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Rent the Runway Research Plan and Execution

Published on 27th March 2018

Rent The Runway

RQ: How can Rent The Runway best engage their target audience to have a memorable and interactive experience?

Status

DATA

            The most common range for the order price of online women’s fashion is up to $50, with 39% of orders being placed in that range.[i] In terms of consumers spending, apparel gets the least of the budget, with only 3.14%.[ii] At this price point, the most accessible form of clothing is fast fashion, in which a consumer can buy the most amount of clothes for the cheapest price, and even style, but not the best quality. In a study about consumer options on high-end fashion, it was found that dreams, exclusivity, and beauty/art are most associated with luxury goods. Noted, is that implicit in the conception of exclusivity is the production of notions about status.[iii]

It was found that the primary way young adult users research high-end fashion is through Social Media, with 23% of responders using that method[iv]. Following this, 14.3% use fashion magazines, and 13% use celebrities as a means for research. Also discovered was that 78% of people aged 18-34 would rather spend money on experiences than goods, and in the past year 82% participated in live events such as concerts or festivals.[v]

ANALYSIS

            Consumers of fashion currently seek status. The price point for consumer’s apparel purchases matches the price point for fast fashion, although the true desire for apparel is for luxury items. As many people receive their high-end fashion knowledge from social media, it can appear that many other people are in the know about trends and designers, and may even have more accessibility to the items, which can be dividing. Today’s consumer is extremely interested in high end fashion, and the idea of sharing that experience through social media.

            Although more people would rather spend money on an experience than goods, fashion is not necessarily only a good. Luxury goods, which are not accessible to most people, when worn, have a high significance to the wearer. In the case of Rent The Runway, the clothes becomes necessary to the experience, and change the experience very drastically. When social media is used, the entire story and event around the piece of clothing is displayed and processed by the audience. The same is true for celebrities. When an interesting piece of fashion is worn, the time, place, or event, is generally noted and taken into account for.

The act of enjoying luxury fashion stands as an event alone, that consumers are willing to enjoy even if it is only for a brief period of time, because with social media, the picture will last much longer, and create a much larger effect than just the one time worn.

[i] Statista. Average ticket size of online fashion orders in the United States. https://www.statista.com/stati...

[ii] Statista. Average annual expenditures of all consumer units in the United States in 2016, by type. https://www.statista.com/stati...

[iii] A. Joy, J.F. Sherry, et al. Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands. https://www3.nd.edu/~jsherry/pdf/2012/FastFashionSustainability.pdf

[iv] Statista. Primary way in which young adult internet users in the United States research high-end fashion and luxury items in 2017. https://www.statista.com/stati...

[v] Everbrite. Millennials: Fueling the Experience Economy. https://www.eventbrite.com/blo...


Rent The Runway

RQ: How can Rent The Runway best engage their target audience to have a memorable and interactive experience?

Personal Gain

DATA

Fast fashion is the recent development in apparel consumerism that values a wide range of quickly changing styles sold at an inexpensive cost.[i] Fast fashion, which is most popular among students aged 20-26 [ii] is harmful to the planet, creating 15.1 million tons of waste a year.[iii] In a study on fast fashion and sustainability, it was found that for consumers aged 18-23 “sustainability is not a term young consumers typically associate with fashion, although they are very open to environmentalism.”[iv] This contrasts with the subjects opposing views in which, “They talked in general terms of saving the environment, were committed to recycling, and expressed dedication to organic food.” But “did not apply such principles to their consumption of fashion.”

A recent shift in the clothing industry has shown an increased interest in thrift store purchases and clothing swaps, as well as an effort to reduce the amount of clothing owned, which is an average of 30 outfits available.[v] In an effort to experiment with minimalism, Man Repeller, a largely influential fashion blog, reviewed ‘The System’ by Eileen Fisher.[vi] This regimen is one where the owner only possesses 8 garments in her entire closet. The System was given a positive review, and in order to change the outfits at times, the writer would accessorize. A comment on the post read “I've really considered doing this and selling most of my clothes to make my life 10x easier.”

ANALYSIS

            Through research, it has been shown that young consumers are experiencing cognitive dissonance in in relation to their purchasing habits of clothing. Young consumers, who express interest in environmentalism in most other sectors of their life, do not think about fashion as one of the important steps to be taken in support of environmentalism. Consumers of fast fashion enjoy the low prices and wide diversity of choices in clothing, but they are ignorant to the other ways to achieve the same outcome.

