Updated: Jan 8
Throughout the apparel industry, each company is focused on a specific group or ideal person to design and develop for. Some brands do this incredibly well, while others fall short. I’ve been an employee at both types of these companies, and the ones who have a very clear picture of their target consumer are the ones that succeed faster and with more ease. If you have your customers’ specific needs in mind at all times, then it becomes easier to know what they like, what they want to wear, how they want to wear it, and how they want to shop for it.
Here are the top categories I like to define in a customer profile: Age, Gender, Location, Mindset, Education, Career, Annual Salary, Hobbies, Size Range, and Issues to Solve. None of these is more important than all the others! So feel free to tackle your favorites or the easiest categories first.
What is the age range of your ideal customer? A 20-year-old consumer purchases apparel differently than a 50-year-old consumer, so it’s important to know who you’re looking to serve best.
SIDE NOTE: Nobody ever said that your customers will only ever come from your target age range. There are plenty of 20-year-olds who want to dress like your target 50-year-old customer, and vice versa. This definition shouldn’t limit your sales or true customer base. It’s just going to keep your focus on a specific kind of person for your development purposes.
Do you want to make kids’ clothes? If so, that opens up many more areas of research and responsibility for your brand. Make sure you know those details up front.
Are you making clothes only for women, and woman-shaped customers?
If you’re making men’s and women’s apparel, do you want there to be parity across both lines, or are you going to put more focus on one over the other?
Where does your ideal customer live? Is it hot and sunny or cold and rainy? Do they live in a big city or in a rural area?
Do you expect your customers to wear your garments in a specific location, no matter where they live? Maybe you make swimwear, so you need to better understand the location they will use your apparel most, not necessarily where they live or work.
Is your ideal customer an adventure seeker? Do they love the outdoors and camping or do they prefer the comfort of a luxury hotel? Are they crazy about staying in touch with high fashion, or do they wear the same t-shirts that they bought five years ago?
Does your target customer have a college degree, their doctorate or a specific certification? Maybe you’re looking to make the perfect mechanics’ coveralls, so your ideal consumer went to a specific trade school. This category could be one of the lowest contributing factors to your customer profile or the most important!
What kind of work does your ideal customer do? Like the Education category, if you’re honing in on a specific solution for a work problem, this could be a crucial area to define.
7. Annual Salary:
Education and Career definitions will help you to figure out a typical annual salary of your ideal customer. This one is key to understanding the price range for your apparel line. Someone making $65,000 per year is going to spend differently on their clothes than someone making $1,000,000 per year.
What does your customer like to do with their free time? Do they golf or are they a marathon runner? How do those different activities create different profiles for your customer? Consider how that can help you create small but key details in your apparel line.
9. Size Range:
What size is your perfect fit model? There is a huge need for more inclusive sizing in the apparel industry. Is there an underserved range that you can help to focus on? Are you going to open up a wide size range for your garments, or keep your size range narrow to start out?
10. Issues to Solve:
Looking through the lens of all the other categories mentioned above, what kind of product issues do they face in the current apparel market today? What is the solution that you can offer to them? Define your product line from their point of view to gain a better understanding of your brand’s potential.
The last step that I really like to do when defining my customer is to give them a name. I believe it really helps to clarify your image of the ideal customer. For example, when I think of my friend “Lisa,” I immediately invoke all the details about her that I would want to know if I were making her the perfect outfit. What are her favorite colors, how much can she spend on a new top, would she want her shirt to fit a little tighter or a little looser, and many more details. It also allows me to keep the team around me focused by asking the simple question, “Would Lisa like this?” or “What decision would Lisa want us to make here?” It takes all ego and questioning out of any conversation or difficult decision. It becomes less about you, your team members or anybody else’s opinion but Lisa’s.
Defining your customer is essential to knowing how to focus your product line. Put a good deal of thought into their profile, do your research, talk to people and take some surveys. This up front work will provide you with a solid foundation and clear plans for the future of your business for years to come.