In an all-hands-on-deck effort, a Rent the Runway team of 250 is hoping to help customers find dresses that fit by modeling them on Snapchat.
The company, which rents out brand-name special occasion dresses and outfits to customers at a portion of their retail price, is prompting its followers on Snapchat to come to them with concerns around how a dress might fit on their body type. Customers start by sending a video, image or text with the name of the item they’re thinking about renting, as well as their stats: size, height and typical body shape. Any specific concerns (maybe most dresses are tight around their bust, or drag on the floor) should also be shared.
When Rent the Runway receives a snap, the team recruits one of its 250 employees who best fits the customer’s size and height to try on the dress and post a video of them in it, talking through notable attributes (the lace doesn’t stretch; you’d need to buy a special bra). While the company has about 800 employees total, it’s pulling from its corporate office and customer insights team for the Snapchat service. Any other questions the customer has will be addressed in a back-and-forth conversation until the case is closed. The entire interaction should take about 10 minutes, but getting the dress from the warehouse delays the conversation by about a day.
Since launching the Snapchat service two weeks ago, with word being shared by an update on a Snapchat Story, Rent the Runway’s svp of merchandising and planning Sarah Tam said that they’ve gotten around 25 inquiries per week.
“When our customer is coming to us, she’s coming to us for a special occasion — there are higher stakes,” said Tam. “We want to make sure that we deliver, so we’re always figuring out new ways to cover the bases when it comes to fit and confidence.”
Rent the Runway’s e-commerce business depends heavily on customers being happy with the fit and look of the items they rent. With a rental window period of typically four days, there’s no time to return and order a different one if things don’t work out.
The retailer’s already attempted to solve for this in a few ways. It lets customers order a back-up size of the dress they want, and then return both at the end of the rental period. Customers can add an additional dress to their rental order for a flat $32.50 charge (dresses cost between $40 and $80 to rent from the service). Rent the Runway’s product pages are heavy on product detail, imagery and video of the items, and the user-generated content feed, “Rent the Runway On You,” shows customer-shared images of what the items look like on other people. The company’s 50-person customer service team also fields questions via live chat, email and phone.
Now, Rent the Runway’s three-person social media team is tackling another point of the customer confidence battle, and Tam said they plan to scale the service to meet demand as long as they can, armed with a spreadsheet of each employee’s size, height and body type. She said they haven’t had a request they weren’t able to match with a team member yet.
“We’re still scaling it, judging demand, and figuring it out, so we don’t have all the answers yet [around the future of the service],” said Tam. “But we’re seeing happy engagement already. It’s important to touch on every access point we can, and a major point right now is Snapchat.”
Snapchat’s interface is user-friendly, not brand friendly, something that has forced retailers on the platform to get more personal and less refined. This has helped created new ways for brands to communicate with the snappers that follow them: Birchbox lets a different employer take over the Snapchat account for a day, and each is in charge of courting any customer questions or comments that filter in throughout the day. Everlane’s regular Snapchat hosts, social team Red Gaskell and Isadora Sales, hold a “Transparency Tuesday” conversation on Snapchat where they take customer questions sent to the account and address them in their Snapchat Story.
Tam said Rent the Runway was already interacting with followers who asked them questions on Snapchat, which led to the idea to formalize the service. The appeal also lies in the personal connection it build with customers.
“It gives a brand a real sense of personality,” said Malinda Sanna, founder and CEO of creative agency Spark. “It’s good to see them paying attention to the customer’s needs– that’s going to come with better results.”