            This market desires change in wardrobe for a personal gain of simplicity. Consumers are searching for alternatives, but the large and prevailing fast fashion market makes competition difficult, especially when consumer tastes have already been adapted. Rent The Runway, which at this point does not promote themselves as an eco-friendly way to shop, does actually fit within these definitions, and should express themselves as such. The act of renting clothes is a solution to the problem of have many unnecessary clothes linger within the closet, as the rented clothes will only be present when they are needed.       

[i] Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.co...

[ii] L. Holm. Consumer Behavior Characteristics in Fast Fashion. http://bada.hb.se/bitstream/23...

[iii] Huffington Post. We Buy A Staggering Amount Of Clothing, And Most Of It Ends Up In Landfills. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

[iv] A. Joy, J.F. Sherry, et al. Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands. https://www3.nd.edu/~jsherry/pdf/2012/FastFashionSustainability.pdf

[v] Forbes. The Real Cost of Your Shoppings Habits. https://www.forbes.com/sites/e...

[vi] Man Repeller. I’ve Limited My Wardrobe to 8 Pieces and It’s… Amazing. http://www.manrepeller.com/201...


Rent The Runway

RQ: How can Rent The Runway best engage their target audience to have a memorable and interactive experience?

Individuality

DATA

Subscription boxes, which are the relatively recent distribution of consistent mail-ordered items, ranges in products from beauty and novelty items to even food. Subscription boxes have increased in interest, with a 3,000% growth in website visits over the past 3 years.[i] Of the top performing boxes, Ipsy and BirchBox, both beauty boxes, lead. Of these boxes, and of most of the top 10 performing boxes, the contents inside are specifically selected for the customer, and change every box based on a review from the customer. While currently 6% of women have a clothes subscription box[ii], 10% of women are currently considering one.[iii]

In a study about fast fashion, which gives consumers an individualistic sense of being because of all the options available, a responder said “I don’t want to look like someone else—so the limited edition satisfies this need to be unique.”[iv] Also in this study, it was found that disposability was a reason for high interest in fast fashion, because it allows for consumers to constantly change their identity. Responders said that luxury fashion was a means of exclusivity, and that style is achievable even if quality is not. In a poll, it was found that the two highest requirements for clothing were quality, of which 71% of people demanded, and low cost, which 70% of people demanded.[v]

Analysis

            Today’s consumers are very interested in individuality and being able to express that, while also having other’s notice it. Consumers want companies that can choose what is best for them, or at least guide them in the right direction, because the market is so large with so many products available for purchase. Consumers change their minds very frequently, therefore it is necessary for companies to be able to keep up with that speed, but even ahead of it so that customers are not left waiting.

            Consumers enjoy the sampling method that subscription boxes offer, which requires no commitment to a single product for very long, and also gives the consumer an element of surprise with each box. While the prices of subscription boxes tend to be higher than if the product was purchased in a store, consumers are willing to pay for that for the effect of individuality that is given. The consumer wants their experience to be personalized, and the consumer wants to be important.

[i] Shorr Packaging. The State of Subscriptions. https://www.shorr.com/packagin...

[ii] Statista. Share of consumers with an active clothing items subscription in the United States. https://www.statista.com/stati...

[iii] Statista. Share of consumers likely to consider a clothing items subscriptions in the United States. https://www.statista.com/stati...

[iv] A. Joy, J.F. Sherry, et al. Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands. https://www3.nd.edu/~jsherry/pdf/2012/FastFashionSustainability.pdf

[v] Statista. Which criteria are especially important to you when buying clothing, accessories, and shoes online? https://www.statista.com/stati...


Rent The Runway Interview Assignment

Research Objectives

  • -A goal of this interview is to discover what influences consumers’ purchases in the clothing industry.
  • -Another goal of this interview is to learn about how consumers form and communicate their ideas and opinions about fashion and clothing.

Question Map:

What type of clothing do you typically wear every day?

            [T-shirt and jeans, Athleisure, dresses]

How does your clothing change for special occasions or specific days?

            [Fancier, Put more time into outfit]

How do you feel when you wear the special occasion clothing as opposed to your everyday wear?

