Every fashion entrepreneur hopes to have a large clientele and to steadily increase sales as time goes on. When this does not happen, it leads to discouragement and frustration. That is why every fashion entrepreneur needs to know what to do to retain customers and increase sales for their fashion business.
This week, we spoke with Eki Okubanjo of The Eki Oris Fashion Company and Omolaraeni Opeyemi Adeleke of Araeni Stitches on what fashion entrepreneurs need to know about customer retention and increasing sales in their fashion business.
Eki Okubanjo is the CEO of The Eki Oris Fashion Company, a successful womenswear brand in Nigeria that specialises in making bespoke and ready-to-wear pieces for women and children. She is passionate about helping aspiring and existing business owners start, run and build a profitable and sustainable business.
Okubanjo, who holds a bachelors degree in Economics from Babcock University and has years of work experience in Customer Relationship Management and Business Development, resigned from her 9 – 5 job to face fashion entrepreneurship squarely.
The Eki Oris Fashion Company also has a fashion school arm where they teach students how to cut, sew and also how to use the knowledge gotten from fashion to make money for themselves.
For her, “Customer retention refers to the ability of a company or product to retain its customers over a specified period. High customer retention means customers of the product or business tend to return to, continue to buy from or in some other way not defect to another product or business.”
Omolaraeni Opeyemi Adeleke is the Founder of Araeni Stitches, a fashion brand that caters to the bespoke, ready-to-wear and bridal needs of women. Araeni Stitches has been in existence for over 3 years and serves clients both within and outside Nigeria.
For her, “Customer retention is the ability of a business to retain its customers. Over time, retention is measured by the percentage of customers a company keeps over its total number of customers within a specific timeframe.”
Ways to Retain Customers while Getting New Ones
1. Give Great Service
Everyone loves great customer service. When a fashion brand has great customer service, clients will keep coming back because they love being treated right. To retain customers in your fashion brand, you need to give exceptional customer service to them.
When clients make enquiries about the service you offer through your social media platforms, your website, email, or any other medium, you need to respond to them on time. Be kind to all customers and prospective customers even if they make no purchases and just make their experience with you an unforgettable one.
This will greatly help you retain customers for your fashion business.
2. Start a Customer Loyalty Program
Find ways to reward consistent and loyal customers. You can give referral discounts to all your customers that refer someone else to patronise your business or you can give coupon codes to them for discounts when they make a purchase.
Look out for ways to make loyal customers know that you see them and you appreciate their patronage. This will no doubt help you retain them as yours.
3. Resolve Issues Quickly
This goes hand in hand with giving great customer service. When a customer complains about something as regards their dealings with your brand, be quick to resolve them.
Customers love to know that you have worked on the feedback they gave you about your products and they love to know that you will answer them when issues come up.
4. Constantly Appreciate Customers
Genuine appreciation is usually well received by customers. When customers purchase something from your fashion brand, learn to say ‘thank you’. If they do not come to your store’s physical location, you can send handwritten thank you notes to them as a form of appreciation.
Another way to appreciate them is to give them something extra with the purchases they make. For instance, if they purchase an outfit from your ready-to-wear collection, you can add a pair of earrings, a bracelet, a necklace or something else to go with the outfit.
5. Keep in Touch
This point cannot be overemphasized. Keep in touch with your customers if you hope to retain them. When they purchase from you, you can follow up with them just to find out how they are enjoying that product by email, text messages, WhatsApp chat, or even by putting a call through to them.
Also, keep them informed about your products, discounts, new collections, new items and so on. Look for ways to keep in touch with them and to keep your brand in their minds as this will help you retain them.
Ways to Increase Sales in Your Fashion Business
1. Increase Online Visibility
In this Internet age that we live in, you cannot afford to not have your fashion business on any social media platform. You need to make your brand visible on the social media platforms that your clients use most.
Find ways to market your fashion brand such that it gets in the view of as many people as possible. Make your website shoppable through third party sites and just advertise as much as you can. Increasing your brand’s online visibility can lead to an increase in sales.
2. Make Your Buying Process Easier
When your buying process is easy and user-friendly it encourages people to make more purchases. As much as you can, make your buying process easier. Don’t make customers go through long and stressful steps just to make a single purchase from your fashion brand.
