We’ve heard it time and again: “the customer is king.” But thanks to what can euphemistically be called a “sluggish” economy, too many retailers and manufacturers are letting shoppers call all the shots. The result is a pretty uninspiring marketplace with safe products instead of innovation. Rather than newness, we’re getting sameness because everyone’s convinced consumers won’t give fresh ideas a sporting chance.
But as any good coach will tell you, the idea is to play your game—and by doing so, force your opponent play it as well. Obviously buyers and consumers aren’t your opponents—in the best circumstances, you’re all on the same team—but the strategy holds true in wholesale and retail. You should be setting the plays. Now obviously retailers and vendors need to listen to their customers, but you also have to guide them to what’s next. Just like a sports team scores by equipping its best players with aggressive plays, you’ve got to use enticing promotions to boost key looks at retail. These days, customers—both wholesale and retail—are skittish. There needs to be a strategy for getting goods noticed. It’s not enough to simply stock the shelves to see what happens.
Short on time and bombarded by choices, buyers and shoppers don’t always really see and absorb what we’re looking at. We need you to highlight your products’ key characteristics. And, lemmings that we are, we need to know that others think it’s amazing too. You’ve got to bless your selection by giving it the most prominent real estate in your store, dedicating an e-blast to extolling its virtues or touting the press coverage it has garnered. By showcasing your product in this way, you make it covetable and worthy.
Sometimes creating a winner is as simple as committing fully to it by buying deeply into a particular product. For instance, one fall it was impossible to step onto the contemporary floor at Saks and not fall in love with a pair of coated jeans—at least momentarily. The store placed them on every table and every other mannequin. The abundance of this product alone served to make shoppers feel hopelessly dowdy if they were wearing anything else. It shows the power of retail to create demand just by taking an authoritative position. Think back to the days of those ridiculously infectious Gap commercials. Those fresh-faced models dancing to Christmas jingles was the chain’s way of saying “Hey you, you need this scarf!” And in response, we all happily snapped them up.
A great example of how a little creative marketing can create demand is the DKNY Cozy. I had one of these drape-y, shawl-front cardigans about six years ago. I loved it because you could wear it in lots of different ways but I never gave it much thought. Then a few years later, I started noticing DKNY promoting something called the Cozy. Turns out, it was my beloved cardigan. Apparently upon seeing the success and possibilities this item offered, the brand took the ball and ran with it. They gave it a fancy name, created viral videos and trumpeted it on social media. Since then, the Cozy has become a “thing”. There are endless permutations and an equally large number of fans. DKNY made my cardi “happen” with a bit of creativity and showmanship, which boosted the product’s visibility and sales momentum.
Supporting a product in this way gives it the all-important perceived value. And with perceived value, you can transform a good seller into a homerun.
Original image created by Kenny Louie.