Retail as a Media Channel: Rachel Shechtman’s STORY

April 23, 2014

STORY_Color-STORYRachel Shechtman is redefining the way we measure success in brick and mortar retail. Her 2000 square foot store in New York City–STORY–has the point of view of a magazine, changes decor like an art gallery, and sells products like a store. Against the odds, Shechtman’s innovative concept and business model drove STORY to be profitable by the end of its first year–physical retailers usually break even by year three.

STORY is intended to create unique experiences meant for the physical world and offers the type of in-person interactions that stimulate emotional brand associations which lead to word-of-mouth publicity. Shechtman explained during the BRITE ’14 conference that while digital retail has considerably progressed in the past twenty years, stores have remained in many ways static and, “judged only by their sales per square foot.”

Shechtman is redefining how to build a successful retail store in two main ways: by using brands as sponsors that contribute to the store’s concept, content, and revenue, and by monitoring the impact of the store experience, as much as its sales per square foot.

Like a magazine, STORY has an editorial perspective, releasing a new “issue” every few weeks. It engages shoppers by partnering with brands to rotate its design and merchandise around carefully curated content and experiences. Like an art gallery, the team behind STORY creates immersive experiences that encourage participation from store visitors, transforming every aspect of the environment: from wall color and textures to merchandise and fixtures.

STORY’s model of innovation through brand sponsorship helps bring a different source of revenue and provides unique encounters that cannot be experienced anywhere else. The Making Things STORY edition –sponsored by GE– used 75% of the space for “pure experiences,” with laser cutters and injection molding machines available for customers to make plastic robots, jewelry, sunglasses, and customized MetroCard holders.

In 2012, STORY partnered with Benjamin Moore to create the Color STORY, where Benjamin Moore got to showcase its newest collection, Color Stories, and present a session, “The Power of Color & its De-Stressing Benefits,” led by a Benjamin Moore senior designer and a color marketing expert. They taught attendees how to use color in small living spaces with the purpose of detoxing and de-stressing. Shechtman pointed out that not only does this provide a second revenue stream for STORY, but it enables the brand to be their own storyteller. As she explains, “Benjamin Moore knows a lot more about color than Rachel Shechtman or the STORY team.”

The current issue, Good STORY, features a combination of brands including TOMS, Uncharted Play, ROMA boots, and Bombas socks, focusing on the stories behind the products, their missions and their vision for social change. As explained on STORY’s website, “each product tells a story that matters because it’s a story of people joining together to do something good.”

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO


Warby Parker: Oversharing as a Business Strategy

April 2, 2014

Neil Blumenthal and his business partners – David Gilboa, Andrew Hunt, and Jeffrey Raider – believed the eyewear industry wasn’t responding to customer needs and found an innovative solution to meet those needs. Blumenthal, who recently spoke at the BRITE ’14 conference, explained, “[We] didn’t like the process of buying glasses. . . [or] that glasses cost as much as an iPhone.” As a result, they founded Warby Parker, a company with “a lofty objective: to create boutique-quality, classically crafted eyewear at a revolutionary price point.”

Warby Parker effectively disrupted the eyewear industry in two ways: First, by using a direct, e-commerce model -cutting out the middle man- and by building a new brand –thus not having to pay licensing fees-, they significantly lowered the price of stylish eyewear; their frames, with premium lenses included, start at $95, that’s 25% of the market price. And second, by creating their “home try-on program,” sending customers, free of charge, a test package of frames they select to try on at home before they commit to buy. As a spin-off benefit, the home try-on experience is a shared customer experience, inherently accessible to family, friends, and even co-workers. The program, then, turned in to a marketing tool itself.

Blumenthal described Warby Parker as a lifestyle brand that offers value and service with a social mission at its core. With every pair of glasses purchased, Warby Parker gives a pair of glasses to someone in need. “Even at $95, there are still about a billion people in the planet that don’t have access to glasses and we think that that’s just crazy,” he said. At the end of each month, the Warby Parker team tally up the number of glasses sold and makes a financial contribution to Vision Spring; an organization that uses glasses to create jobs, making a more sustainable impact. In terms of their own business, Blumenthal believes that having a social mission helps increase customer loyalty and referrals, but does not drive the decision of making the first purchase.

According to Blumenthal, what has helped build strong relationships with customers and ultimately increase sales is a culture of transparency. “The more vulnerable we are, the more that we put ourselves out there, the deeper those relationships and the more valuable they become from an economic standpoint,” he added. In just four years, Warby Parker has sold over 500,000 frames and has grown from an apartment-based startup in Philadelphia, to a 350-employee business with a flagship store in SoHo.

