In a store, the display is actually everything that targets the customer's five senses, framing the shopping experience and, hence, becoming crucial in the success of the business. To me, the visual merchandising aspect of retail display is actually the most compelling and fascinating part of it, and of retail in general, for that matter. It always feels like solving a puzzle, and it requires as much creativity as it does critical thinking.
Let's take, for instance, this Anthropologie display of shoes and bags. How was it conceived? And why does it work? First of all, it is rich and neat at the same time; it looks full but it doesn't get crazy. And you want to give your customer choices, but not overwhelm them with too many options.
To make the best use out of the space, levels are not only practical, but also visually pleasing, and they allow for shoppability, too (you can grab any given item easily, without interfering with the other products). Levels also help create just enough asymmetry for the display to be intriguing and not boringly perfect. And then, the touch of cleanliness is provided by color-coding, which is actually not only aesthetically attractive, but it also helps the customer in quickly picking other items to complete their look (in case they're trying to stay within the same palette, or want to add something that complements it). Each cubicle doesn't have to be all the same shade; as a matter of fact, it's advisable to throw in a pop of another color that goes well with the predominant one. The purpose is to make it fun, so that the viewer's eyes linger for a while on the product. When something is too perfect, the brain instantly assumes there's nothing to figure out there, and moves on to the next thing.
Another great merchandising practice is, whenever possible, to keep together the items that are not competing between each other. Take, for instance, the first cubicle from the upper left corner: a pair of heels, a pair of sandals, and a clutch. The customer could just as easily grab the heels and the clutch, as they could the sandals and the clutch, depending on the type of outfit they're trying to complete. If they are looking for a more elevated outfit, the choice is clear, whereas if they are going for a more casual look, it's pretty straightforward, too. Different options for the same kind of shoe or the same kind of bag should be spread out.
It's not a perfect science, though, and "the puzzle" sometimes won't allow for all of these factoring "pieces" to come together, but the goal is to make it as inviting, exciting and pleasant as possible. Ultimately, you want to guide the consumer throughout the story that you're telling, and have it be consistent with the concept within which your product is framed, always thinking about the business and the needs of your specific location, as well as your specific target customer's shopping habits, behavior and, most importantly, their needs and desires.
"How many followers do you have?", is the million dollar question that many get asked these days. We're constantly looking at this number, "our following", we have it imprinted in our minds even when we don't care about it, because the fact of the matter is that every time we open our social media accounts, that number is there. Some might not really care about "that stuff", being super nonchalant about it, and that is great if you're just a regular individual; but, while it is true that this number does not define you as a person, it does matter for your brand (that is if you have one). This is an unavoidable fact. And it's not because of the number itself, but because of what the following implies. "What does it imply?" You might ask. Aha! I'm here to answer that question.
For this post I'm going to be analyzing the stats for both my website and my Instagram account. Let's start with the website (the one you're reading from right now). Above, you can see the exact number for my unique visitors per week, and then my page views per week. To have a sense of the size of my audience, the unique visitors metric is the one that I want to be looking at. While page views are not as important to regular brands, it is still important to me, because it shows the engagement of my audience within my website. Page views are generated when people click deep into the site, and since right now I'm only focused on getting to know my audience and having them to get to know me, this is actually pretty huge to me. These numbers say that, on average, each person that visits my site, checks out at least three different pages when they're on it (without counting possible reloads or someone visiting more than once on the same day -which is still pretty cool- =D).
Weebly, which is the platform powering my website, also provides me with the information for my specific page views. So, as you can see above, people are looking mostly at my landing page, and then at my blog, and in third place comes a specific product which seems to be the most popular. Then, they are looking at how to contact me (amazing! don't be shy! =D), and so on and so forth.
Then, we have these two charts:
They show the engagement fluctuations in unique views and page views, during the last month. They don't have to necessarily match, because, as I said, for any given day I could have just a couple of visitors visiting all of the pages and then for another day more visitors just making it to the landing page. But I want to be looking at the days in which they matched the highest, like August 20th, and then going back and checking what I was posting on that day; because that was the day with the most engagement: more people visiting and more people staying and browsing through my site... What might have caught their attention?
