5 Reasons Why Anthropologie Is So Successful

When I lived in France, going to the market in Toulouse was a weekly ritual. I would imagine I was a French woman as I inspected the tomatoes for colour and ripeness, checked the herbs for freshness and smelt the melons for the sweet fragrance that told me they were ready to eat. I’d chat with the shopkeepers as I moved from the fruit and vegetables along to the regional cheeses, past the local charcuterie and on to the boulangerie. It wasn’t an efficient shopping experience, but it was always highly enjoyable. Shopping in Anthropologie puts me very much in mind of this experience.

It’s not surprising that shopping in Anthropologie reminds me of French markets and brocants. The brand aims to create an "eclectic, rustic, modern" feel to its’ shops, creating a fantasy world that shoppers can get lost in. Whilst other retailers are closing brick and mortar stores to concentrate on the e-commerce market, Anthropologie, in the same way as The White Company does, is focused on providing its’ customers with a sensory experience in-store. Both on and offline, Anthropologie’s aim is to provide a warm, welcoming shopping experience that appeals to the senses.

Anthropologie eschews the pristine in favour of an authentic and approachable aesthetic. That’s why merchandise is displayed not just on racks, but on tables and quirky shelves, where items are stacked teasingly. Shopping in Anthropologie is a bit like searching through a French brocante where you never quite know what you’ll find.

Here are 5 reasons I think help to explain the success of Anthropologie.

1. Absolute Clarity About Their Target Customer

The thirty something sophisticate, the Anthropologie target customer, is 30 to 45 years old, has a college or post-graduate education, a professional or ex-professional career, and an annual household income of £100,000 to £150,000. In psychographic terms, she's well-read and well-travelled. She may have been on an adventure holiday with Wild Frontiers, and have a library of Lonely Planet guides, ready for her next exotic trip. She’s culturally aware and has a natural curiosity about the world, meaning that she instinctively understands Anthropologie’s cultural references, whether these are to a town in Europe or to a book or a movie.

She's a nest builder, into cooking, gardening and wine. She probably has a cleaner, while also aspiring to be a domestic goddess. She prefers Nigel Slater and Yotam Ottolenghi to the measured perfection of Martha Stewart and Delia Smith. She’s urban, even if she does live in the suburbs, and would never consider herself a suburbanite. It's therefore no surprise that Julia Roberts is Anthropologie’s celebrity avatar. Not only is she a frequent shopper, but her boho-chic wardrobe in The Mexican was Anthropologie sourced.

5 Reasons Why Anthropologie Is So Successful

2. Collections Are Organised Around Three Imaginary Women

Each collection is organised around three high-level concepts: a multicultural or ethnic look, a pretty, feminine look and a clean, modern look. Imagine three best friends, each with their own individual but distinctly feminine style. Last summer, Anthropologie came up with the concepts of "Aurora," "Silver" and "Quinn." The Aurora concept was for a woman on holiday, so the collection included party dresses with shimmer and shine. Silver was more of a ranch girl so the colour palette included sunset tones, while Quinn was more of a city girl with a desk-to-dinner wardrobe. This approach enables Anthropologie to create a cohesive collection built around the style, interests and aspirations of three close friends.

3. The Stores Feel 'Lifestyled'

The aim is to create stores that feel lifestyled - which is why they’re set up as a series of rooms so that customers can walk through the space and visualise themselves living in it. Merchandise is displayed so that shoppers can pick items up and then put them back down. Unlike a lot of luxury brands that probably don’t want their customers to touch their products, Anthropologie wants its customers to wander around the store - exactly as if they were in a market - and touch the items on display.

4.  Stores Balance Corporate Creative Direction With Individuality

Each Anthropologie store has its own visual display team that follows the creative direction of the corporate team. Every season, the corporate team at the company’s Philadelphia headquarters develops a concept that is fed down to store level. Each store has its own display team which can interpret the concept however they choose, so long as they get final approval from Philadelphia. This way stores each have their own unique feel, whilst staying true and consistent to the brand’s creative direction.

5 Reasons Why Anthropologie Is So Successful

5. Anthropologie Doesn’t Advertise

Anthropologie has never taken out adverts in print publications or run commercials on radio or TV. Instead, it relies on its storefronts and displays, website, email campaigns, blog and social media to reach its customers. “We believe that by starting a conversation and interacting directly with our customers ... we are more effective at understanding and serving their fashion needs,” the company wrote in its April 2015 SEC filings. “We also believe that our blogs continue this conversation. Not only do our blogs allow us to communicate what inspires us, they allow our customers to tell us what inspires them. This fosters our relationships with our customers and encourages them to continue shopping with us.”

This is demonstrated beautifully in their India themed blog posts earlier this year. The playlist From Jodphur To Jaipur took me back to my trip to Rajasthan while Sugared and Spiced created the inspiration for a luncheon.

6. Catalogues (and Instagram Stories) Are Used To Tell A Story

The catalogue is used to tell a story and create a brand vibe. (The same goes for Instagram Stories). Katja Maas, an art director who has worked on Anthropologie catalogues, wrote on her website that “The briefs were mostly: To present specific merchandise in a lifestyle context by creating a narrative based on a theme from the creative director. At the beginning of each job, I would be given a theme, some photocopies of merchandise, a pagination to act as a guide for sequence and size of image, and some location reference so that I could sketch the shots and brief the prop stylist.”

Not only do these catalogues tell a story but they also sell a lifestyle. Indeed, the company refers to its catalogues as “journals” and they’re often shot in exotic locations. Retailers often think that customers simply flick through catalogues and decide what they do and don't like. But the aim of this type of catalogue (just like The White Company catalogue) is to inspire and engage. The catalogue is a glimpse into a desired lifestylewith photo shoots taking place in foreign markets, abandoned castles, and blooming fields.

5 Reasons Why Anthropologie Is So Successful


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