What fashion can learn from Netflix...

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What fashion can learn from Netflix...

Tuesday, 5. March 2019
A TV series can be addictive. How can this principle be applied to fashion retailing? Good timing, relevant products, exciting stories and clever staging are the ingredients.

Binge-watching is a real 21st-century phenomenon. On average, it takes just twelve days until new Netflix subscribers go on their first series binge, and most series are “consumed” within three days. The addiction factor is not limited to any specific genre. It can strike anywhere, from horror, action and drama to comedy.
How is such a series created, and what makes it so successful? And what can we learn from it? Alongside high-quality execution, originality and emotional appeal are the key factors. The story must be enthralling and offer enough plot points that each episode ends with a cliffhanger. This creates an “addiction” that keeps viewers watching until they’ve seen the entire season.
What is a good season in the fashion industry? A good product alone is no longer enough. Here as well, the key is the right story and staging to stimulate consumer interest, set a clear focus and make an emotional impact that persists and remains attractive. So we have imagined the creative process of a collection from idea to POS as if it were a series. And we’re excited about how much this helps us to bring greater customer relevance to collections, marketing activities and POS displays.

The manuscript – season planning
In both TV and fashion, the starting point is the dramaturgy of the complete series or season. Above all, this requires in-depth insights into consumer expectations and needs over the course of the season.
On the series season level, the individual episodes need to be part of a structure and narrative arc – and the same applies for a collection.
Though it may sound trivial, product development, sales and marketing must first have a clear understanding of the overall story of the season (half-year concept with theme and colour sequence, project-group focal points, price ranges) and how consumer expectations vary over the individual months.
Remaining on the topic of the right timing, the transition month of February (final-sale phase, first spring/summer highlights) looks different from March (true season start, yearning for novelty, occasions like Easter or weddings, start of the outdoor season). Cliffhangers from one phase to the next are important. This requires the right transition from one month (episode) to the next to provide orientation and tension, so that customers have a reason to “stay tuned”.
The story also needs a clear commercial framework in the form of clear option and collection framework planning. Ultimately, both types of seasons require sound commercial planning.

The script – The sales-floor screenplay
The sales-floor screenplay is to fashion what the script or storyboard is to the series. Ultimately, the story will be staged on the sales floors of the retail outlets and the online shop as a complete experience, not merely as a product.
The sales-floor screenplay provides specific content for each month (episode). Here as well, the first step is to put yourself in the “audience’s” place and develop a clear structure that matches the expectations and needs of your customers. The so-called buying constitution is an effective way to systematically differenciate these expectations. A customer experiences four different psychological situations when shopping, each with different requirements in terms of assortment and presentation. Depending on whether the shopping is needs-driven or impulse-driven and whether the purchase has a high or low emotional significance, the constitution ranges from a focus on convenience to immersive seduction.
The underlying assumption is that the expectations placed on shopping experiences differ depending on the context. When the collection and presentation presses the proper buttons to trigger buying attitudes, excitement is automatically evoked – just like a TV series, in which calmer orientation phases alternate with highly emotional phases.
Preproduction – the order
For all the players in the fashion industry who have a relevant wholesale business, the first moment of truth comes when they present the season’s story to their partners. In vertical retail as well, the collections, months and limits must be matched to the different sales-floor clusters. The order is the transition from paper to defined scenes, from concept to sales floors.
This is where it becomes clear whether the buyers “buy in” to the story and how clearly they can imagine the final story at the POS, as this is largely determined with the pre-order.
As the end consumers’ buying decision cycles are becoming ever shorter, it is helpful to shift the buyers’ decisions ever closer to the sale release date as well. Manufacturers whose development processes allow such flexibility, i.e. who systematically divide their collection into long-term (safe bets, basics, NOS), medium-term (core collection) and short-term portions (read-and-react, in-season, flash) are in good shape.

Filming – production
Filming a series is equivalent to the procurement and production of the merchandise as well as the marketing and VM content of the fashion. Here as well, the flexibility of the supply chain behind the season story is a success factor. If the emphasis is on optimising the purchase price for “safe” merchandise through early bundling of quantities, the criterion shifts over the course of the season increasingly toward rapidity and availability from markets near Europe.
The marketing and VM contents are also synchronised with the merchandise controlling during this phase. After all, campaigns and display windows should make customers excited about what they can expect in the stores and draw them in. This is much like the analogue and digital banners and merchandising of the TV series industry, which place the heroes in the spotlight of the story.

Postproduction and distribution – in-season and allocation
Postproduction work may be required due to unanticipated circumstances before a series is ready for streaming. Some individual scenes may have to be reshot, and it may even occur that disgraced actors have to be cut out of the series and the corresponding parts re-filmed. Comparable reaction mechanisms should also be built into the collection development process. New insights should be adopted and taken into account in structuring short-term programmes.
Now the series needs to be put on the right platform and the merchandise on the sales floor at the right time. The merchandising and allocation team must be able to respond to short-term developments to support customer impulse purchases. This can mean last-minute changes to deliver merchandise in a warm February or a rainy August.

Series start! – Staging at the POS
In front of the TV, the experience can be influenced by the choice of snacks and drinks only.
At the POS, however, the second moment of truth arrives: the presentation of the merchandise in the showroom. Digital tools support both partners and retail teams in staging the story in the store. Display windows and foyers roll out the metaphorical red carpet and entice customers to enter. The first contact points in the store are reserved for the monthly highlights and provide the initial direction of the story. New categories take precedence in the middle of the store and give the story a new turn. Convenience assortments occupy the less-frequented, quieter zone, further highlights are displayed on the central rear wall. Impulse-buy assortments surprise customers along the main aisle and at checkout, and complete the shopping basket. The aim is to leave a lasting impression on customers so that they keep coming back. 
Netflix didn’t introduce its own button on the remote for nothing – a new category for TV series alone was created. That will come true for the shopping experience in your store as well when customers feel, “I’m in the right place, they understands me.”
Until next time!


Norbert Pühringer
is a partner and corporate developer at Team Retail Excellence. He supports retailers in placing the customer at the center of their actions. He is convinced that this can only succeed if managers and employees find the right attitude and enjoy making positive changes.

Stefan Rassau 
is a partner and corporate developer at Team Retail Excellence. He is an experienced management consultant, entrepreneur and sales manager. His passion is to modernize companies in their go-to-market in terms of content and organization. He develops modernization projects in the force field between Retail and agile structures, digital and analogue processes, always with a view to an inspiring, authentic customer experience at the POS.