FEBRUARY 9, 2021 – ÁLVARO PIN, HEAD OF GROWTH AT HATCH
Personal interactions have been key for the wholesale business for decades. As the world adapts to interact digitally, how will fashion rethink its showroom environment? Are virtual showrooms just filling a current need or a trend that is here to stay?
It all started with some sort of epiphany. I turned a year older during a global lockdown (don’t panic, this is not a post about my age nor me embracing adulthood). Like many, I celebrated my birthday solo (well, with partner, pup and a delicious food basket from my team at HATCH). While this would have bothered me in any other scenario, something about spending my day on video calls with my friends and family felt very nice and special. For the first time, social distancing didn’t feel that bad. Why is that?
The entire planet is trying to adapt to the new normal and fashion is no exception. We are facing a true shakeout: showrooms are closed, customers can’t travel and collections are on hold. For many, showrooms and trade shows used to be the most important space to introduce and sell new collections in all their glory. Now, they’re looking for new ways to make appointments smart and effective in the digital world. Customers expect brands to bridge the gap and make it easy and engaging for them to buy.
In the fashion world, human relationships have been at the core of the business for decades and now sales associates and buyers have to maintain these through a screen, which can be a pretty major shift. What happened during my birthday and why wasn’t that an obstacle here. What made these conversations so much nicer than the rest? I was watching Saturday Night Live’s first all-digital episode when it happened again and then it hit me.
During all my personal birthday calls – and with Trevor Noah.
While we can thankfully communicate digitally these days, we often forget that it's not the same as when we're making physical connections. Different channels have different rules, but at the center of it remains one thing: make it relevant. Before any meeting, you need to find your way to feel comfortable, confident and engaged. Here are our biggest takeaways on making digital connections engaging.
Can you hear it? Lights, camera, action, please! Take your time to prepare your stage. Light, sound and connectivity are basics. When possible, avoid using headphones to make the conversation feel more natural. Pro tip: join the video conference using your phone. Your phone camera is probably better and you’ll be able to use your laptop during the appointment at a lower risk of crashing it (we’ve all been there).
Whether you believe in chit-chat or not, the reality is we don’t have the small luxury of a hand shake, a short walk to the meeting room, or getting coffee together. Try to start the conversation with something lightweight and maybe even personal. This can make an impression when talking to your customer versus just at the screen.
It can be hard to follow someone over a vc, especially when circumstances force us to share our screen and talk at length about a topic. When this happens, break down the meeting in smaller sections, allowing people to take a break, ask questions and understand what’s next. For instance, sending a meeting agenda ahead of time can set expectations right and add layers.
Silences are awkward and even scary during a video call and in real life. If you want buyers to be engaged, then chances are you’ve got to set the space to let them happen. It is here when your customers will ask questions and make comments that will help you understand their perspective. On a more practical note, take an extra second after someone talks so you don’t interrupt them.
Plan time at the end of the session for questions. Share a recap of the meeting, follow-up documentation and options for next steps where needed. You don’t want people rushing out of the call without this. It adds a sense of closure that will leave you and your customers feeling accomplished. There are so many unnecessary meetings filling our calendars that it's nice to feel like this for a change, right?
Showroom appointments aren’t going anywhere. As long as brands and retailers need to connect to make business, the role of showrooms will persist. Whether this happens in the physical and digital space, how brands engage and communicate with retailers will become a critical factor of differentiation between the best and the rest.
How do you do to make your conversations fun and engaging? How do you cope with the constraints of working from home? Have you started using virtual showrooms to connect with your customers?