Another way to simplify the buying process is to store card information on your site for returning customers so they do not have to enter their card details every time they need to make a purchase.
The only way to know what your customers want is by asking them so you need to do so. Ask them questions and ask for feedback on ways you can improve your products and additions you can make to your fashion items to make them more appealing to your current customers.
“Go back to your existing customers and offer them what they really want.” – Omolaraeni Opeyemi Adeleke
When you learn from your mistakes and you take into consideration all the feedback your customers have offered to you and implement them, you are sure to make more sales.
Re-sourcing is a way of identifying good fashion products that are not as successful as they could be maybe because of their relatively high price or low margin compared to what the market appears to be. These products can then be looked at closely to see if redeveloping them or changing certain features about them can make them successful and profitable.
5. Use Different Sales Channels
It does not hurt to use multiple sales channels to get customers to purchase fashion items from you but it does hurt to use just one sales channel. If you use one channel for all your sales and that channel develops issues your business will greatly suffer from it.
Using multiple sales channels for your brand also increases the likelihood of getting more customers to make purchases from your brand using their preferred channel.
6. Set Sales Target
Setting a sales target helps you have a focus and a goal you are aiming for and helps you know what to do to get all the sales you intend to. Once you know who your clients are and what they want, you will be able to streamline all your marketing efforts to make more sales for your brand.
7. Post Customer Reviews
Customer reviews say a lot about a fashion brand. For every sale you make, ask your clients to send in reviews that you can use to promote your brand on your social media pages.
Post each review you get on your social media pages and your online retailing site so when prospective clients come to take a look at what you have to offer they will see those reviews and be encouraged to patronise your brand. This will, in turn, lead to more sales.
8. Reduce Wait Time
One thing customers hate is having to wait very long to receive the fashion products they ordered from fashion brands. And if you offer bespoke tailoring services, it can be very frustrating to have your client wait a month to get just one outfit from you.
As much as you can, reduce the time customers have to wait to receive items from your brand. Look for ways to cut out unnecessary processes and ways to make everything move on quicker to make your customers happy.
When customers know they can get their items from you without having to wait too long for them they will keep coming back to your brand.
9. Stay Consistent
Consistency is key. You cannot afford to be inconsistent in business, everything you do has to follow the same standards. As a fashion designer, you cannot afford to make clothes that fit perfectly this week and next time customers come to you to make another outfit the measurements are off.
You need to be consistent in giving your outfits great finishing, in product packaging, in delivery time, and all other areas. Consistency in your language in communicating with customers is also important as it will make sure you connect with your clients every time.
Steps to Take To Increase Sales Post COVID-19
“This has been the toughest time for my brand especially because everyone was scared to spend their money. No one can predict what will happen next. People are still scared but I’ve been able to overcome it by thinking outside the box and I was able to launch my very first collection ‘’ ZING COLLECTION’’ and I’m still hoping to do more and I can’t wait for everything to be back to normal because I really have a lot to show everyone.” – Omolaraeni Opeyemi Adeleke
1. Follow Up on Existing Clients
Call or text all your existing clients to check up on them and to let them know that you care about them. Just generally show some care for them to keep your brand at the top of their minds. People will always remember those that showed care for them.
2. Offer Discounts to Existing Clients
Existing customers are those you do not want to lose. So, you can offer discounts to them on certain fashion items or even offer a buy 2 get 1 free promo to stimulate them to patronise your fashion brand in these times. Give them reasons to want to shop with you again.
3. Offer Referral Incentive Programs
You can also offer a referral incentive program to your clients where you reward them for referring people to shop with you. The reward can be in any form you like. It could be in the form of discounts or free delivery or even offering them a fashion item at no cost if they can refer a certain number of clients to your shop.
“COVID -19 greatly affected the sales of my business in so many ways, especially because most of my sales came from making custom outfits for weddings, but I had other parts of my business that still generate sales – I make ready to wear pieces, I have a fashion school and these part of my business still brought in sales regardless of the pandemic.” – Eki Okubanjo
Advantages of Customer Retention for Fashion Brands
“Research has shown that the probability of getting a sale from a new customer is something around the range of 3 – 5% in comparison to a customer who has purchased from you is over 60%. This means we can’t neglect our existing customers.” – Eki Okubanjo
1. You will Earn Word of Mouth Referrals
When you retain customers in your fashion brand you are more likely to get word of mouth referrals which is one of the most effective forms of marketing. Retained and happy customers will tell their family and friends about you and this will lead to an increase in your customer base and sales.
