Department Stores within the Fashion Industry
Department stores have a significant position between customers and fashion. Fashion becomes closer, more acceptable and convenient for common people. Nowadays it is not just a benefit of a closed circle. Everybody can allow himself to be fashionable. Department stores with the help of modern technological solutions and implementations help to save time, offer a variety of production and provide a personal approach to each customer. They increase people’s purchasing probability by creating unique environment for customers’ satisfaction and pleasure.
The Strategic Importance of Department Stores within the Fashion Industry
Department stores represent a kind of transferring goods to a common buyer. More people needed more production and could spend less time on purchasing (The future of shopping).
With the growth and development of department stores, fashion becomes more accessible and closer to common people. Department stores ‘represent the nuclei of central shopping areas’ (Batey P et al 2010). They draw in ‘a large part of the pedestrian traffic’ (Batey P et al 2010). Fashionable markets located in department stores are visited by a huge number of people as they become more recognized and closer to common population. Department stores include units for customers of various classes: lower, middle and upper classes. Fashion becomes available not just to a limited number of people as each person can become fashionable.
This retail establishment offers a wide range of numerous products and there is no need in any predominant merchandise line (Department store, n.d.). Majority of production in department stores satisfies consumers’ needs and provides several lines of products for choosing. People do not have to spend much time to go from one small market to another while searching for necessary thing. A lot of brands are collected in one particular place. If the customer could not find a suitable thing in one department, he could search in the others. A variety of choices and time saving are the relevant characteristics of department stores.
These stores offer not just different variations of one production; they offer a great variety of different products as well. While visiting a department store, people can buy different clothes, food products, jewelry, furniture, electronics, production for home needs and etc. It is rather convenient and less time-losing.
A lot of department stores provide personal approach to every customer. Sales people render assistance in choosing and buying while making proposals and giving recommendations.
Leveraging of Department Stores on the Use of Technology to Improve Its Marketing
Technologies became a part of our everyday life as they surround us everywhere and provide information about events and descriptions of goods. In the last several years department stores successfully implement various technological solutions for improvement of customer services and work of sales units.
Nowadays the majority of people have mobile phones. Department stores use these devices for informing clients about sales and new receipts of production. Also, new service – point-of-sale provides people with physical location of goods. This implementation makes purchasing process more convenient and less time-spending. At the same time, sales people become less loaded, especially during the periods of high-volume sales.
Modern technologies are widely used in management of in-store inventory: warehouse and retail space, as ‘merchandise must be entered into inventory upon arrival at the loading dock, tracked when it is moved to the floor, removed from inventory and when it is sold’ (Technology advances in retail: improving margins using wireless networks). Also, information of current position of inventory should be always available. Computer technologies provide accountability, clarity and availability of all the necessary information. They avoid mistakes due to carelessness and negligence, and reduce time for searching necessary information about position of inventory, and eliminate out-of stock conditions. According to investigation of the Direct Store Delivery committee, ‘the shoppers cannot find the product they are seeking 7.4 % of the time, with 40 % of those people postponing their purchase or going to another store instead’ (Technology advances in retail: improving margins using wireless networks ). Inventory management tasks became much easier with the handled computers. Sales people can use them during restocking periods for tracking production and during the periods of price updates (Technology advances in retail: improving margins using wireless networks).
Also, technologies are used for customer services improvement. It helps to solve two most relevant problems of department stores: lack of store personnel for customer assistance and pricing challenges. These two are solved by location of special kiosks inside each department. Price-verification kiosks help customers to find information concerning ‘mislabeled merchandise, promotional sales, missing shelf price tags and returned merchandise’. People received an ability to take a product, scan the barcode tag and determine the price. Wireless technologies eliminate the necessity in cables and provide mobility of these kiosks. Self-help kiosks provide information concerning production, inventory, sales and location of nearby stores. Customers received an ability to find answers to their questions without any assistance of sales personnel (Technology advances in retail: improving margins using wireless networks).
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is used in every stage of sales process: ‘from logistics to inventory processing to the customer experience’ and for tracking production (Technology advances in retail: improving margins using wireless networks).
