Where do you shop? At a shopping centre, department store, boutique or on the internet?
As our lives become busier, time becomes scarce and patience become endangered, everyone is tempted to proceed to the checkout with their virtual shopping carts. Shopping on the internet has transformed from a dream, to a phenomenon (ask Natalie Massnet, founder of high-end online giant Net-a-Porter). To the consumer, online shopping is paradise, the goods are easy to find, the prices are competitive, check out is simple and delivery is fast. To retailers, online shops have become their worst nightmares.
Retailers and online stores are worlds-apart, mutually exclusive and as different as water and oil. Or are they? They may be on completely different platforms, however shops are shops, whether online or on the street, they will only be successful if they deliver a good experience to their customers. Just as clarity, user-friendliness, and synchronization with technology are what boosts traffic and sales on an online store; honesty, integrity and exceptional customer service are key ingredients to a success retail store wishing to attract repeat customers. Both online and physical stores could easily incorporate fast delivery and utilise social media to promote their businesses.
Something going in favour of retail stores is that human beings are creatures of interaction, craving real human connection, this is why despite being in partnership with the latest gadgets (think apps for iphones and ipads) even e-commerce stores hold events, organise parties and develop Pop-up stores to give their customers a real life experience. Retail shops have a chance to triumph if they employ friendly, helpful and informative staff which become their assets. Staff is the fragrance that either attracts or repulses customers. Retailers should also train their staff to know the core values of their business as well as the latest products and trends so that they can outdo a computer screen. After all, online stores will never match what retailers can offer – that real customer service and rapport which brings repeat sales.
Successful online and retail shops need to embrace each other’s strengths and learn to adapt these winning characteristics into their own businesses to ensure that their customers are having a good shopping experience, online or in the store.
Many of you know that I am an avid supporter of independent small businesses (as I used to run one myself and each day challenged myself to give customers the best service possible). Here are the boutiques I adore, because I am usually greeted, welcomed, served, styled, educated by the owner and Theodore is allowed in! I would like to introduce you to 3 of my favourite luxurious stores in Melbourne who takes retail to the next level:
- Madam Virtue & Co – for the stylish lady who is well-read, well-travelled and well-heeled. Boutique owners Dean and JC has the largest array of hand-made couture dresses in Melbourne, along with a myriad of European darling designers such as Lanvin, YSL, Chanel, Hermes. They have a bespoke tailoring service and a gorgeous SharPei named Maude. You may recall my last shopping experience with them here.
- Peony Melbourne- Haute Parfumerie, THE place for decadently unique and artisan perfumes that transports you into another ear, another realm. The beautiful home of nearly 30 fragrance and candle labels including Annick Goutal, Cire Trudon, Fragonard, Ladurée and Rancé 1795, just to name a few. Peony also houses the perfume exclusively created for Marie Antoinette, the long-awaited (yes a 200 years waiting list) ‘Black Jade’ by Lubin. Owner Jill, who is like a walking fragrance encyclopedia, is both charming and patient, one could spend a whole day with her learning about the history and compositions of all the fragrances.
- Miles Mason Trading Company – lovely boutique specialising in beautiful yet quirky gifts and home-wares the for eco-conscious. Owner Charlotte selects environmentally-friendly, affordable and made-in-Melbourne products for her customers. Look out for the Melbourne-based organic skincare range GROWN, wooden animal boxes, beautiful soy candles and intriguing Distortion candle sticks.
I was fortunate to visit both Peony Melbourne and Miles Mason last week, there I stocked up on delicious candles and delightful moisteurisers. Here are the photographic evidence of my spoils! Visit these lovely stores for real personal customer service and an unforgettable shopping experience.
Clockwise from top left: GROWN face moisteriser and eye cream (Miles Mason Trading Company)/Sample of Black Jade perfume by Lubin/Hand-written card from Jill/Astier de Villatte ‘CAMBRIDGE‘/Carriere Freres Industrie candles, all from Peony Melbourne
I am all about the experience, the sensuous, the tactile, the thought-provoking, and the liberty to try things on. I love learning about new designers, labels, collections and products. And the stores that provide us with that experience deserves all of our rapport and support.