I’m what you could refer to as “real-sized.” I’m a normal woman and, despite the media’s fascination with females who maintain their size zero figure, I’m okay with normal. I mention this because, with the continuing adoption of web-based marketing and e-commerce, it has become easier for me to shop for outside-the-mainstream clothing brands that are not only hard to find, but also have my size. I have done my fair share of sleuthing and found retail outlets all over the country that would have been a challenge to identify pre-Internet.
Two of my favorite retailers recently made changes to their websites. One was a brilliant move and the other was a disaster that should serve as an example to everyone of what not to do.
The smart site is for a Seattle-based retailer called Baby & Company. This business is forging its persona by creating its own original photographs of the clothing it sells. Until recently, Baby & Company used photos provided by the clothing brand, with no way to order online. Now, as soon as clothing comes in, they create their own studio-quality digital photos using a professional model. Once the final touches have been made, the photos are posted immediately on their website. Click on each one, and details regarding available sizes, prices and other information appears. If you like something you see online, you now have the option of buying directly from the website. Baby & Company has invested in a new model that makes buying easier and will pay off as they reach a wider audience.
The other example is a brick-and-mortar store in Michigan called Milieu Style, which also carries brands I like. I admired and took advantage of the fact that they posted product photos, and that you could order online. The owner has changed Milieu Style’s website as well, but she decided to stop posting photos of new arrivals and eliminated any opportunity to order clothes online. She decided instead to send emails to her customer list, announcing when a particular brand is in stock. Her reasoning: she wants customers to call and talk to sales staff, in the expectation that it will build a stronger relationship with Milieu.
Here is an example of a marketing decision that is just wrong. It’s backward. A fail.
When I am shopping for products online – at 3 a.m., for instance – I want to look at the merchandise, know everything about it and be able to order it right away. I am not going to wait until later in the day to call retailers and ask questions. Instead, I’m likely to be on other sites I can buy from without getting entangled with a salesperson, or feel obligated to make a purchase from someone I’m talking to. Milieu Style is pushing me away instead of fostering a stronger relationship.
My advice: When you think about the experience your business provides, consider your own perspective as a customer. When you change something, ask whether or not it will enhance your customer’s digital experience. Choose the opportunity that will strengthen your client connections, not diminish them.