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Retailers must match consumers’ great expectations

The effects of the global recession on fashion businesses have been wide and varied, but ultimately it’s how
the recession has directly affected shoppers that has had the biggest impact on their bottom lines.

This week we’ve been trawling the responses from UK consumers to our survey on shopping habits, which we’ll unveil on at the start of June. As you can see in our News section, the headlines are pretty stark. Customer loyalty, to brand and retailer, has been hit significantly by the pressures of the financial squeeze on wallets and more than half of those we surveyed (52%) will now happily buy elsewhere if they can get a better deal.

In short, brands and retailers are going to have to up their game in terms of their interaction with and service to shoppers if they want to keep them. This is very interesting when coupled with our coverage a few weeks ago of a survey which showed that consumers are now treating many of the high street chains as brands in their own right, and valuing them as highly as some of the big names. Topshop and Topman labels, for example, are already seen as badges of honour among younger shoppers despite their price architecture being below other comparable brands.

Another interesting example of this can be seen in the Asos results announced this week, which show yet again
a company in rude health despite the downturn and indeed a business that has managed to keep and grow the loyalty of its consumers where others are failing. Asos is nothing short of a phenomenon and it manages better customer service without ever ‘meeting’ its customers in a store environment. How does it do that?

The answer is in the constant excitement and interaction it has with its customers. They are guided through their purchase, given suggested looks, encouraged to watch videos or revisit the site for daily drops of new product.

This almost daily conversation keeps Asos front of mind and keeps shoppers coming back.

Likewise, Topshop has a much deeper relationship with its shoppers than just the physical purchase experience.

The brand has associations with London Fashion Week as headline sponsor, is backed by any number of cool celebs, and has become a champion of British fashion credentials globally with its high-profile US store launches.

Fashion retailers need to woo, nurture and cajole their shoppers into choosing them over the competition and if they don’t you can bet one of their rivals will be more than happy to steal them. And that’s unlikely to change even when the financial climate improves.

The next generation of shoppers has been brought up with an in-built value filter, innate understanding of technology and a very demanding nature, and as those shoppers mature they will expect retailers to exceed their expectations on all levels if they want their cash.

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