This is when we head over to my Instagram stats (Sweeter 'N' Honey's, that is). Right now, Instagram is the only social media outlet where I'm consistently active and engaging with others (working on doing the same for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!). On @sweeternhoney's profile, I have the link for this website, specifically this blog. I would be pretty sure that all my visitors come from Instagram, if it weren't for the fact that my landing page still has more views than my blog (121 vs. 50). Therefore, I'm inclined to also give merit to many other profiles and pages where I have the link for Sweeter 'N' Honey's landing page (its Twitter, my LinkedIn profile, my Polyvore profile, even my résumé...). Although all of those add up, I still believe the larger base comes from Instagram.
On August 20th, I posted two pictures to IG, both featuring myself, styled in different ways. I actually didn't get that many likes on those photos, but my captions were really informative (while making use of popular related hashtags), and I actually got quite a few comments, so that might have prompted visitors to just go ahead and directly check my link. Also, two days before that, I posted a picture inviting people to collaborate with me, so -once my audience was checking out my profile on the 20th- that might have also been a trigger for them to visit my site. These are the posts from that day:
For Instagram stats, I'm using Iconosquare. The following charts show my follower growth over the last week, and then gained and lost followers in relation to media posted (over the last week as well).
It's interesting to see that my August 20th peak on the website remains consistent with my Instagram stats. I started gaining followers on the 19th, did so in the 20th too, and then started losing them on the 21st, up until this day. So what happened? When we look at the second chart, it's pretty clear that this is directly related to media posted (quantity, that is). Some days, I just don't post anything at all, and I actually haven't posted anything since the 21st. But wait! That very same day is when I started losing followers. So it's obviously not an exact science, but the stats are definitely consistent and trying to tell me something. Let's go further, then: who is my audience, anyway?
According to the stats, my media receive the most engagement when I post on Saturdays at 10pm PT. After that, it's Saturdays at 8pm PT, Tuesdays at 2am PT (wait, what?!), Thursdays at 10pm PT and Thursdays at 8pm PT. Therefore, I'm inclined to believe that my audience is mostly composed of "early birds". Even when thinking of the different time zones for each coast, I think it's safe to say that my followers are probably checking their Instagram when they're going to bed, and then when they're waking up (super early!). So they are people who are super active and busy during the day.
My most liked media ever consists of both content created by me and content that I have curated. I think the common ground lies in the visual appeal of it. Therefore, my audience might be more on the artistic side. I took a quick look at them, and there's a lot of creative entrepreneurs, mostly females. That's amazing! Because that has been my target all along. It's so relieving and fulfilling to know this. I now know that we are a lot alike and, for the most part, my followers are aesthetes, dreamers and doers.
And this goes to show just how important listening to those numbers is. I think my followers are pretty active, and they expect the same of the accounts they follow. I honestly don't know why I lost those people on the 21st, because on that day I actually posted a picture that got more likes than the other two from the 20th combined! Maybe I lost them before that, who knows. Maybe it was because I haven't responded to their comments or followed them back. This also serves as a reminder that these are relationships that we are forging, with real people and within a real community; sometimes you connect, sometimes you don't. There's no room here for an exact science whatsoever, just an approximate that comes from a deep understanding of what social means and how it works these days, and I think a big part of it is about being responsive, and letting people know about the human being on the other side of the media.
Now, let's make an actual purse! For this assignment, I had to create a striped fabric and produce the purse with any construction method I wanted. Since I'm on a budget, I wanted to use materials and resources that I already had, so I had to be very creative! I used unbleached muslin fabric that I still had left from a previous assignment, the festive foil that I gathered from my fabric research trip to Jo-Ann ($6.99 / yard - 58 in), some paint that I still had left from the assignment in which I created a red and blue striped fabric, a black Sharpie, and then the connecting rings and shoulder strap from an old purse that I dissembled. I also used sheer ribbon organza (from my fabric research trip to Jo-Ann) for the handle bases ($4.19 / yard - 56 in). And then I cut some black fabric from an old pair of black pants, to make another sort of base just above the connecting rings. I put it all together using permanent fabric tape, and I used cardboard as the "interfacing".
