Here’s how fashion-lovers shop and why you should care as a fashion business owner

My summer ’16 started out in the concrete jungle of Jozi, where I relocated to for a new job. By the time summer holidays came around, I was super-excited to return home to the scenic coastal city of Port Elizabeth and spend some much needed quality time with family, friends and of course THE BEACH.

I needed (more like wanted) a new bikini and dragged my mom along to a well-known local swimwear store.  I came across this cool-looking two-piece in the section adjacent to the surfers’ gear, tried it on and was in-love. My only concern was the amount of my booty that was revealed. These days it seems that bikini brands create bottoms that show more and more booty, dubbing them ‘minimal and/or medium coverage’. I also fitted a few one-piece items, with and without full butt coverage.

Two hours later, my brain was racked and confused by how much booty I’m willing to show off on the beach and my mom was ready to run away from her indecisive daughter. I decided to go for the minimal coverage, ‘cause a girl ain’t always going to have this body and I really loved the atypical design of the two-piece. My mom also convinced me to take a second bottom, with medium coverage, i.e. normal amount of butt out, to mix and match with the top. The cost was over my budget but I felt it was good quality and I haven’t bought swimwear in over three years, so swipe away sister (while biting my lip).

Excited to model my latest bikini, I went for a swim at the beach and you will not believe me when I tell you how I had to keep pulling up my bottom whenever the waves hit me, to prevent ending up butt-naked and I mean ‘no coverage’!  I was therefore so grateful that I took the second pair of bottoms together with my purchase.

As a swimwear shopper, it’s apparent that a number of influences determined the what, where, when and how of my purchase.

Here are five steps involved in the buying process that you, as fashion business owner, should be aware of:

  1. It starts when the customer has a need or want that’ll be fulfilled by using your product. In some cases, customers might be unaware of what it is they need/want. You may have recognised a gap in a certain market based on your experience in dealing with customers and create something that’ll make their daily life a bit more convenient or glamorous – depending on the target group of course.
  2. The next step would be for the consumer to ‘scratch their itch’, which typically starts with looking for information on where to find the product that’ll fulfil their need. Sources of information vary. It could be from memory or from recommendations that colleagues, friends and family have, what’s on social media, the internet and advertisements on radio, tv and/or billboards.
  3. Depending on the number of options that result from this information search, your customer will choose between available options. This process of choosing will take into consideration the physical (objective) features of the garment, e.g. size and the preferences (subjective) features that are appealing to him/her, e.g. style, colour, design, etc. Marketers try to influence the decision of consumers by presenting the alternatives in comparison to competitors; however this works better with inexperienced buyers and not too well with experienced buyers.
  4. Some business owners make the next step of the buying process their main focus, i.e. customers’ spending money on their final choice of product. When business owners care about money only, it reeks of stinking customer service levels. The seller of the product/service is therefore also an important aspect that your potential customer will evaluate along with the price, availability of credit arrangements and/or return policies, if applicable.
  5. Lastly, the post-purchase experience of your customer measures the expected vs the actual use of the product and its benefits. If their expectations are exceeded, this is awesome because you’d get not only a return shopper but a definite recommendation to other like-minded individuals that fall within your target market. And as is obvious, a disappointment in the functioning of the product/service will lead to loss of future potential customers and a bad rap of your brand. This aspect of the buying process is very important when customers purchase expensive items, as there’s a great chance of doubt that comes with spending a lot of moola. Many luxury brands put in place customer-service centres that keep in contact with consumers to ensure that all’s good.

Can you think of any other aspects that are involved the consumer’s buying process? Let me know in the comments.

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