Technologies have widely been implemented into different department stores all over the world as an ‘important part of renovation’ (Loeb, 2012). The Macy’s premiere Herald Square store will implement innovative radio-frequency identification solutions for tracking the merchandise. In 2012 store managers used there technologies for tracking 300,000 pairs of shoes. Radio-frequency identification makes providing services to customers more effectively and faster. Shoe department was some kind of experimental one for implementation of these technologies. In 2013 the Macy’s premiere Herald Square intends to use these technologies in other departments and place radio-frequency identification on about 30 % of all production. Searching by color, size, and width will be easier (Loeb, 2012). Wide implementation of these technologies becomes possible after decreasing of their costs. So, technological process leads to a more convenient and effective use of existing technologies for marketing purposes.
Various stores use uncommon approaches to attract people. The implementation of computer technologies provides wider ability to choose from existing assortment. Lens Crafters developed and implemented ‘My Look’ in-store technology that helps customers to find the most suitable glasses. Customer can compare up to four frames of their look at the same time. People try various frames and associate captures images of wearing these frames. So, people receive an ability to compare their looks and to choose the most suitable frame (Lens Crafters Inc. – company profile, information, business description, history, background information on Lens Crafters Inc). This provides faster and more convenient services to customers. Common glasses became not just a product for health; they become the fashion elements available to a wide audience.
It is notable, that men and women have different attitudes towards device-related technology advancements provided in department stores. Men pay more attention to mobile and tablet apps, and free Wi-Fi which allow performing on-line buying. At the same time about 50 % of women pay attention to easier returns on products bought online (Sender, 2013). People, especially target audience of 16 – 24 years old) also like virtual fashion mirrors, and ‘digital touchscreens in-store that bring products to life’ (Sender, 2013) and digital signatures.
However, the increase of computer technologies use and on-line purchasing create some threat to department stores. Fashion becomes available on-line: ‘Amazon.com, Pets.com, and pretty much everythingelse.com – embraced what they called online shopping or electronic commerce’ (The future of shopping). Internet provides a great variety of on-line shops. People are able to choose any model, its’ size and color, make an on-line order and payment and receive their purchase at their home. They waste less efforts and time on purchasing and at the same time Internet shopping offers much more production. Customers also do not spend any time or money on transportation to department stores. People can choose necessary and the most attractive productions, compare prices at different on-line shops, make purchasing and return just staying in their houses.
Electronic commerce became popular all over the world, as it brings fashion to customers in more convenient way. According to Forrester’s researches, the electronic commerce receives revenue of about $200 billion in the USA which is 9 % of all retail sales. In the Asian – Pacific region this figure is 3 %, in Southern America – 2 % and in the United Kingdom – 10 % (The future of shopping).
At a glance, it could be seen that electronic commerce will replace common department stores in the nearest future. However, this form of purchasing, notwithstanding of all its’ benefits, could never provide a personal approach to each customer. Fashion creates a personal style; it forms an individuality of each man and woman. Also, online commerce could never provide an ability to ‘try before you buy’ (Retail isn’t broken. Stores are). People should touch the product in order to evaluate it and to ‘find a product that is right for them’ (Retail isn’t broken. Stores are).
Department stores have to implement a great variety of new strategies in order to place a competition against electronic commerce. These strategies should combine personal feelings of consumers, personal approach, interaction and communication of sales personnel with each customer and the use of modern technologies. For example, people could receive messages on their mobile phones or via emails about the receipt of new production or sales. These messages could be personally oriented, i.e. created on the basis of past purchasing. The department store could provide an assistance of sales personnel in making choice of the necessary, the most fashionable or suitable production and accessories. Also, people could be surrounded by attractable, comfortable and convenient environment: highly-designed fitting rooms, seating areas in these fitting rooms, in-room cameras with 360 degree views, virtual fashion mirrors, information kiosks and ‘digital touchscreens in-store that bring products to life’ (The future of shopping). Special attention should be paid to interpersonal relationships in the department store.
