Archive | September, 2011

Hi. My name is Lily, and I’m a shopaholic.

30 Sep

Whenever I don’t feel like doing homework, FX saves me by having a How I Met Your Mother marathon on. Which is why I’ve been immobile on my couch for the past two hours. The last episode featured Lily divulging her secret shopaholic tendencies to Robin. She has 15 credit cards and a huge amount of credit card debt that she has kept secret from everyone until now. This is all the byproduct of her shopaholic tendencies. She is addicted to buying things (shoes and clothes in particular). There are flashback clips of her buying shoes from one store on several different occasions, all of which are when she is upset about something. This strikes a chord with me since I know that I have an emotional relationship with shopping too. It isn’t called “retail therapy” for nothing after all. I know that when I go shopping I instantly feel better when I buy things, and when I leave the mall with nothing I feel like I wasted my day. I think this resonates with a lot of people (women in particular). What is it about buying that makes us feel better? Do we equate “stuff” with happiness? What contributes to this? After pondering questions like these, it seems like this attitude of buying and acquiring things and linking that to positive feelings is a result of our culture. T.v. shows promote it (Sex and the City.. another guilty pleasure of mine), advertisements endorse it (if I buy a Fiat, I will be as happy, beautiful, and successful as J.Lo), and our economy is supported by it. We live in a world that revolves around commerce, with retail being a big part of it. Through mass media we have been brainwashed into thinking that objects are status symbols that we can identify ourselves by. We are happy when we find another item with which we can promote our self-image.

Watch the episode here to see what I’m talking about:



Your own personal fashion boutique

20 Sep

I mentioned a few entries before how social media is starting to be used for commerce purposes. There is a new website that takes this to a whole other level. This website is called Shop My Label and the beta version was launched yesterday. It is a website in which anyone can set up their own online fashion boutique using brands and merchandise from over 1,000 different brands. You market your boutique through your own social networking profiles like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. This is a way for brands to lure in new potential customers. People viewing these boutiques are the friends (or followers) of the boutique “shopkeeper” and therefore transfer their trust over to the brands displayed. The retailers and brands control the product prices, but the shopkeeper controls what merchandise to feature in their shop. The shopkeeper receives 5% commission on each item sold and other benefits when they recruit more individuals to set up shop. The shipping is also free. I think this is a genius idea. The article I read in Women’s Wear Daily that introduced this website said that this model is not completely new. However, this is the first time I’m hearing of anything like this and I love the idea. I consider myself to be fairly involved with social media and fashion and I am considering opening up shop! I’ve actually requested my invite. Even if I don’t sell anything, I can open up my dream shop online (for free!). I’ll let you know how it goes.


Customer Service

14 Sep

Everyone has their stories about good and bad customer service experiences. Usually the bad ones come to mind instantly. I can think of several instances of bad customer service. For example, I was at the Tippecanoe Mall a week ago shopping in Victoria’s Secret. A salesgirl approached my friend and me and asked if she could help us find anything. An innocent enough question which we politely responded with “no, we’re just looking, thanks”. Usually at this point the salesperson responds with something along the lines of “Ok, well if you need any help just let me know” and then goes on their way. But this particular salesgirl decided to harass us for several minutes asking us questions about when we had last been measured for a bra size, what size it was, was it helpful, what location it was at, and on and on and on. I understand she was trying to engage her customers in conversation, but we were clearly not in need of assistance nor wanted to be measured.

Another time I was dissatisfied with a company’s customer service was when dealing with AT&T’s call center. I spent over an hour on the phone with several different agents. I grew increasingly flustered as each person told me that there was nothing they could do when the AT&T store I went to told me otherwise. Finally, the problem got resolved, but the situation was so irritating and frustrating that I would have changed services had I not been on my family’s plan.

After having bad customer service or mediocre at best all the time, it is pleasantly surprising when I do experience or witness good customer service. I work as a sales associate at University Spirit in town and recently saw great customer service. A customer came in looking to exchange a Nike golf polo. We realized after comparing the shirt’s barcode with ours, that the shirt was not from our store. She was irritated because it was a gift that she wanted to exchange and give back to her husband as a surprise. There was nothing we could do since it wasn’t from our store and she still wanted us to exchange it for a similar one that we had. My co-worker began calling several stores around the area to find out where it was from. Eventually she figured out it was from the golf course shop and the lady left happy that she didn’t have to search around and could go straight there now. I will confidently say that this customer will come back to shop at our store in the future because she was pleased with how my coworker handled her problem. Going the extra mile for the customer is usually not very difficult and can make all the difference in their perception of your store.