                                                            [More confident, self-assured]

Why do you feel that way?

[I look nicer, better impression, I enjoy the clothing, people compliment]

How likely are you to document or share with others what you are wearing?

            [Not very likely---pretty likely]

(If response is likely) Tell me how you usually document or share.

[Social media, texting, in person comparing]

What are current trends in fashion that you participate in?

            [Fast fashion, Athleisure, specific article of clothing like turtlenecks, etc.]

How are you usually exposed to trends?

[Friends in person or online, celebrities, Blogs]                      

Apart from specific trends in clothing design, how do you feel the fashion industry has changed over the past several years?

[Recent emphasis on eco-friendly production, many clothes and options produced rapidly, thrift stores, buying reused online]

How do you feel about the recent movement toward borrowing clothes or buying used clothing?

[It’s a good method, I like it if I know the person, I like it no matter if I know the person, It is gross]

When are you most likely to borrow clothing or buy used clothing?

            [If just for an event, if inexpensive]

What makes someone stylish?

            [On trend, wearing unique items]

How do you feel about your personal style?

                                    [I’m alright, I’m happy, I could change this…]

Where do you usually get your inspiration for style? Why?

[I don’t search, Instagram, friends, magazines, it’s accessible]

When you buy new clothes, why do you choose to?

[I’m going for trends, I just like it, for an event]

Findings

The more personal the more comfortable?

Insight: Comfort

            A shopping environment that exhibits familiarity and simplicity is likely to make a consumer feel at ease and will create an overall comfortable shopping experience, which will influence the consumer to purchase from the store or brand.

Data

Expressed by the interviewee was the significant impact that environment had on her purchase of clothing. She said that she decides to purchase items only when her closet needs a “revamp” but, “If I happen to be shopping in the mall with friends, I’ll definitely want to buy a couple of things, but I’m pretty frugal, so those fast-fashion stores are my go-to if I know I don’t need anything.” She later went on to say “I’m actually a fan of fast-fashion stores and brands because you can buy a pretty nice shirt for so cheap. The only thing is that there is a lot in those stores so it takes time and patience to sort through.”   

When asked about swapping clothing with people, the interviewee responded “I depend on swapping clothes with my friends a lot just because I know I have trouble shopping for myself, and I know I like my friends’ clothes better. Especially if I’m going to an event or an occasion.” She also said “If I walk into a secondhand store I’m not very comfortable with that, but apps like Poshmark I don’t mind as much, which is so weird because it’s basically the same thing. But I’d say in general I wouldn’t love to share clothes with strangers. People’s clothes are on them and you don’t know where they’ve been, how they smell. Clothes are very much your lifestyle.”

            Analysis

            As exhibited in this interview, the desire to purchase clothing from a store is influenced by the level of familiarity and comfort present in the shopping environment of the consumer. The interviewee, who wouldn’t normally go to a fast-fashion store, was more likely to purchase from one if she was in the company of friends, which provides a familiar aspect to the usually unfamiliar style of store that also requires patience to shop through. In terms of borrowing clothes, the interviewee also felt comfortable when the clothes came from friends, who are familiar people. She was also more accepting of using Poshmark than shopping at a thrift store, potentially because Poshmark has users create profiles and it is more personal than clothes anonymously left at thrift stores. As discovered in previous research, consumers enjoy personalization in product design or selection from companies, so creating an environment that extends the same attempt at individualizing the experience for a customer while shopping will be appreciated and influence purchasing decisions.

            Rent The Runway, which operates primarily through an online platform, must create comfort within online shopping. As people tend to online shop alone, in-person company is not an option, but social media platforms that connect people are potential additions to the website that could create familiarity and mimic the experience of shopping in a group. Also, recreating aspects of in-store shopping that consumers have grown to expect and be comfortable with, such as shopping assistants, is an area that could help increase the desirability of purchasing on their online platform. The next step would be to discover what about the in-store shopping experience is enjoyed and how to adjust that for an online platform.

Insight: Trust in Community

            When consumers decide which clothes to purchase or wear, they consider what other people with similar clothing interests wear and take greater guidance from people that have established themselves as knowledgeable within that group.

