Leading retailer David Jones recently decided to ditch the traditional runway show of its autumn/winter launch, for an immersive and intimate experience. About 100 guests were treated to a lunch at Hobart’s Museum of New and Old Art (MoNA), before a showcase of the season’s latest trends.

It’s a brave move for the premium department store who has been trading for 180 years. But, with operating profit decreasing by 58.3 per cent in 2018 compared to the end of fiscal 2017, this progressive shift is a sign of the times.

In the 2018 Integrated Annual Report for Woolworth Holdings Limited, parent company to David Jones, consumer spending behaviour was identified as a top priority for the group. The report highlights not meeting customer expectations in terms of product and connected retail experience as a key risk to its businesses.

The group has identified that leveraging ‘customer data and analytics from loyalty programmes to inform all our business decisions to deliver to customers’ wants, needs and expectations’ is its greatest opportunity for risk mitigation.

The idea of a customer-first strategy isn’t new. Nor is it a passing phase. The early adopters have embraced this change in consumerism, forging forward in making a mark on their industries (think Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook). While the brands left behind are still putting loss-leading price strategies front and centre in their marketing mix and wondering why this isn’t helping their bottom line.

Think of the runway as your brand and project: thoughtfully designed to hopefully appeal to your purchasers, on display for reviews (the good and the bad), to be admired and wanted as not only the season’s best, but a curated classic (to call home).

Brands and projects are compelling at selling a vision. Evocative positioning descriptions, beautiful collateral – ticking all the marketing must-haves to spark interest. But what happens when the consumer takes the next steps and takes your product home? And it doesn’t look as good as it did in the shop (it must have been the lighting), the buttonholes are poorly stitched, and the struggle of buyers’ remorse is real.

Does your customer experience fall short when visiting a sales centre and interacting with your brand beyond a shiny brochure and pretty landing page?

It’s time to ditch your runway must-haves and respond to your customers personally. It’s no longer about cut-copy designs or one size fits all, but rather making coveted couture – tailor-made to specific audiences for the ultimate experience. The sooner developers understand the shift in power and focus on consumer-centric design and experience, the sooner you can navigate steadily throughout any peaks or troughs in the property market.

Here are a few ideas to kick start your obsession with customers:

  1. Address them by name in every email. That means you need a CRM that is filled with accurate information.
  2. When you call your prospects, make sure you have read over their CRM notes so that you can tailor your conversation to their needs. No point in talking to them about a three-bedroom home when they need four!
  3. Understand customer pains. What are their frustrations, annoyances or things that give them a headache? Provide educational advice that helps alleviate these
  4. Deliver on time. Nothing gets more attention on social media than the late delivery of a stage or home.
  5. Survey your purchasers. Find out what keeps them awake at night when it comes to living in your community. There might be one small thing you can do to help alleviate this stress.