“The public and your customers [are] participating more and near dictating what your brand is…you need to give people the tools to have it the way you want them to have it,” Blumenthal explained. Warby Parker focuses on creating experiences that are meant to spark conversations both online and offline. “It’s all about customer experience and constant innovation.”

When asked about a seemingly counter-intuitive expansion into the realm of brick-and-mortar stores – Warby Parker now has stores in New York, LA, and Boston, and has showrooms within boutiques in five additional states- Blumenthal explained, “[The] medium doesn’t matter. It’s the experience that matters and we need to design those experiences [holistically] from the moment they hear about the brand.”

Sharing is a fundamental element of the Warby Parker strategy – internally with staff and externally with consumers. As the majority of Warby Parker employees are millennials who want instant feedback on their performance, the leadership team has instituted monthly informal reviews and quarterly 360° reviews.

Moreover, as Ross Crooks explains in Forbes, “Business is becoming increasingly personal…; we crave more personal connection in a web-based world.” Customers want to relate to the people behind the brands they support, they want to know “that employees are people they might hang out with.” The Warby Parker team constantly keeps their fans abreast of “what [Warby Parker is] doing, how and why”, which, Blumenthal says “pays in spades.” According to a recent Mintel study, millennials are more likely to overshare than their Baby Boomer parents.

Warby Parker’s annual report is a perfect example of how the company creatively engages stakeholders. The uniWarby Parker 2013 Annual Reportque feeling of its annual report has proved to be a successful marketing tool, leading to the highest sales days and traffic after releasing it each year and gaining free publicity for the brand; with fans sharing the report in social media, and getting mentions in press outlets such as Forbes, AdAge, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Business Insider. This year’s infographic annual report is laid out as an illustrated calendar with an update for each day of the year, is described by Business Insider as “a shareable page of organized chaos inspired by internet culture.” One tidbit of transparency it shares in this year’s report is the fact that half the inventory of their new collection was delivered to the wrong address.

In today’s world, Blumenthal said, “brands are able to rise faster than ever before, but they’re also able to collapse faster than ever before.” Warby Parker has found that the best way to maintain momentum is by strengthening its connections with its customers through the sharing of relevant, personal, and entertaining content and the creation of experiences, regardless of the platform.

Watch Neil Blumenthal’s BRITE ’14 talk to learn more about how Warby Parker incorporates innovation into customer experience.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO, EDITED BY ALLIE ABODEELY


#Boy’sGotGame

February 26, 2014

Lulu, the hot new app that allows women to anonymously rank their Facebook beaus, Luluhas quickly risen to smartphone fame. In a single year, it has attracted a user-base of well over one million with more than 200 million profile views and countless praise from esteemed media outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Journal, Business Insider and NPR. With backing from acclaimed financiers such as Yuri Milner, an early investor of Facebook, Lulu is poised to reign the dating app world.

Beyond just a simple ratings scale of 1 to 10, women can give detailed, yet pointed descriptions of their exes, flings, and male friends using hashtags (e.g. #SilverFox, #CheaperThanABigMac), hence easing the dating woes (or boosting desirability) for subsequent unsuspecting women.

Co-founder and CEO Alexandra Chong explains, “[W]e get references for jobs… or renting an apt…. Why not get references from women on the guys that they may end up in bed with.” After a six-hour brunch with her girlfriends chatting up everything from careers to guys, Chong saw opportunity to tap into “girl talk” by creating a private space where they can share past experiences to “empower girls to make smarter decisions….”

http://57vje3fqw032jqgx93yq531jak.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/AlexandraChong-300x300.jpgInitially, marketing was geared towards sororities. One in four college women have the app, and average about 8 visits per week. This sparked a blaze that’s spread like wildfire among women in their 20s. But what’s really excited Chong has been the dynamic contributions of Lulu’s members. “… fifty-two percent of users create content. As you know in the social space that’s often unheard of. Typically the rule is 9-10%,” she tells Bloomberg TV’s Cory Johnson.

More than just piquing interest, user-generated content gives Lulu (and prince charmings) a huge advantage—credibility. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers worldwide rely on recommendations from friends and family, and 70% trust online reviews. Word-of-mouth is a tremendous driver for Lulu.

Lulu makes it easy for ladies to add their own two cents by inciting them to inhttp://www8.gmanews.tv/webpics/v3/2013/04/320_Lulu_homepage_24April2013.jpgteract with the app through Cosmopolitan-style quizzes and content. Chong tells Johnson, “For our users, it doesn’t feel like they’re doing much to give information.” She likens Lulu to a Wiki for girls. “The idea for us is to move beyond relationships and into health and to beauty and to all the things women care about. That has endless opportunities.”