Data

            When asked her general perception of the clothing industry, the interviewer responded that “It depends on your personal interest, in my world Athleisure is prominent. Otherwise I don’t really know that much about fashion in general, besides what I see other people wearing.” She also said “I follow a lot of professional athletes and fitness models on Instagram and Facebook, so that’s where I get my style from. Social media sets the trend. I know other people follow celebrities, but I don’t really do that.” The interviewee, who borrows clothes from friends said “I depend on swapping clothes with my friends a lot just because I know I have trouble shopping for myself, and I know I like my friends’ clothes better.” She also said that she enjoys talking about fashion with people, but more which styles she doesn’t like rather than what she does like.

Analysis

            Based on this interview, it was found that most of clothing choice considerations come from the influence of other people who have similar styles or who have some relationship with the consumer, either personally as a friend or as a well-known person who participates within the same community of fashion. The interviewee is present within the Athleisure community on social media where she follows and learns of trends from known figures in that market and does not follow trends from those outside of this community (like from celebrities). She is strongly influenced by her friends, who are trusted sources, as she borrows their clothes and even prefers those clothes over her own. She mentioned discussing fashion with friends, which shows fashion as an essential component to the formation and essence of her friendships.

As found in the first insight, the addition of friends and familiarity creates a comfortable environment that customers will be more likely to shop within. Comfort excels when trust is prevalent. The creation of niche communities invested in particular trends or styles can be used to connect people in order for them to form meaningful relationships based around similar interests. On social media, when people are personally unknown, a level of trust is automatically established if that person is present in a similar community of interests, because the trust in the community will extend to include individuals. In order to further develop this for Rent The Runway, an emphasis on the brand as a community of members who live among one another and actively participate in each other’s lives should be declared.

many people are stylish

prefer in store

            revamp in closet, motivated to go

style from professional athletes or fitness models

            social media sets the trend

I talk about clothing she doesn’t like more than she likes

Friends influence

            When shopping in mall

            -talk about social media

-trouble shopping for self, share clothes- especially for event, don’t want to buy something wearing once

secondhand store- not very comfortable

apps like poshmark are good

-But would prefer to not share clothes with strangers

      -people’s clothes are on them,

                  very much your lifestyle (a personal matter)

“Brand does not matter as much as the way it feels and looks. Specific brands do stick in my head and I would go to that store over another, but price is big for me too”

“I need help with my nice-style clothes, but I also don’t like to spend a lot on something I know I won’t wear that much, so I’m actually a fan of fast-fashion stores and brands because you can buy a pretty nice shirt for so cheap. The only thing is that there is a lot in those stores so it takes time and patience to sort through. Quality is also not the greatest but I don’t wear that sort of stuff all the time so I’m not too worried about it getting worn out.”

“I only online shop if I’m bored”

“I prefer in-store shopping because although it’s more of an effort, when I buy things online a lot of times they don’t fit. I’d rather go in the store

“If I’m feeling like a need a revamp of my closet I’ll be motivated to go to the store.”

“I talk about clothing I don’t like with people.”

“If I happen to be shopping in the mall with friends, I’ll definitely want to buy a couple things, but I pretty frugal, so those fast-fashion stores are my go-to if I know I don’t need anything.”

When asked what could make her spend more on something she replied “If I know I can wear it a lot but sometimes if something is expensive I’ll be more hesitant, but it won’t stop me.”

“I depend on swapping clothes with my friends a lot just because I know I have trouble shopping for myself, I just know I like my friends clothes better. Especialy if I’m going to an event or occasion”

“If I walk into a secondhand store I’m not very comfortable with that, but apps like Poshmark I don’t mind as much, which is so weird because it’s basically the same thing. But I’d say in generally I wouldn’t love to share clothes with strangers, butwhy not: “People’s clothes are on them and you don’t know where they’ve been , how they smell, clothes are very much your lifestyle.”

Survey Assignment

Research Question: How can Rent The Runway best engage their target audience to have a memorable and interactive experience?

Insight: Online Experience

For all income groups, people were interested in splurging on travel, something that is fully an experience more than an object. For people from a lower income bracket though, there was a greater desire to splurge on food, perhaps because people from higher incomes already have that option. From higher income groups, people were likely to attend social gatherings (mean 3.47) more frequently than people from lower income groups (mean 2.8).