2. It Saves Marketing Cost
Since you do not always have to keep sourcing for new customers this can greatly reduce your marketing cost.
3. It makes your Brand Stand Out from the Crowd
When your brand retains customers all the time it makes it stand out of the crowd and this will attract more customers to your brand. Customers cannot help but be attracted to a brand that treats their clients right and that shows that they care.
4. It makes Customer Loyal
Another advantage is that your retained customers eventually become your loyal customer and loyal customers can easily refer your brand to other people.
5. It Gives You Space to Try New Things
Every fashion entrepreneur always has one exciting thing or the other that they want to try out. When your brand has a lot of retained and loyal customers, it gives you the wiggle space to try out new things because you know they will have your back and let you know what to improve on or whether to scrap it all together without leaving you.
Effects of Poor Customer Retention on Fashion Brands
“Poor customer retention affects a fashion business as the business will always be struggling to get new customers, and this can affect business profitability and growth.” – Eki Okubanjo.
1. Lack of Trust
When your fashion brand cannot retain customers, it makes prospective customers wary of your brand and reluctant to patronise you because they do not know if they can trust you.
2. Lower Sales
With fewer customers come fewer sales. When your brand cannot retain customers, it will be difficult to make as many sales as you would have made if you had loyal customers. With each customer that moved from your brand to another comes a decline in sales.
If this continues to happen, it can lead to the failure of your fashion business at the end of the day. Customer retention is very important.
Things Fashion Entrepreneurs Do That Makes Them Lose Customers and Reduces Sales In the Business
1. Being Unreliable
No one likes an unreliable person. As a fashion entrepreneur, you cannot afford to be unreliable. When you tell a client you will deliver on a job at a particular time you have to make sure that you do so. If something comes up that delays the delivery, make sure to call and inform the client but do not make it a habit to delay.
Also, when you know you cannot handle a job because you have your hands full, make sure to let your client know that you cannot take it. Never take on more than you can handle. These are simple work ethics every fashion entrepreneur needs to have.
2. Poor Customer Service
Not responding to customer queries on time, being rude and disrespectful to clients, and being pushy are all signs of poor customer service. If not for customers you will not have a business so you have to treat all your customers with respect and show them that they matter.
Always ensure that your customer service is topnotch.
3. Rough Jobs
Doing a rough job for a client does not speak well of you. When customers purchase an outfit from you or ask you to make something for them it is because they trust you to an extent.
When what you sent back to them is of low quality and shabbily finished they will not come back to you, instead, they will look for someone else to handle their fashion needs. Always make sure you choose your fabrics right and finish all items neatly.
4. Lack of Follow Up
Follow up is very important. Clients like to know that you are interested in how well they like the items they purchased and if there are any questions they have. Make it a habit to follow up with your clients often.
5. Being Unappreciative
Never be unappreciative to those people that choose your brand over all other brands. They could have purchased whatever item they wanted from someone else so when they decide to go for your fashion products, always be sure to appreciate them for it.
6. Not Posting Prices of Items on Social Media Pages
Usually, when customers come to your social media pages and see an outfit they like, they want to know how much it costs so they know if they can afford it. As a fashion entrepreneur, if you do not put up prices for your items, some customers will never ask questions about it before moving on to someone else’s page and this will cost you sales.
Make sure to let everyone that checks out your social media platforms know how much your items go for.
Eki Okubanjo said, “I’ll advise that every fashion entrepreneur should focus more on their customer service. Having a great customer service is a very sure way to get new customers to make repeat sales, and eventually, become loyal customers. So, work on your customer relationship and you will be able to retain customers. This will greatly help in your business sales.”
Omolaraeni Opeyemi Adeleke said, “On retaining customers and increasing sales; entrepreneurs should take their time, be consistent, and never say what they cannot do just because they want to retain a client. Do your best and leave the rest to God.”