The paint sprayer broke, though. So I had to be even more imaginative! I actually used it to create a different pattern aside from the stripes. I had to take the cap off, since it wasn't working, and I would hold it down pressing against a plastic plate, so that I could gather some of the paint that it would leak, and then I used the cap as a sort of stamp, dipping it in the paint and then pressing it against the fabric, hence creating this bubble-like rounded pattern all over. Afterwards, I used the tip of the spray can to create a dotted pattern, by quickly and very precisely stamping the fabric with it, in a kind of "stabbing" motion.
Since the painted part of the fabric (both Sharpie and paint) constitute such an insignificant part of the whole cost of the bag -to the point of being untraceable-, I won't count that for the production cost of this purse. Therefore, I'm just going to count the costs for the two fabrics that I used here. The muslin costs $1.39 / yard - 36 in; and the festive foil is $6.99 / yard - 58 in. Below, I outline the production costs again, considering these aforementioned differences:
So, as you can see, the production costs have been reduced, and the bag is almost a whole dollar more affordable! =D
I think the main take away from this assignment (at least because of how it unfolded in my hands) lies in the importance of improvisation and adaptability to the environment, which is always changing and will always consist of limited resources. Creativity is not just a matter of being artsy and crafty, but also a matter of using what's at your disposal in an efficient and innovative way.
For this Parsons x Teen Vogue assignment, I created the mockup for what would be my signature bag. I decided I wanted to go with a structured purse. It's based on this Pinterest board that I created specifically for the course. My ideal signature bag is one that is as fashionable as it is practical, comfortable to wear and easy to hold, so mine features a shoulder strap. Beforehand, I did a little research on fabrics and documented their availability and price in a nearby store. These are my fabrics:
Basically, the mockup is just the skeleton, made out of cardboard. The real one would be made out of interfacing. The whole idea of making a mockup first is just figuring out the dimensions of the bag, how much fabric you would need, what type of fastenings, and so on. The following pictures show the step-by-step of this process:
And voila! The mockup has been created! Now, let's figure out how much it would cost to produce this purse, and which could be its retail price.
I measured the bag so I could determine its whole area. The body is 124 in^2, and the shoulder strap is 50 in^2. The fabric for the shoulder strap, though, would have to be twice as much, in order to cover it all around. So the shoulder strap would require 100 in^2 of fabric (festive foil = $6.99 / yard - 58 in) and 50 in^2 of lightweight interfacing. The body would require 124 in^2 of both the fabric (festive foil) and the form flex interfacing, which is a sturdier one (I want the purse to be able to stand on itself).
Note: I calculate the area for the one yard of any given fabric or interfacing, by multiplying 36 in (one yard) by its width. Depending on how much that area costs (the "by the yard" price), I calculate how much the areas of the different parts of my purse will cost.
Then for the handle bases, I would need 12.5 in^2 of fabric (sheer ribbon organza = $4.19 / yard - 56 in), and 5 in^2 of lightweight interfacing. Then the two connecting rings (bought in one hundred batches) to join the handle bases and the shoulder strap, and the magnetic purse button (also bought in one hundred batches) would complete the purse. Finally, I'd want to add a little detail that would require 16 in^2 of another fabric (pearlized sheer = $6.29 / yard - 44 in).
Here are the results of these calculations (I included staffing costs, too):
Going through all of these steps is actually really helpful when thinking about manufacturing for selling. Before you start to create the actual product, take all of these factors into consideration. Organization is key, and nothing beats a woman (or man) with a plan =)
We've all been there, pulling a dress we love from the rack, in the size that we are certain we are, and then finding it to be inexplicably small. There's quite a disparity out there not only from designer to designer, but also within a same "umbrella" designer's different brands, and even within their different lines.
For another Parsons x Teen Vogue assignment, I took a research trip to Nordstrom, I tried on different types of garments from different brands, and depending on the designer and also the kind of clothing, I found myself going back and forth from a size 2 all the way to an 8 (that's four different sizes!). My body type is way narrower around the torso, and then I have wider hips. So I'm always a 6-8 with bottoms and then a 2-4 with tops. With dresses, it can get quite tricky, depending on whether they're form-fitting or not. I'm generally a 2 with dresses as well, mostly because I almost never choose form-fitted styles.