The most interesting piece of data I found was that people from higher income groups were more likely to purchase from online resellers and swap clothing with friends, but much less likely to purchase from thrift stores than lower income participants. This stresses that there are potentially inherent values against thrift stores that people from higher incomes have, but when the used clothing is from people who are known (as friends) or from online, there is not a stigma against sharing the clothes. The stigma is potentially erased when online because there is a comfort from online that many younger people have now because it is a frequently used medium. Also, there is anonymity is shopping this way.  Alternatively, though, the group of people who preferred to shop in store was also the same group that would be more willing to splurge on clothing. But, when asked how much someone would be willing to pay for a luxury fashion subscription service, people in the middle-income bracket, $50,000-$150,000, were willing to pay the least. When the question was asked again but instead described as sending luxury clothing, the standard deviation increased significantly for all income groups, displaying distinctly different values on luxury and fashion among the groups.

For Rent The Runway, this means that the company must rework the idea that luxury fashion is an experience, more so than typical just appearance based clothing. People who splurge on clothing are more likely to do so in-store, but Rent The Runway does not have that option everywhere as their focus is an online platform. To create a memorable experience, some social aspect should be created for RTR customers, because the benefit of social media is that people are friends with each other, which combines the comfort of friends and also the comfort of online shopping that people were more likely to use when from a higher income. The higher income group is the target market for RTR because this group was by far willing to pay more for a fashion subscription service.

Insight: Ease of Dressing

            People are prepared and comfortable dressing up for events and wearing something that they’ve just bought, indicating that the preparedness of these clothing items relieves the stress of picking out clothing, because for events people generally have something picked in advance, or if something is just recently bought, the new item of clothing is an easy answer of what to wear. People were less likely to feel comfortable, though, wearing something that stands out, is expensive, or dressing up on a daily basis.

            When people were questioned, most people said that fashion is part of their everyday life and that they dress fashionably, but it is not the most important thing to them. Also found was that people were happy with their wardrobe but still interested in expanding their closets. This shows a cognitive dissonance among people’s thoughts of what they would like and what they know they actually need. This is wear Rent The Runway fits in, because RTR can be used to expand a closet without adding permanently. Most people had issues with everyday dress but were fine with dressing for an occasion. This is an area where RTR can expand, because currently the company focuses on luxury wear and not the fact that having clothes be sent would alleviate the stress of getting dressed in the mornings. RTR could have campaigns that show inexpensive pieces that are fashionable and can be worn for day-to-day wear, as opposed to campaigns that only focus on the luxury side of clothing. Also, RTR could give examples of closets that work with RTR, such as owning the basics but using RTR for easy statement pieces that make mornings very fast, but fashionable.

Limitations

An issue that was apparent in the research study was that when a specific part of a topic was asked while many other topics were asked about, in our case environmental sustainability, people did not think too much about the question, but when the questions began to focus on environmental sustainability, people knew that was the data we were looking for and changed their answers to reflect a more informed and active consumer than if the questions were just sporadically thrown among other questions. As our survey did include the question when among other topics and also when solely questioned on that topic, it was good to see the variations in a person’s response which reflects in general how people could switch their answers. For the future, I would most likely just include those questions when among an array of others though, because the focus of the survey was not to see the psychology of survey-taking but just authentic answers.

Another issue I felt within the survey design was that some questions began the scale on strongly disagree and then further to the right moved to strongly agree, while other scales worked in the opposite way. This would be difficult for a respondent and even could even facilitate incorrect responses because when scales are introduced on one side but then flip, not all responders will notice. It also makes reviewing the data difficult because some mean scores do not reflect the first logic when viewed, and further analysis of the question must be done to see which whether a higher mean signals strongly agree or strongly disagree, which takes up time and is also just confusing and could lead to incorrect interpretation. For a future survey, I would keep the scales increasing the same way, but would just vary question styles so people do not become bored or respond too quickly without thinking.

A final limitation I felt was the definition of words. Most notably the term “Social media” and what that truly measures. Social media is a combination of friends and public figures, so when questioning about this, some people could view more strongly that social media is one or the other. An example of how to fix this for the future could be to add a preliminary question of “On social media, I mainly look at content from:” with options as answers as “friends, celebrities/public figures, or both.” Though this would not give a perfect insight into how someone defines social media, it will give a better understanding of how people use it and then can be cross referenced with other questions about social media.