Surprisingly, men are responding, well… favorably. In an article last November, The New York Times reported that Lulu had received over half a million requests from dudes who welcomed (read: braved) #feedback. The article noted that one poor soul who had received a 6.5 score was a good sport, tweeting, “I can only assume this is on a scale of 1 to 5.” Um, sure.

See Chong at BRITE ’14 (March 3-4, NYC) to hear more about taking a simple, every day concept like girl talk to whole new social, and successful, level.

BY ALLIE ABODEELY


RESEARCH: The Temperature Premium Effect

February 12, 2014

In a comDepth_Perception_Cookiefortably warm room, a chocolate chip cookie seems to be closer than it actually is, and potential buyers are willing to pay more for it than if the room was colder. Purchasing behaviors are influenced by real-world environmental factors, like temperature. So much so, that moderately warmer temperature increases both product valuation and physical closeness perception.

Research from Columbia Business School professor Leonard Lee focuses on how consumers shop in real world environments and how environmental factors affect their shopping behavior and preferences.  His latest work with Jacob Goldberg of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and Yonat Zwebner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, focuses on the important connection between physical warmth and product valuation.

They found that “warming temperatures increased the probability that shoppers would buy a product, even after controlling for seasonality and factors specific to individual products, and despite the fact that shoppers were hunting for bargains.” Findings apply both to brick and mortar and online retailers and to a variety of products, from cameras and watches, to books and chocolate cake. “We found that physical warmth, despite being product irrelevant, can shape consumer’s purchase decisions.” Furthermore, “the studies suggest that exposure to physical warmth activates the concept of emotional warmth, eliciting positive reactions and increasing product valuation.”

How warm is too warm? Lee’s experiments showed that an eight degree increase to the standard room temperature (71.6°F), or 79°F, would make participants “more willing to pay significantly more – at least ten percent- for a given product, compared to participants sitting in a cooler room (64°F).” However, “as the temperature increases, its effect on purchase intent diminishes.”

Read more about Lee’s research in Ideas at Work.

For the quants out there, download the full paper on the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

BY GABRIELA TORRES PATIÑO


Kate Spade New York: Innovating the 360° Experience

February 12, 2014

The Kate Spade signature experience is as bold and colorful as its brand. Its 2013 strategy proved to be ahead of the curve, offering an amalgamation of consumer interactions across all touchpoints for a unified 360° experience.

Last summer, Kate Spade New York created a unique way to bridge digital with the brick and mortar world, transforming “window shopping” from a figurative expression into a literal action.

For one month in New York City, four of its Kate Spade Saturday store locations turned their window displays into a 24/7 interactive adventure. It enabled shoppers to purchase that “must-have” piece in the window, from the window, via touchscreens. And shoppers could schedule that item to be delivered within one hour anywhere in the City (e.g. a last minute present delivered to a party you have to miss, that anniversary gift you forgot to buy for your wife… again).

Mary Beech, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, and upcoming BRITE ’14 speaker, refers to their decorative windows as “a little piece of theater.” “Our store windows are moments of whimsical storytelling that express our core values in every venue,” she explained at The Hub Live 2013 conference. “[T]here’s a sales goal related to these. But we have fun doing it.”

In true Kate Spade New York innovative style, the luxury retailer ran the first shoppable online video banner during the 2013 holiday season. See an item you like in the digital ad? Simply click and purchase. “The technology provided an immediate, seamless, shoppable element that enhanced the experience, rather than pulling you out of it,” Beech explains in an interview with Design Taxi.

Kate Spade Shoppable Banner Ad

Efforts are paying off. Kate Spade New York reported a 30% increase in comparable store sales for the 2013 fourth quarter, and a surge in last year’s stock price. Further, parent company Fifth & Pacific will be renamed to Kate Spade & Co. to focus singularly on the Kate Spade brand. The company recently trimmed 37 of its 40 brands and is soon to separate from Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand.

Beech notes that they’ve carefully identified complementary experiences to carry through different social media channels. Facebook is for customers seeking sales, product information, store openings, etc. Twitter offers the voice of the Kate Spade woman tweeting about local events and other delightful discoveries. Instagram paints a picture her story and NYC lifestyle through the use of images.

Kate Spade New York is fast becoming a trailblazer in the marketplace, developing unique ways to engage and even entertain its biggest and brightest fans by merging new technology with in-person interactions.

Join Beech at the BRITE ’14 conference (March 3-4, NYC) to learn more about the creative ways in which they’re keeping the brand both fashion and marketing-forward.

BY ALLIE ABODEELY


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,791 other followers

%d bloggers like this: