There’s still huge amounts of progress to be made in the way we engage with customer service for menswear.
If you head out to your high street on a typical Saturday morning, you will be greeted not only with the relieved smiles of a thousand burnt-out parents, but with the sullen, frustrated faces of men who have been dragged out to the shops – not to wait patiently outside the women’s changing rooms while their wives try on another outfit, but to buy clothes for themselves. Hands deep into their pockets, shrugging ‘fine’ to each and every checked shirt or pair of jeans held up in front of them, they are an easily identified staple of the retail ecosystem. Which leads us to a very important question: why is clothing shopping a chore for men, and a pleasure for women?
I’d argue that it’s pretty simple. Historically, women have been the main buyers of clothing in the retail market: what is fashionable in March is completely unwearable by July. So, naturally, retailers have spent hundreds of years tailoring the experience and ambience of the fashion sector to female customers. Men have unfortunately been something of an afterthought, except for perhaps on Savile Row. Often relegated to the back of the second floor “Turn right at homewares!” the men’s changing rooms are part broom cupboard, part dusty corner, where shopping-based enthusiasm goes to die, and the staff are invariably better versed on women’s stock than the men’s. This, particularly in a world where you can order a second pair of jeans hassle-free online, is a massive mistake.
If you’re a business with a bricks-and-mortar channel, you absolutely must regard the customer experience as an essential ‘why’ in why your customer wants to do business with you. It’s not enough to have clothes and shoes that every Dave or Harry would say, “I guess,” to. If you aren’t going to engage with your male market base in terms of what they want from you in experience and product, you are only as good as the shop next door selling the same navy cotton v-neck. Stand out in the market by showing that you are listening, and you want to challenge the chore culture around men’s clothing shopping.
How, you say? Get some market data, to start with. Ask your male customers what they think of your store design, or if they prefer being talked through a product or left to browse. Give them some interesting visuals and ideas to engage in within your space: don’t go for boring stock photos of trees by your mountain gear, what are you going to do with your space to make your customers associate enjoyment, interest and brand identity with your product? How would you want to see yourself in a changing room mirror: up close under a glaring halogen bulb, or with some space and time to work out whether you like how it looks at the back? Do we really need the music so loud? We think about all these things with womenswear so easily, it’s vital not to lose focus of the same questions and leave our menswear as an afterthought.
Shopping really, really doesn’t need to be a chore. Clothing is such a vital part of how we express ourselves, identify each other and play the roles we need to in the office, at play and at home. We know that looking good makes people feel good. Offer your male customers the same emotional investment on their customer journey, and you will see your business stand out in no time.