What the See Now, Buy Now Trend Means for Retail Sales

Today’s retail customer has been trained to expect instant gratification. Learn how to prepare for the “see now, buy now” trend.

Published on 29 December, 2016 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022
The See Now Buy Now Trend Affects Consumers Expectations 1

For leaders in the retail field, the trend of “see now, buy now” marketing can lead to increased consumer interest and potential increases in high-end sales. Today’s customer has been trained to expect instant gratification and does not like to wait weeks for goods, even for special-order merchandise. Maintaining a quality customer experience paired with quick delivery is a growing challenge for modern retail owners and managers.

Fashion Industry

The see now, buy now movement most closely applies to designer clothing. During fashion week last September, the concept was embraced by some of the most influential designers in the business. Traditionally, customers viewed the spring and summer collections and placed an order for the pieces they wanted. They would then wait, often for weeks or months, for their clothing to be delivered. The only items available immediately from retailers were usually sample pieces from earlier seasons.

Now, innovators such as Michael Kors are stocking their online and brick-and-mortar shops with pieces from their runway shows. Although the inventory is limited, it is possible to see a Michael Kors sweater or Ralph Lauren gown on the runway and then immediately order it online or purchase it in a store. Since designer wear is often quite pricey, this service adds value to the investment. Paying more no longer has to mean waiting longer.

Maintaining Exclusivity

Not all designers are embracing this model. Those who don’t may fear losing their reputation for exclusivity. If buying a designer item becomes easier, then more people will do it. Selling more clothes is clearly a positive, but designers never want to become too commonplace.

In an age when any number of items are available online and can be shipped the next day, the fashion industry is forced to adapt in order to survive and thrive. The strategy seems to be working. The president of Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman reported that sales were up after a Tom Ford runway show because consumers could buy any piece in the collection right after the show instead of waiting for individual pieces to trickle in.

Buying Now Beyond Fashion

See now, buy now is not limited to fashion, of course. Retailing experts in every industry need to embrace the idea whenever possible. For instance, furniture retailers should consider keeping a wider variety of specialized inventory rather than have their customers wait six months for an Italian leather sofa. And, car dealers may want to keep two or three customized Shelby Mustangs on the lot instead of the one showcase model. This philosophy particularly applies to luxury items — those things people want but do not need. Purchasers of these goods are more likely to buy in the heat of the moment. If they have to wait, they may reconsider and put their money toward something more practical — like a minivan.

Order Strategy

For businesses that simply cannot keep that kind of stock on-site, better customer service training for staff is necessary. Employees need to learn strategies to get merchandise to customers quickly and efficiently. If your store is a chain, your employees should know how to check “sister” store stock and have it promptly transferred. They should also be willing to help the customer place an online order if the physical store is out of stock on an item.

If you run an independent business, consider forming a relationship with other nearby retailers who carry similar merchandise. Cooperation among independents may keep customers from going to big box stores. Even if you only save the customer a day or two of waiting, the investment in time (and even the possible loss of profit) is worth if in the long term if it cultivates customer loyalty. If you cannot get a coveted item in quickly, customers are likely to go elsewhere.

Train Your Retail Staff for the See Now, Buy Now Trend Even if You Aren't a Fashion Designer

Inventory Knowledge

If an item isn’t on display, you cannot sell it. Even if an item is out and properly marked, some of your employees may not know where to find it. You must continually update your staff on new merchandise, a task that is difficult if you have part-time employees with disparate schedules. As experienced retailers well know, many sales are lost because customers are not shown all available merchandise. For instance, your farm and home store may have gotten a shipment of popular lawn mowers, but the evening shift wasn’t informed. During the spring and summer, you might lose several sales in one evening due to this communication gap. No business can afford numerous oversights like that one.

Although the see now, buy now strategy is currently associated most strongly with the fashion industry, it applies to whatever retail business you are in. To take advantage of the trend, you need to quickly arrange new floor sets and distribute the appropriate style sheets. Training must be immediate and accurate. Customers have more options than ever before to meet their shopping needs. If they are not willing to wait for a runway gown, they won’t be willing to wait for less specialized merchandise.

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