Evaluation of the Importance of Good Interpersonal Relationship with a Concept Store Environment
Personal approach is one of the main advantages provided by department stores. Customers feel valuable when sales personal renders them assistance. A social element of environment has an effect on people to make inferences about buying. The effect of assistance, communication and interaction of sales personnel is directed onto awakening of special emotional feelings in customers to enhance their purchase possibility. Sales personnel should be polite and at the same time not very obstructive, should help people choose the most suitable and attractive product. Personal feelings of customers are very important, because their experience depends greatly on their experience with the service, but not on the service quality (Sivadas E & Baker-Prewitt FL 2000).
People should feel pleasured when buying and satisfied within the store environment: ‘service quality as a shopping experience enhancer is defined in the study as the satisfaction participants experienced during their interaction with sales assistants, which in turn influences their store loyalty’ (Jacobs et al 2010). According to Miranda et al, a high store quality can be obtained by ‘careful recruitment and training of personnel’ (Miranda MJ, Konja L & Havrila I 2005). It is notable, that consumers will not go to store and purchase goods only because of a good environment. It is just a supportive and promotional factor. However, bad service quality will deter possible customers: ‘it works in reverse, I won’t go to a store for good assistants, but poor service / bad assistants will mean that I won’t go there’ (Jacobs et al 2010). Consumers should feel that the department store and it’s units are worthy of their loyalty for making a final decision about purchasing. Not just goods themselves attract consumers. Department stores should create this loyalty in order to promote people to buy fashionable goods.
At the same time department stores could use other strategies which increase purchasing probability.
Evaluation of Effective Communication Strategies Relevant to Department Stores
Department stores use numerous communication strategies for interaction and carrying information to the customers. Among traditional methods are various promotions and advertisements. Department stores intend to create the awareness of the selling production and the whole store. Location and attractive useful information concerning the goods offered in the store is placed into newspapers, magazines and telephone books. On-line advertising is aimed at those people who spend a lot of time in the Internet. Also, department stores often open their own websites for indirect communication with the users, investigation of their needs, wishes, attitudes and desires, the store’s environment and purchasing production.
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In the recent years department stores offer loyalty cards to purchasers. This step increases the opportunity of rapid communication, i.e. of the next purchasing as people feel valuable. They ‘swipe their cards at the checkout and earn reward points to use in the future purchases’ at the same time department stores receive an ability to ‘capture data on individual customer’s purchasing preferences and make personalized offers on products that the customer buys regularly, encouraging them (! 6). Forums and blogs not just to provide communication with customers, they give a possibility to inform them about department store, selling production, entertainment, events and etc. Executive chairman of Galeries Lafayette Group Philippe Houze stated about the importance of mass events held in department stores: ‘They must know how to combine events, culture, art, gastronomy and designers’ creativity. To quote an old slogan we have remained faithful to: There should always be something happening. And if a store has managed to nurture that, then it has reinvented itself and it will captivate its customers’ (Wexner, 2013). Department stores are not just locations of fashionable goods; they attract people’s attention to fashion and make it closer to common citizens.
The growth of mobile phones provides new methods of interaction between department stores and possible customers. People can get information concerning department stores, offered production, sales and etc. via their mobile phones. Some stores offer on-line coupons, discount programs (Living Social and Groupon) and prizes for mobile users. According to special investigation performed by the Foursquare, proposition of the 5 % discount on the next purchasing makes significant encouragement into the next purchasing in the same department store.
All communication strategies of department stores are directed onto increasing their customers’ satisfaction and possibility of purchasing.
Department stores play a significant role in our lives. They are placed in big cities and provide a great variety of commodities to customers as each person is able to choose whatever he or she wants and needs. Department stores make fashion closer and more available to common citizens. Purchasing in a department store becomes more convenient for customers by means of various technological solutions implementation. Also, creation of a special store environment by communication with customers increases their satisfaction and leads to growing purchasing possibility. Department stores also obtain it by implementation of other communication strategies: advertising, mass events, programs of loyalty, mobile and Internet interaction with customers and etc. They create a supportive environment for purchasing fashionable goods.