Ways to make the UNIFORM purchasing moment a really special and exciting one (instead of a daunting guilt-ridden experience, resented by parents)
When I first opened my studio 18 years ago, low price and affordability was pretty much our main drawcard. And whilst our clientele has completely evolved over the 18 years (and our class prices) to the point that now I'd confidently say most of our clients don't choose to dance with us based on price, some of my views and decisions about things like uniforms were stuck in my old way of thinking. In my studio we only have uniforms for RAD and READY SET DANCE - for all the rest of our classes the kids can wear whatever they want (though we do offer optional studio branded dancewear for them). It's only recently that I've come to realise the wonderful opportunity that exists with the uniform purchasing process.
Now the way I think of it is as if it is part of a membership initiation ceremony. Welcome them into our exclusive club.
Timing is key. Too early and the customer baulks. Just right, and it actually adds to the excitement of adventures ahead, and helps with retention.
"What do they wear?" is probably the question I get asked most often by enquiring potential customers. Surprisingly it often comes up before the question of class fees.
From a parents' point of view, a uniform makes it easy. One less decision to make on a weekly basis. One less Instagrammable fashion project to worry about.
Here's a list of BENEFITS of a uniform:
Makes it easier for parents
Increases feeling of "belonging" for the student
The investment in the uniform increases chance of parent ensuring child sticks with it
Branding is promoted whenever a student is seen in uniform before or after being at the studio
Discipline, unison and focus is improved in class
Professionalism of experience is perceived as significantly higher, resulting in parents seeing the dance classes representative of greater value
Class photos and videos look better on social media
Now let's talk about ways we can EASE any potential hesitation or resentment about buying a uniform (including shoes) for dance:
Waiting until after the free trial to make the sales pitch, so that the parent is feeling more confident their child likes it
Having a 2nd hand costume "buy back" scheme, at (for example) one third the cost of a new uniform, then selling them for two thirds the cost of a new uniform
Having photos of kids in uniform on the wall in reception (looking extremely happy of course)
Offering a "discount" to new enrolments on the uniform - even if it's 10% (because it will be perceived as a good offer, and "saved money")
The tone, confidence, excitement and non-apologetic delivery of the information about the need for the uniform, from reception staff as part of the onboarding experience
Explaining the benefits of the uniform, especially the special shoes and why the kids wear them (perhaps in an emailed video that is part of the onboarding information)
Trying to keep the basic "compulsory" part of the uniform as low cost as possible by shopping around suppliers to ensure highest possible quality with lowest possible price. Also perhaps putting a lower profit margin on the main elements, but a higher profit margin on the "optional extras"
Being clear in all information from the beginning of the "enquiry to enrolment" experience, about the costs of the uniform, the purpose of it and why existing families actually love and are grateful for the uniform. A testimonial about the uniform could be very useful
A uniform design that is flattering on all shapes and sizes, is "appropriate" in the eyes of even the most conservative parents, and is appealing as something the majority of parents think is gorgeous and adorable - or in the case of a teen uniform, is something the students actually would want to wear
Establishing a timeline and a "journey" with a confident sense of normalcy about what comes next (eg. *speaking to the young child* "Ok, now that you've met Miss Felicity and done your trial class, and you've decided you'd like to join our dancing family here at Suzie Lou's Academy, it's time for the best part... you get to try on your special outfit for dancing. Let me get the perfect size for you. I think we've got one here that is just waiting specially for you. Why don't you go with mummy into the change rooms and try it on, I think you're going to love it. It's very pretty...... Wow! You look amazing! Just like all the other girls *points to photo on the wall*, now you're all ready to be a superstar dancer! Mum, you can take a photo if you'd like, we've got a special photo op spot for every dancer's first time in their uniform".)
Finally, let's think about ways that we can make the overall experience more MAGICAL and ENJOYABLE so that even if there is a bit of hesitation, by the time the parent is walking out the door $180 poorer, with less than a metre worth of lycra and some weird elf shoes to show for it, they're not regretting the decision for a moment.
Clear pricing and clear uniform rules to set expectations
Appealing packages for the up-sell, that helps the customer feel in control
Always plenty of everything in stock (nothing is worse that waiting for something to come in, it completely takes away the magic of the moment)
Receptionist / shop manager connecting with student and parent
EFTPOS facilities (according to studies, money spent on card feels a lot less daunting than cash)
Possibly the option to add to term fees (so the parent can pay it off), or maybe even the option of a service like Afterpay?
An exciting photo op in front of a sparkly curtain, or a "my first dance" uniform sign (with plenty of studio branding)
A special decorated dressing room for try ons, that makes it a more exciting experience for young children - or a shiny "thrown" to sit on for shoe fittings
A free gift with all uniform purchases for new customers
A complimentary tote bag with branding, that makes the purchasing experience feel more professional (adding perceived value)
Reminding parents to label the uniforms and shoes with child's name, so that they see evidence that you're acknowledging the investment and helping them to protect it
A drawstring shoe bag free with every pair of shoes sold (literally adds a dollar or so of costs, for so much more perceived value of the product)
Teachers mentioning the new uniform whenever they see a new student in their uniform for the first time
Generally the idea is to make it an occasion. A celebrated moment that is part of the excitement of signing up for new adventures. Guiding the parents and the students through the experience with focus on the experience rather than the purchase itself.
People do LOVE to shop! Think about where your favourite place to shop is, and why. Retail is all about creating a great experience for the customer, and letting them feel like they either stumbled across something amazing, or grabbed the bargain of the century. We can create this for our customers