Retailing through Social Media

6 Sep

As a Retail Management major, I think it is important to stay up to date on what is going on in the retailing and fashion world. Women’s Wear Daily is my main channel for current industry news. Today, I was perusing the articles and found one in particular very relevant and insightful. The article “Retailers Go From Being Social to Selling” makes several valid points about retailers’ presence on social media sites and their use of these tools to garner sales. The retailers want to either drive consumers to their physical stores and increase traffic there, or to increase sales through the store’s ecommerce site. Maureen Mullen, director of research and advisory services at NYU’s think tank Luxury Lab, makes the case that it is not enough for retailers to just talk to consumers through these mediums. They need to actively engage and connect with consumers in order to increase consumers’ loyalty and their likelihood of making purchases. There are several things retailers can do to accomplish this.

First, they can use several different mediums like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram (the newest). By using several different channels, they can reach more of their target market and audience since not everyone uses each form of media. Also, sending the same message through every channel is not enough. You have to use each to its full advantage. For example, a celebrity can tweet about an event they are having at your store to get their fans to the event. Or you can use YouTube to have a make up artist demonstrate different looks using a make up brand you sell. Or you can have a competition through Polyvore where users can create a fashion set using clothes that you sell in order to win a prize (like American Eagle recently did). Each medium can increase your brand awareness in some way.

Secondly, retailers should create a “localized” presence in addition to their overarching one. For example, have each local store have its own Facebook page where they can communicate directly with the consumers in their area that are shopping at their specific store. You can show events and promotions that are going on at your store only. This localization creates a sense of intimacy that really engages the consumer and connects them with the retailer. For example, my roommate tweeted her local Chipotle back home about how excited she was that they were featuring brown rice as a new option and the owner tweeted her back about how they were doing a trial run with it and that the response was good so far.

Lastly, if you have only one ecommerce site you are already behind the curve. F-commerce (Facebook commerce) is expected to become the latest trend in retailing. A few retailers are already launching F-commerce pages where you can actually purchase the retailer’s merchandise via Facebook. However, it may end up being less of a main revenue avenue and more of a tool for strengthening brand loyalty.

You’ll have to have a subscription to view the WWD article (for Purdue students, just login with your PU ID).


Brands & Social Issues

1 Sep

I was reading the September Issue of Marie Claire when I came across an interesting Kenneth Cole advertisement. It was a two page spread that read “Should it be a woman’s right to choose if she’s the one carrying it? -Kenneth Cole”. Underneath the question was a website, On the right page was a woman dressed in Kenneth Cole attire and carrying two large purses. The first time I saw the ad, I immediately picked up on the implications being addressed in the question. His phrasing of “a woman’s right to choose” clearly corresponds to the abortion debate as well as “she’s the one carrying it” meaning a child or fetus or whatever you want to call it. Then I saw the accompanying image and put together that he meant a woman’s right to choose what purse she wants to carry. With the website underneath though, it was clear there was more going on. Intrigued, I went to the website to see what this all was about.

The page I was greeted with was very interesting. It is divided into two sides: what you stand for and what you stand in.

Under “What you stand for” Kenneth explains what he is trying to do with his advertisements. He has started a “series of provocative debates” that seek to “educate and inspire us all to understand relevant social issues from a larger perspective”. The debates are on guns, gay rights, war, and pro-choice. The “what you stand in” side is the apparel side where you can browse his clothing line. I clicked on the left side and was really amazed by what Kenneth has done. He is using all forms of social media and his brand to promote talking about social issues. You can post a comment directly on the page, tweet about it, vote in polls via Facebook, or blog about it and be featured on the page. This is really a novel concept. I know that in today’s day and age social media is all the rage and brands are capitalizing on that by connecting with their consumers in this way. What Kenneth Cole is doing is different though. He is using social media in a way to promote awareness and get people talking about issues that are hard and that have no right or wrong answer. This is the first time I have come across something like this and I think it is remarkable. He is connecting with consumers on a completely different level and for a completely different purpose than to just sell his merchandise. Some of his ads are controversial and run the risk of alienating consumers that err on the side of conservative, but nonetheless he is being true to himself and making the statement that his brand is for those who care about these important social issues and for those who are not afraid to speak their mind and not back down.

To hear from Kenneth himself, watch this clip.