Focus Group Assignment

Research Question: How can Rent The Runway best engage their target audience to have a memorable and interactive experience?

Objectives: From this focus group, I would like to learn about the potential customers of Rent The Runway and what their overall opinions on the current state of fashion are. This means learning what the group (and potential larger audience) feels about personal style, and what makes someone stylish. Also, this means discovering what the current issues within the fashion market are and what consumers would like to see change.

Question Map:

How important is what you wear?

            [Very important---Not at all]

        When is it most important?

               [Certain events like interview, formal occasion, or everyday wear]

Why is it important then?

                        [Express myself, make an impression]

Is documenting what you wear important for you? By photos, social media, etc.? Explain when you would or wouldn’t do this.

[Yes I like people to see, I like for myself, or No things are best in person]

How do you feel about the current state of the clothing industry?

            [Too much going on, moves too quick, bad for the environment, or I like it]

                        What changes in the clothing industry would improve the situation?

[Less trends, less fast fashion, or I don’t think there are necessary changes]

If you have any issues with the clothing industry, what do you do now to handle these?

[Thrifting, borrowing clothes, buying organic, selecting quality over quantity]

What makes someone stylish?

            [On trend, wearing unique items]

How do you feel about your personal style?

                        [It is alright, I’m happy, I could change this….]

                                     Where do you usually get your inspiration for style? Why?

                                                [I don’t search, Instagram, magazines, it’s accessible]

                                                When you buy new clothes, why do you choose to?

                                                            [I’m going for trends, I just like it, for an event]

Findings and Analysis

Individuality

The participants in the focus group stressed importantly the idea that style comes from a unique perspective on fashion and not from just following trends or buying designer items.

Finding: One participant when asked what makes someone stylish said, “I think different is a big part of it. Whoever comes up with the weirdest thing and makes it look cool, then that becomes the trend.” But also, later explained ease was necessary to style. “That’s my issue with the Instagram sharing, you can tell that they’re putting on this image not for themselves.” Another participant said “When someone sticks out to me being stylish, it’s not because they’re wearing brands that everyone recognizes, it’s the way they pair it in a new, different way.” She also earlier said, “Having a good style, or having a style that reflects your personality is the best way you can say something about yourself on a first appearance. If I’m dressed a certain way that reflects my personality, people notice that.” Some of the participants said that they do look up current trends, but they will not buy something just because it is on trend. Also though, a participant said “Trends are in the air, you can tell from celebrities and everywhere, but I don’t look them up.”

Analysis: Participants in this focus group were very against just following trends for the sake of being trendy. To this group, that did not at all equate to being stylish. Extremely important was wearing items that were unique to each person’s tastes, and even being ahead of the trend, not the person following one. As I found in my secondary research, consumers are interested in the idea of personalization from companies to help decide what is appropriate for each customer, not just selling to everyone as the same person. As reflected here, consumers have very different styles and like to emphasize that they are not solely on trend with one another, but each going in different directions, all while still being similarly levels of “stylish.” As trends were not an interest to this group, but only something that occurs in the background of fashion, it is important for a company going forward to understand the consumer need for individualization of product options, and make sure items are unique and also fit specifically to a consumer.

Mindfulness

Many of the participants expressed a distaste for fast fashion because the trends move too fast and because the production of so many items is wasteful.

Finding: One participant said, “When you go into Forever 21 there is 1 shirt in 5 different colors, that never needs to happen.” When talking about subscription boxes, this participant also discussed that her problem with the beauty boxes is that they create a lot of waste just for a couple items, and eventually she will have all the make-up she needs. Another participant said about her apparel buying habits, “I used to choose quantity over quality, just to get as much as I could, but now I’m trying quality over quantity. I want to be mindful of my purchases and find things that are unique or something I haven’t seen.” Several participants discussed their interest in thrift shopping, one participant said she went every week, but that thrift shopping was not always ideal. A participant said “I have a wedding coming up, and I’ve started to skim websites, because I know that’s something I won’t necessarily be able to find in a thrift shop.”

