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- Like many aspects of life, the pandemic has altered how customers interact with businesses.
- Business Insider spoke to experts who said retailers’ success depends on pivoting into a lifestyle brand.
- Entrepreneurs should consider hosting classes that match their clientel, and collaborate with other brands to share their customer base.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The coronavirus pandemic has already altered how and what consumers buy, forcing many businesses to rethink their strategies for attracting customers.
In April, a month after the pandemic struck the US, clothing and accessories stores saw a 78.8% drop in spending compared to March, according to the US Census Bureau’s advance monthly retail trade report. However, online retailers saw a 8.4% increase during the same time period.
For many businesses, future success depends on pivoting into a lifestyle brand, says Ashley Alderson, founder and CEO of the Boutique Hub. Her 7-year-old business provides shoppers a place to find unique stores while also offering owners tools such as business education, advertising techniques, and online workshops.
“Every brand has to focus a little more on lifestyle, no matter their size,” Alderson said. “They have to touch on all these different areas of their customer’s life and not just satisfy one piece.”
Transforming into a lifestyle brand is easier than it may seem, Alderson said. She shared three ways that businesses can make the transition seamlessly.
Options trading Offer relevant classes to customers
Some shops are offering workshops — both virtual and in-person — that align with their branding or missions. For instance, children’s clothing stores have been hosting classes on breastfeeding and inviting doulas to speak about childbirth, said Alderson. Clothing boutiques are hosting sewing, cooking, and painting classes for their customers, she added.
Other businesses have found success in the pandemic by transitioning their services to online classes or at-home kits. Sarah and Brice Garrett, the owners of Serrano Wine, took their wine tastings virtual after the pandemic forced them to temporarily close down. Meanwhile, co-founders and sisters Nicci Jordan Hubertand Brooke Jordan sent their hair salon customers Quarantine Color Kits, which provides everything needed for root touch-ups or all-over color jobs.
However, entrepreneurs should be careful about adding too many additional costs to their budgets, said Santiago Gallino, assistant professor of operations, information, and decisions at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “They need to adjust in a way that is smart, so that they don’t lose customers,” Gallino said. “And at the same time, they need to be conscious of the extra investments they may be making.”
Options trading Collaborate with artists and other brands
Think of ways to offer your customers more by partnering with other businesses that might share a similar customer base, Alderson said. For example, a clothing boutique may want to consider selling beauty products, jewelry, or art.
This isn’t a new concept — Target found success partnering with prominent fashion designers to create low-cost collections for its consumers — but it’s become an increasingly important tactic to give smaller brands an edge in today’s competitive market.
“There’s an opportunity to not just offer a trunk show, but more of an ongoing pop-up with a number of different small businesses,” Alderson said.
Options trading Build online options
“In order to be financially sustainable, any brick-and-mortar shop must have an online option,” said Alderson, who’s startup helped physical retailers shift to online sales during the pandemic. “There without a doubt has to be a digital component.”
Businesses must have a website where they can display merchandise and take online orders, but they should also consider live sales on social media platforms, Alderson said. The Boutique Hub has been guiding its clients through the process of using Facebook Live as a tool for these types of events.
“I don’t think brick-and-mortars have to be 100% online to succeed,” Alderson said. “But, they want to have options along with curbside pickup so they are meeting customers where they’re comfortable.”
Retailers should also use their online tools to communicate with customers. This can include sharing details about products and answering specific questions about goods — something larger retailers don’t have the time or bandwidth to do, Gallino added.
“It’s an example of something that won’t drive additional costs but that can give a lot of payback in terms of customers being happier,” Gallino said.
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