There is a lack of research on consumer shopping behaviors for African fashion. I can almost guarantee that for African fashion designers or retailers of African fashion, lack of understanding of the retail shopping experience of consumers of African fashion will lead to adoption of practices that may not increase your financial bottom line. See, if you don’t understanding our shopping experiences, how can you then empower us to make better decisions in the retail setting? Personally for me and according to research conducted by key business scholars at UIUC, I tend to use concrete thinking with the African fashion I see whether on the internet or at brick and mortar stores. Concrete thinking as defined by Viswanathan et al. (2005) is a process whereby I process single pieces of information about the African fashion item I want to purchase without using higher level of abstractions. For example, questions or doubts about the quality of the item may force me to consider the price, versus making trade offs between attributes such as the price and the quality of the fabric used. I tend to focus on the quality of the fabric, because well, I will never recommend putting your African fashion item in a washer as chances are you may not be happy with the end result.
Now with the advent of social media and the proliferation of #africanfashion and it’s variants everywhere, pictographic thinking is essential and as Viswanathan et al (2015) suggests, it is a process whereby we view brand names and prices as images in a scene rather than symbols to read. This is also a process whereby we visualize products to buy by picturing them rather than using other available information such as the design process of the item. This maybe akin to window-shopping.
So why does concrete thinking or pictographic thinking matter for understanding the retail shopping experience of consumers of African fashion. For starters, in both cases, empowering a potential customer of fashion and style from African requires clear presentation of price information or other focal information, particularly with regard to pictorial information. It’s not enough to tell people that you are selling these items, but you must display them in ways that would make people purchase your item. Additionally, whether it’s concrete thinking or pictographic thinking, it is critical to understand that your consumers are not a single, homogenous group and so your items must attend to these issues given the vast information and product choice that you may have at your store. Also your potential customers may process information quite differently and so empowering to shop at your store or purchase your clothes will require a fundamental and challenging shift in thinking that goes beyond implicit assumptions about their ability as decision-makers of African fashion.
See as a shopper, the reason why you should understand my experience with purchasing your item is that it will ultimately enhance how you advertise to me to purchase again as well as enhance your marketing mix. Such considerations are often taken for granted by African fashion designers and owners of stores selling fashion and style from African.
So herein lies an important opportunity to propel African fashion to the next level; Understand the retail shopping experience of your customers. They are already visiting you or purchasing an item, so why not take the time to ask them necessary questions that will ultimately enhance their experience at your store, and who knows, visit again to purchase something else. Trust me, these simple efforts will result in enduring customer loyalty, thus leading to competitive advantage for African fashion in the global fashion industry while benefiting your growing customer base.