Analysis: It appears that consumers today have too many options and do not like the potential waste that can arise from these options. Consumers understand their impact from waste, and it is their responsibility to choose items or services that will not leave them with excess waste. As fast fashion is ever-present, these participants displayed a beginning interest in counteracting the large power of it. While it is apparent in this focus group that many of the people would like to help environmentally by not buying new, cheap clothes, it is still unsure if renting clothes is ideal for these people. It is necessary to find if that is a method of counteracting the creation of waste that would be used, or if people would like to just stick to their methods they currently use, such as thrift stores. Either way, it is shown that several people use alternative options to traditional buying of clothes, and try to be as informed as possible with their purchases. This then shows that this is an interest of the current clientele that should be tapped into.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Question Design

A weakness within this focus group was particularly several questions that were a bit too long. The root question itself was fine, but when asked there were several extra words that added confusion as to what the question to be responded to was. The question that presented this was “When is it most important? You said it was going out, or a set thing to do that’s not a class, so?” This created a response of “Wait what was the question?” The moderator then rephrased the question to “When is it most important to dress nicely?” Another question that posed an issue was “We talked a lot about price, do you think that’s a major contribution, a major contributing factor in your decision to not purchase it, or is that minor, is there a larger issue?” This question gathered a pause after, and then a response of yes it was price. This potentially shows that the last part of the question was lost, and because price was the beginning, people only heard then and then went with it, without waiting out the entire question.

In order to improve this, I would create questions that have as little filler as possible and only add in the details around if no one first responds. If it is not a confusing question though, then people should be willing to respond. Having direct questions that will create a response from all respondents that is on track with one another and that does not have too many parts so multiple perspectives of the questions will not be taken would be the best approach to fix this.

Alpha

In the focus group, there was definitely a leader who first responded to questions and gave many anecdotes and personal stories in support of her ideas. As her opinion was first, it did input values to the group because in times that most people would not speak up, she would come and give a response that would send the group on a chain of responses. There was also an instance in which the room was divided on whether the subjects researched trends or not, and her response was that she did not research. After this, other people express the idea as well. There were people who responded against this, but with a bit more affirmation. I believe this was because the first responder made her point, so the following others had to prove their point more forcefully, swaying results.

In order to combat this, I would try to dig deeper with the people who were not initially talkative. If these people then feel they have a place within the focus group, they will then in the future be more comfortable talking, knowing that it is a space for all people to talk. As all responses must be heard and are valid, it is okay that one person talks a lot, but I would then further ask around the room, “What do other people think about this?” Or, when asking questions initially I would look at other parts of the room as to prompt others to talk by making eye contact or looking in their direction. I would do that though only if people seemed eager to talk but felt shut down, because an answer shouldn’t be forced from someone.


Ethnography Assignment

Client: Coffee Shops Problem: Create an environment that fits for all types of customers

Insight: Solitude

Upon entering the coffee shop on an afternoon weekday, a couple aged around 22 years old went straight toward the counter to order, but paused several feet in front in order to decide what to order. Their decision did not appear to be a solitary choice, as the couple exchanged whispers and small finger points towards the menu before ordering. The barista stood seemingly unaware of the couple until they approached closer to order. The couple held a brief, but friendly conversation with the barista. After receiving the order and sitting down across from each other, the couple both opened their own laptops and began working. The woman put on headphones while her partner/boyfriend did not. He glanced toward her frequently and started several brief conversations with her, which required her to take off her headphones. She did not appear to be irritated by this except that as the more frequently the conversations started, the longer she took to take off her headphones and begin talking.

            The couple’s conversations always resulted in both of them leaning in toward each other and keeping their voices low. The overall volume of the coffee shop was very quiet with only soft, almost undetectable background music playing. If people near the couple moved or talked, the couple did not glance over to see what was happening around them, just as other people in the coffee shop did not glace around either. During their time at the coffee shop, the couple stayed in place and did not shift their seats. Around the room the majority of people were on their computers but most people did not have headphones on. Most people were not talking, and many people were sitting alone.

Analysis

            The act of going to a coffee shop is a very solitary experience, even when accompanied by other people. As this was a weekday, and part of the work week, many people were focused on their computers and completing their work instead of talking with one another. Even people who did not have headphones did not interact with others or their environment, as people stayed in their seats and did not walk around for any purpose other than to go to the bathroom or get a drink. The atmosphere of this coffee shop was very calm, as the music was low and there was a lot of space with people very spread out. This aided the creation of an environment that enables the seclusion of the customers because each person can be far away from each other and not be bothered by actions or distracted by dialogue.

