Guest post by Pam WhimsicalVintage
This post has been on my mind for awhile now. Young or old, we are dealing with the new age of retail. Young vintage dealers and shoppers are grappling with the distance with the time period between them and when these items existed, a mindset that they never knew and a plethora of bad, parroted, research info.
The older generation is grappling with technology and terminology, as well as how to connect with the younger generation. Customer service has different meanings to both sides and both time periods. I see vintage dealers of the older generation, desperately holding onto the old ways and I see a younger generation that just doesn't want to hear it anymore. The bottom line folks...neither of those scenarios is helping either group.
The old department stores that created the original shopping experience, are disappearing and a day will come when photos of 5th Avenue will have people wondering, "What were all of those buildings?". That change is bringing more retailers online. The popularity of Vintage/Antique TV, has everyone and their cousin believing that selling online is easy...and maybe with the onset of things like selling on Instagram, it is...but the quick sale is not the end game for many of us. We take pride in our online businesses the same way we would if they were brick & mortar. That attitude requires a different approach.
In my opinion, it breaks down to the following:
- Customer Service should never change. I should point out that this problem seems to be present in both age groups. If you're unfamiliar with proper customer communication, there are many tools available to help you learn. Reply to correspondence in a timely fashion, ship your items quickly (they've already paid you and shouldn't have to wait), do everything you can to make your customers happy and always remain professional (no fighting matches just to make a point or have the upper hand).
- Be "Authentic" and when I say authentic, I mean authentic for you and not someone else's version of authentic. In other words, if you're not comfortable using the hashtags of a 20 year old, don't! Create a style that fits your personality and yet connects with all ages. If you're not comfortable sharing every detail of your personal life, don't. Share what you are comfortable with and what shows the true you. Many social media sites will tell you the importance of connecting...but you're not connecting if it's not your comfort zone. Find a happy medium and create your own story (notice that I'm not using the word "narrative":)).
- To everyone in my "older" generation, start using your phones! I know you're not comfortable with it but it is how almost all of our customers shop. In addition to wanting to know how everything appears from the shoppers perspective, the photos are better and you're not tied to the computer. I never thought that I could make the change, but I did and lived to tell about it.
- You do not need to be on every social media outlet. I don't like FB, I'm a G+ gal, so I put my focus there. I'm not a fan of twitter but I love my Pinterest and I'm just getting the swing of Instagram. It's about what's right for you but also about reaching a wide variety of customers. If you're doing too much without enjoying it or offering good content, you're defeating the purpose.
- Write clear and thorough descriptions of your items. Include measurements, company/artist info, any info on provenance that you might have and most importantly any flaws. Include a variety of photos from all angles, including photos that show any flaws, labels or marks.
- Write clear and thorough policy information to include, returns, shipping times, multi item discounts, etc.
- Stay up to date on verbiage and semantics (more on this in another post). I see way too many older sellers using descriptive terms that will never reach the younger generations. They're not typing "demi parure" into Google search, they're typing "set". Yes you appeal to collectors by using the one term but you lose other potential customers. The best way is to use one in the Title and the other in the first line of the Description. They're also not using words like compote, ephemera or even brooch...footed bowl, postcard (paper, etc.) and pin for the broader reach, unless of course you only want to cater to other vintage dealers and collectors.
- To the younger generation, come to us, we want to help (well, some of us do:)). Read up on histories, you'll be surprised at the interesting and sometimes non related things that you'll learn. Find a community/group that is a comfortable fit. To my contemporaries, building lasting relationships in this business is difficult at best. If you find a group that you're comfortable with and is a good fit, don't jump to the next good thing...stick around. Ultimately, the payoff will be far better and definitely time saving.
These are the basics. Look for more posts on our changing business as it pertains to social media, descriptives, terminology and customer service. Stop by our Vintage & Antiques Community on G+ for research info, business topics, a little history and much more.