How to become an in-store stylist
One issue that brick-and-mortar retailers are finding increasingly difficult to deal with is the competition of online stores who deal in fast fashion with excellent delivery and returns policies. Consumers have been turned on to the fact that they can easily purchase a haul of items, have them delivered the next day (for free in some cases), and simply return the items that they don’t like, free of charge, for a speedy full refund.
Before this online shopping phenomenon took off, one of the major selling points for physical stores was that customers still prefer trying things on, but if it’s this easy, why bother going in store at all?
For this reason, it’s more important than ever that retailers adapt to the changing market and provide a unique in-store experience for the consumer that re-establishes the need for consumers to come in and see us face to face, and of course the most unique thing that you have in your store is you!
Studies on consumer shopping habits have shown that women especially tend to shop emotionally, and are much more likely to buy an item on impulse because it made them feel good in that moment. By going the extra mile to assist in creating that elated feeling, we can directly boost sales and also create an emotional connection to your store which will in turn promote brand loyalty. Of course, it’s not all about telling people that they look great in X outfit- There’s much more to styling than that, so here are some tips for you and your staff when it comes to giving your customers the Gok Wan treatment!
1. First thing’s first!
It’s a no-brainer, but all staff should create that strong positive first impression that consumers crave upon entering any store. This does however go double for any staff that will be handling the styling needs of a customer.
In order to offer styling assistance, it’s essential that the stylist be approachable in the first instance. This way, the customer is more likely to open up and be honest about what it is that they’re looking for, and also to be relaxed enough to allow the stylist into their personal space.
All that is required in this case is Customer Service 101: Smile; be approachable and friendly and use open body language to build a rapport with the customer that will put them at ease in your company.
2. Make it official
It’s one thing to tell customers that you can help style them, but it’s another to make a professional styling service a part of your brand identity. Use signage in your store to promote the fact that you have this service to offer, and by doing so reinforce the concept in the minds of your customers. Quality in-store advertising (and potentially special accoutrements for stylists such as badges, measuring tapes and lanyards) will also reinforce a sense of pride amongst staff in offering this service too.
Use this step a an opportunity to make your brand synonymous with quality style advice- Something that your customers could never get from a website!
3. Walk the walk
All of the steps that we discuss here are important, but this is perhaps the most fundamental to get right. It is absolutely essential that you invest time into training staff (and yourself!), so that the service provided is accurate and that you all know what you’re talking about!
Take time to understand the difference between body shapes and sizes; cuts of fabrics and styles; fabric qualities and how they relate to wearability, from washing to how they hang on the body. There’s a lot to learn, but it’s more than worth it to be able to impart this knowledge to customers and have them looking and feeling their best in your stock.
Consider holding regular staff training sessions with a seamstress or fashion designer- You could even ask a fashion tutor from a local college to come in and teach you a thing or two.
Ultimately, your staff need to be able to go through the entirety of your current season’s stock and talk easily about which body shape would suit each piece, what are the benefits of each fabric, and put together an on-trend outfit that fits a specific brief.
4. Having said that…
Sometimes it’s perfectly justified to throw out the old rule books about how we should wear clothes. Fashion has always been about taking risks and standing out from the crowd, so whilst tip #3 is extremely important, it’s also important commercially to pass onto the customer the idea that they can pull off any outfit if they like it.
This is where knowledge and customer service meet in the middle and generate the most sales. As we said before- emotion plays an enormous role in generating sales, and a good stylist is one who instills the confidence in the customer to maybe try something different and find a love for new styles or trends.
An excellent working knowledge of the shop floor will help stylists do this, so again, regular training will boost your profits long term.
5. And finally!
All of the above should help you get your bricks-and-mortar store on the map when it comes to a VIP service that customers will love. Many websites offer digital styling services now, but nothing digital can yet come close to the quality and feel of a personal face-to-face style service.
If you choose to really push this concept as a USP in your store, you could benefit long term from being seen as a hub of fashion activity, and as such, fashion lovers and budding stylists and designers will scramble for a place in your store. You can give your budding stars a spotlight, and use their flair to create a culture of exciting fashion innovation for your customers that will keep them coming back just to see what’s new. Give your stylists the opportunities to shine by having a featured stylist of the week, and allow them to dress mannequins and put together feature walls. By also naming them, they can generate client bases and customers can pick a favourite and ask for them specifically… All you have to do then, is enjoy the fashion empire that you’ve created!