             This coffee shop created a setting that customers adapt to. Customers that walk into this environment immediately understand that it is a place where one should not be too loud, as displayed by the couple that began their conversations with whispers upon entering. Many people in the coffee shop enjoyed this style of environment because they rested and worked for a lengthy amount of time and remained focused on their work. If the customers did want to talk there was no stigma against this because people did not look at each other to signal an annoyance, it seems that people here were just more interested in doing their work than socializing. This coffee shop welcomed different atmospheres but it was the one of an emphasis on seclusion that was strongest.

Insight: Privacy

A woman appearing 20 years old walked into the coffee shop with headphones on. After taking her order quickly and without much dialogue between her and the barista, she scanned the room widely and then sat on a bar stool in front of a window, facing outside. After about 20 minutes when the sunlight began to shift and strike through the window, the discomfort from the sun in her face was noticeable as she put her hand in front of her face and looked away frequently. She turned around to scan the room for an open seat in the shop and had an expression of irritation but also unease as she rose from her seat.

The layout of the room was very open and spacious with most seats next to walls and two couches placed in the center of the room with coffee tables. There were also smaller secluded areas toward the edges of the room. The entire room was gray and industrial, but several pieces of art existed on the walls. The woman went to one of the areas that was a bit like a tiny room with no door. She left because there was someone already sitting in there, even though there was another table. She eventually settled for a seat against a wall. While doing this she kept her headphones on and while walking around she was looking at her phone. As she was walking around, no one was looking at her and she did not look around except for where she was headed.

Analysis

This woman displayed that there is a desire in coffee shops to have a form of privacy even though the shop is a public place. This is showed through her disinterest with human interaction. She was indifferent to the conversation while taking her order and did not want to talk to other customers so much that she looked at her phone while walking and wanted to sit in a room without other people. She could not be in that room if she was going to be so close to another person. It may be of interest for some customers to have the option to order directly through machines because of the discomfort with human interaction, although as displayed with the couple earlier, not all people have a problem with it. Also, helpful and interested by some customers is more access to secluded areas that do not require being close to others to work in, which should be taken into consideration when crafting the coffee shop environment.

Apart from just layout, the employees and even colors on the wall impacted the level of comfort the customers felt in this space. As there was an atmosphere of distance within the layout that matched the bit of distance between some customers and employees, that carried over to the entire essence of the shop. It is possible to mix more distance in some aspect of the coffee shop design with more closeness and comfort in others so that all customers can find a part of the shop that they are comfortable in. Important to keep throughout though is the desire for privacy that some customers have. Creating an environment where the customer has the choice for as much privacy or as little as wanted is essential.

Ethnography for Rent the Runway

The best ethnographic study for collecting data for Rent the Runway is a shop-along at an apparel retailer that is of a moderate price range, such as Banana Republic, because a store such as that attracts customers with both high and low clothing budgets and Rent the Runway is at a lower price range but is technically high-priced goods. This study should take place on weeknights or weekends because many people within Rent the Runway’s target market would be in work during weekdays. Although Rent the Runway currently has options for women only, men’s actions should still be observed because if they are accompanying women or buying for women, men will influence the purchases and must be considered. The main goal of the observer is to identify which qualities of apparel a customer is first attracted to when shopping for clothes, whether that is particular styles or colors or comes from the influence of store displays or other customers. Most people do not know why exactly they pick up a specific product but someone outside of the situation could see that there is a trend among a particular person or people in general. Discovering what first interests a customer can give Rent the Runway information for how to structure their shopping selections and which features to highlight on their site.

            Also noted should be what is a distraction within the store that breaks the shopping focus of the customer and if those distractions eventually draw the customer out of the store or if they influence where in the store the customer lingers. There could be too much clutter, too many people, or even similar stores nearby. Rent the Runway, which is mostly an online platform, will have to understand these distractions in the physical context and translate these to the online platform. It will be helpful to overhear conversations among customers because online shopping is typically completed individually, so finding which type of interactions or advice people give each other and benefit from the most will give Rent the Runway insights into which behaviors the site supplement, through design or through direct virtual interactions.




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