RAMBLINGS OF A FRUSTRATED AVERAGE CUSTOMER
This is a topic that I’ve been meaning to address for a while but stayed away for reasons best known to me. If you follow me on Twitter , you might have seen me tweet about this topic in frustration a few times.
DISCLAIMER: I am not bashing anyone’s work ethic and in no way insinuating that I have experienced this across all Nigerian fashion designers or retailers. I speak from personal experience, personal pain and from the view of a customer that just wants to be treated right.
“Frustrations of the average customer/consumer in the Nigerian fashion/design industry”
The Nigerian fashion industry is dominated to a great extent by designers and retailers who are solely focused on publicity strategies and the prestige that comes with the label ‘designer’, that they have chosen to overlook that the end goal, the point of creating a label is retail, in a nutshell. You create clothes to attract the customers that pay.
It is important to understand that different customers have different motivations for buying from a label. For some people it’s the end satisfaction (just having the piece in your closet), it could also be for a sense of belonging (oh, I’m wearing ____), but for most people, it’s the experience as a whole.
The experience associated with buying from a designer or retailer begins the moment a customer walks into a store or in some cases, the moment that e-mail is sent for a price quote and ends when the customer is satisfied. A typical wow experience consists of elements like fast response time, proper engagement with the customer, the right attitude & problem recovery.
Personally, I have never felt the experience, much less with the “wow” factor while shopping in Nigeria.
I have bought clothes quite a few times and had to give them away because on arrival, they were nothing like what was portrayed on their website or social media accounts.
Most Nigerian designers lean towards the use of celebrities and public figures to promote their pieces and while this is an arguably good marketing strategy, we all know that celebrities are mainly influencers and not big purchasers. And why should they? They are given clothes for free in return for a few photographs, so they cannot understand the value of the work that goes into the dresses they wear.
However, I cannot for the life of me understand why an “average customer” who actually wants to spend their hard earned money on these items is being denied access to the highest quality of service.
I was having a conversation with a friend on twitter some days ago and he said this “Designers feel the need to ‘dot their i’s with celebrities because they have a wider audience and influence, and feel regular consumers don’t, and as such don’t deserve as much consideration”. I have never heard words that best describe the nonchalant attitude of designers/retailers towards the average customer.
“I once bought a pair of pants from a popularly known Nigerian brand and it arrived in an unspeakable state. It was damp, smelly, torn at the hem and had the button falling off. “
“I was at an event in Lagos over summer last year, I walked up to this designer to start up a conversation. I had seen images of her work and some of her pieces had caught my interest. So I got talking with her and eventually asked for a price quote on one of her dresses. She looks at me, a glass of champagne between her fingers and obvious contempt on her face and goes “Are you sure you want to know?””
You’ll be horrified to find stories like these are a pretty common occurrence.
Designers are so focused on attracting ‘luxury’ customers that they mistreat regular customers who with the right kind of service would easily become loyal lifelong consumers. What they don’t realise is that the luxury crowd shops at Gucci where a concierge service picks them up from the airport and ensures their champagne flute is filled till they leave the store. What kind of ‘luxury’ service can our designers who have snubbed the ‘plebeians’ give that will match that?
Now let’s talk pricing. Why does a simple t-shirt cost an arm and leg? WHY? I understand that not every designer’s customer demographic is the lower or middle class and that is perfectly okay. I mean, that is why we have Chanel and there’s more affordable options like Zara, but when you promote your brand as one that should cater to a certain demographic, then your price points should reflect that. It’s simple marketing sense.
The whole point I’m trying to make with this article is, while price is a great deciding factor, customer service is key to attract and retain customers. Giving customers what they want doesn’t have to be expensive, it has to be relevant. Modern economics tell us that the key to success in any business is not attracting new customers, but converting the ones you already have into repeat customers. I want to buy from Nigerian brands, but until they learn to treat me better I will vote with my wallet.
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Till next time…
(Written by Alma & Edwin Okolo)