Afterwards, I chose the "Livvy" Stripe Tank Top from Rag & Bone in a size Small, which fit perfectly, and I tried on every "identical" item of this style (meaning the same top in the same size). I tried on three of these, and just one seemed to be a little bit smaller around the bust. According to their sizing chart, a size Small fits a 2-4, but clothes are made with up to 1/2" tolerance, so that explains occasional slight differences in sizing. Actually, even the slightly smaller item fit really well.
Sizing is tricky, and for a brand to position itself highly amongst its customers, it must provide smart sizing charts, especially if they want to maintain customer loyalty. I work at a start-up that sells bridesmaid dresses and sometimes a certain designer will run small, and people will find themselves sizing up one or even two sizes. This is something that happens regularly with high end fashion, and I also confirmed it during this try on exercise. It is the opposite of what is called "vanity sizing", which is actually meant to flatter customers.
However, let us not lose sight of the fact that these are just numbers. If you're normally a 4, and then a certain brand puts you in a size 6, so what? What's important is that you know your body and what fits best on your body type. You'll be aware that you generally go from a 2 to an 8, for instance, and you'll be familiar with the different brands that run true to size and the ones that run smaller (or bigger!), and be able to shop accordingly. As long as the garment fits and looks fabulous on you, who cares about the number? =)
One of my first assignments for the Fashion Essentials course I'm taking with Parsons x Teen Vogue, consisted of creating an accessory made out of unconventional materials. I made this choker, out of some ribbon I had left from a gift, staples, and cotton rope that I bought for the assignment.
Let's say, though, that I were looking to produce this item for the purpose of selling it. Let's take a look at what it would actually cost me to produce this item:
These would be the costs if:
1- I buy this 10 yard black cotton cord at $5.99, from which I would use 34 inches per piece (0.94 yards).
2- I buy this 25 yard gold ribbon at $7.65, from which I would use 6 inches per piece (0.16 yards).
3- Staple costs are not included, since 5,000 staples would cost $3.76 (every 2,500 chokers = 0.001504 per choker).
4- I pay the person manufacturing the choker $12 per hour, and expected it to be completed in a half an hour (the time it took me to make it).
5- I would like to make a 20% profit.
The total cost plus profit is $7.93, and this is the amount I would have to make for each item at a minimum. How much more could I add for an estimated retail price? Honestly, not much, since it's a very simple, homemade accessory. Let's add a couple of cents for a more "smart" number. If I were to make just a couple of these, I may be able to sell them at this price, making just over a dollar in profit. It doesn't seem like smart business, so I'd need to do some tweaking. How can I lower my production costs? So that I could make these chokers at a more efficient rate, and sell more at a wholesale price so that stores could carry them.
These would be the costs if:
1- I buy this 20 yard black cotton cord at $4.25.
2- I buy the same 25 yard gold ribbon, since a more affordable one of the same quality can't be found.
3- I still pay the person manufacturing the choker $12 per hour, but now we refine the production process so that it can be done in 10 minutes. A half an hour is what it took me to make it the first time, and I was actually just experimenting and taking my time. This is something that can easily be done in ten minutes, just as long as there's a real, efficient assembly line.
4- I would still like to make a 20% profit.
So now, even though this time I would be making around 50 cents profit per choker, I would be making and selling more of these. And at the wholesale price of 2.74 each, the estimated retail price could actually be a more reasonable one, just $5.49 per choker.
It's important to make these calculations as soon as you start considering selling your product, so that you can make adjustments where needed and ponder if it would actually be good business. Your beautiful creations deserve to be tested, so give it a try =)
It is with a great deal of pleasure and excitement that we welcome you to our magical little store, where so many wonderful things are happening! We have been anticipating this moment for months, but we were planning everything down to the last detail so that you could enjoy a simple yet creative experience here at home. This is not just a store, this is a space for imagination and creation and we are inviting you to be a part of it. So, without further ado, I give you Shaken Magazine.
P.S. You can learn more About Us here!