At the first Glossy Forum in New York City on Thursday, designer Misha Nonoo raised an important point that brands and retailers — of all sizes — should remember: In today’s retail climate, you have to move fast or get left behind. “If it’s not working, drop it and move on,” she said.
During the forum, we heard from other industry leaders, from companies like Kate Spade & Company, Moda Operandi, Birchbox and John Varvatos, about how they’re using technology, customer data and new platforms to reach a new audience and stay relevant.
If you didn’t make it to Glossy’s first forum, find the five biggest takeaways of the day’s discussions below.
Your brand’s voice matters — maybe more than ever
Bloomingdale’s head of social, Jonathan Paul, pointed out an important aspect of influencer marketing that brands can forget when they’ve been dazzled by hundreds of thousands millennial-aged followers: When you let bloggers take over your social media account, you’re diluting your own brand’s voice.
The value in maintaining a unique brand identity — and selling it to customers — was echoed by Kate Spade & Company CMO Mary Renner Beech and Vera Bradley CMO Theresa Palermo. Renner Beech is guiding the company into new regions and categories by paying attention to who the Kate Spade customer is. Palermo, who is helping lead Vera Bradley’s recent brand pivot, is hoping to change the conversation around the company with a new campaign, ‘It’s Good To Be A Girl,’ and a new relationship with its customer on social media. When figuring out what new products to introduce, the brand called on its followers on different social platforms to find out what was missing from their offering (slim phone cases and charging purses came up).
Data and fashion don’t have to clash
Often, the last thing that brand creatives at fashion companies are thinking about is CRM. But for companies hoping to reach the right customer and deliver a relevant message, data is critical. Otherwise, as Livia Marotta, former vp of digital at Bulgari, said: Digital can cause panic.
Kate Spade’s Renner Beech strikes the balance between spinning powerful creative and crunching numbers by building a data-informed, but not data-led, team. This has meant re-training marketing veterans and hiring forward-thinking team members. When you use data to inform creative campaigns, every dollar spent is going toward a more intentional purpose, Renner Beech said.
Experiential retail is the future
Nonoo painted a dismal portrait of today’s department store: “Racks and racks of clothing in poorly lit rooms,” manned by salespeople who don’t properly represent the brand. Nonoo, who recently repositioned her eponymous label to be see-now-buy-now and direct-to-consumer, no longer does wholesale with these retailers. At John Varvatos, director of digital Nate Poeschl shared how the brand combatted slow foot traffic by pulling off in-store events with Future and a limited edition product. The key, Poeschl said, was that the collaboration created real-time urgency for customers.
Experience applies beyond the brick and mortar. Moda Operandi director of product Mia Otte broke down the best use case for a retailer mobile app: “The app doesn’t solve the problem of ‘I need more sales,’” she said. It has to offer a compelling reason to be downloaded and used. Otherwise, nix it.
Retailers, old and new, are reinventing
Internally, brands are rethinking how they project themselves to the world. Elizabeth Arden, a 100-year-old brand, recently rebranded as “Liz” on social media to engage younger customers, said Denna Singleton, the brand’s global director of marketing. Vera Bradley is also centering its rebranding about being cool with today’s girls. It has to come off as genuine, of course, and whether or not either reinvention succeeds is yet to be decided. The point is, the brands are paying attention to how today’s consumers are changing, and changing with them.
New brands are capitalizing on this interim period as older retailers are still pivoting. American Giant CEO Bayard Winthrop saw an opportunity to swoop in and appeal to customers who were fatigued by faceless corporate brands.
“People vote with their dollars today for the brands they support,” said Winthrop. “We built a brand that people can feel good about.”
No surprise: The customer is in control
It’s not groundbreaking to hear that a retailer’s customers keep the company alive. But the customer has emerged as retail’s overwhelming obsession, driving decisions internally around product design, business model and marketing strategies.
Nonoo pointed to the fact that customers have more control of a brand’s visibility than ever due to technology and, specifically, social media. She didn’t want to rely on the middleman when it came to selling her brand to the consumer. So she went straight to consumer and debuted her most recent collection on Snapchat. Poeschl, at John Varvatos, pulled off a celebrity collaboration to get in front of customers who may not have been familiar with the brand, but were fans of the brand’s collaborator, Future.
“That’s not our customer but that was the point,” said Poeschl. “That’s how luxury grows.”