into the arena; ill-equipped to manage relationships in the channel effectively and efficiently. It’s only natural that this is the case since most fashion designers have leveraged the retail channel to display and distribute their goods.

This dependence on a third party to build a relationship with a customer will no longer suffice as the primary method of acquiring and retaining customers. Most in the fashion industry are new to the concept of building personalized relationships with the customer; much less maintaining those relationships and keeping the customer excited and engaged.

All hope is not lost. It does take work to keep a relationship alive — whether that be marriage and/or friend or business. Here are several tips on how you can keep “alive” between your brand and your customer in the new world.

Personalization

If you want to keep the relationship vibrant, you must begin connecting with your customers in a personal and relevant manner. As such, when collecting data from your customer, first name personalization is a must. No more “dear valued customer.” In today’s world, consumers expect that brands know them personally. Build a relationship between your brand and your customer as if they were the only one you were serving. Consumers demand that. They know you are collecting data about them and their purchases. Make sure that your marketing reflects that level of relevancy throughout the entire process. Without it, there is no way that the relationship can survive.

Offer Relevancy

Nothing kills a relationship quicker than providing a customer with products and services that are irrelevant to their demonstrated preferences and profile. As consumers have shared all of their preferences thru the products that they purchase from you, they expect that you are dynamic in the way that you curate offers that have been assembled in all communication with them in mind. This is the age of “personalized” marketing. You will need to work through a process where you know “Ashley” and communicate to her about styles and fashions that you feel fit her profile and design sense. 

Stay in Touch

As you build your relationship with your customers, you need to be obsessed with the pacing of your messaging and most importantly; whether your customer is opening and engaging with this messaging through the variety of devices and venues that they access — text messages, social media, mobile, apps, self-service kiosks etc. Be mindful that your customer most likely won’t purchase a product from you each and every time, but it’s important to understand whether they are engaging with the messaging, i.e. a lack of engagement will signal early signs of fatigue.

Make sure that you are monitoring reporting and analytics within each venue to better understand what is working and just as importantly, what is not. Be prepared with a set of rules that guides this warning signal. If you sense the relationship is in decline, be prepared with messaging that features personal recommendations and/or “how are you doing” or “haven’t heard from you” type themes. You may want to stimulate the connection by making a special offer for loyal customers like “Ashley.” Don’t make the mistake of waiting months before you observe that “Ashley” has checked out of your messaging. Monitor relationships in real time for fatigue. Inaction is a sure sign that there is trouble.

Surprise and Delight

Our customer’s worlds can become very predictable. What becomes predictable, can be boring to a customer; another sign of fatigue. Plan a significant element of your strategy that is a “surprise” factor. You should program these types of elements into your customer relationships. Maybe it’s a “sneak-peek” or a “special sale” just for Ashley. 

Protect Your Friends

You work and operate in a highly competitive arena. It’s a fight to keep strong relationships with customers when you know that your competitors are doing all they can to convince your customers to become their customers. You must keep close attention to the competitive arena and monitor the marketing and consumer relationship programs they are launching in the market. You don’t want your customers to be swayed by their overt efforts to convince them that their suite of products and/or customer care programs are better than yours. If you aren’t watching and monitoring this…you might see subscriber fatigue turn into a loss of subscribers to your competitors. Always strive to be the best version of your company in relation to your competitive set. Your customers never grow tired of you expressing your appreciation for their loyalty and support of your brand. Remember to say “thank you” periodically to remind them of this important part of maintaining a strong relationship.

Complacency and a lack of enthusiasm for engaging with customers on a personal level is the path to less vibrant and exciting relationships. In today’s retailing world, you can ill afford not to be monitoring these customer relationships in real time. It’s not easy to maintain a strong, engaging and profitable relationship with today’s consumer. This is the work that is required to get the job done.

So few have begun to engage in this way. The path is open now for you to take the first step. Time to get moving — the holiday season is upon us.

Jim Fosina is the chief executive officer of Fosina Marketing Group.

More from WWD:

Beauty Consumers Want to Be Left Alone

Retail is Widening, Not Shrinking

What Millennials Want from Retailers

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