Where Retail Can Go From Here

John Ballay shares how following your customers’ needs instead of business plans can set you up for success.

By now, we have heard the analysis so frequently that it has almost become irrefutable: this pandemic has affected everything, but few industries have been hit worse than retail.

There is, obviously, a lot of truth in this evaluation, and the numbers back it up. The retail industry has seen huge losses, with 5,000+ stores permanently closed by major retailers since April, and clothing stores taking one of the biggest hits, with sales declining by an average of 44% every month since March 2020. (The Wall Street Journal)

The reality is, traditional retail was already on its way out, and 2020 just accelerated the inevitable.

According to Forbes, “consumers will have adopted short-term behaviors during the pandemic that in many cases will become permanent.” This includes a long-term shift to shopping digitally, rather than in-person. There has been a sweeping rise in e-commerce sales, even as store shelves sit relatively untouched.

But as with all hardships, there is much to be gained from this time. For those ambitious brands willing to pivot, to alter course and follow their customers’ needs instead of their now outdated business plans, there is tremendous opportunity here.

As Matt Katz, a managing partner at global advising firm SSA & Company, said: “Consumers will tell us where they want to shop and how they want to shop, and it’s up to retailers and brands to adapt to that and serve them in the best way possible. It’s not about trying to get them to act the way they did. This has been a dramatic change not only economically and health wise, but socially. This is a watershed moment for retail.” (Retail Dive)

The thing is, people are still shopping. How, when, why, and what they’re shopping for has changed dramatically in some cases, but brands that can keep up with these new expectations will outpace their competitors.

Knot Standard began our all-in transition to a fully-digital client experience immediately after we went into lockdown, and while the road has sometimes been steep, it has ultimately gotten us to where we want to be, for our brand and our clients. As a custom menswear brand that is already working with a zero-inventory system, we have not had to bend to the pressures of more traditional retail models.

With the launch of the Knot Standard Personal Store, we have been able to come closer than ever before to digitally replicating our in-Showroom experience for clients, no matter where they live in the world. It has given our team of Stylists all the tools they required to stay on top of their clients’ needs, and enables them to create a hyper-personalized, fully virtual experience for everyone involved.

Clients can manage everything they need from this new “dashboard,” viewing product recommendations curated specifically for them, accessing their entire order history, and contacting their Stylist any time for outfit advice, new products, or a last-minute outfit for an event. We are constantly adding and refining features as we get feedback from our clients and team of Stylists.

Fabrizio Lauri, Sales Development Manager at Knot Standard, sums it up this way:  “The biggest shift I’ve seen is a demand for a more personal—and personalized—experience. The old retail strategies were already failing before this time, and were based on an archaic business model that just never evolved. You’d walk through a store, try off-the-rack garments that often wouldn’t fit, with no human interaction, no emotional connection. And without an emotional connection, you just have zero customer loyalty.”

We’ve already elevated this entire experience, putting that human, emotional connection ahead of everything, but our Personal Store takes it even further. It allows our clients to access everything we offer—curated product recommendations, our entire fabric library and every customization option, all the expertise of our Style Advisors and our hyper-accurate measurement app that is entirely contactless—from the convenience of their own home, their own space. That convenience is worth much more these days than ever before. I believe convenience is the new Premium.

John Ballay is the CEO and co-founder of Knot Standard.