Odds are, you’ve been accosted at several retailers within the past few years to sign up for mailing lists, loyalty cards, and what at least one salesperson has dubbed as “super secret sales”. However, those mailing lists have turned out to be wildly impersonal and impractical, the loyalty cards came with a ton of hoops to jump through in order to save a whopping 4%, and those super secret sales? Well, they were only valid on the exact products that you didn’t want. Though the correlation between brick-and-mortar shopping, data mining, and online shopping have all commingled in the past, never before have they been as seamlessly united as in the case of Fabletics. While many companies have attempted to modernize both shopping styles, and bring them together as one “smart shopping” experience, only a handful of companies have truly capitalized on this concept of gathering customer metrics, and turning them into a completely personalized customer experience. Only Fabletics has done it successfully, on their own terms, and in a manner that some may call backward.
The mega-successful brand, co-founded by fitness guru and spokesperson Kate Hudson, immediately took on an approach somewhat inherently different than their competition. With a flexible VIP membership option that offers discounts and perks, as well as a “sticker value” shopping option, Fabletics allows clients to shop online based on their desires, needs, and commitment level. Coupled with a totally transparent business model, honest and encouraged product reviews, and a loyal community that drives the direction of the business, Fabletics maintains its’ mission statement and core beliefs, all while ebbing and flowing with the tides of consumer demand. In that way, their approach is not only brilliant, but also crucial in order to thrive in today’s retail atmosphere.
Recently, Kate sat down with Fast Company, along with Marc Lore (oh, just the CEO of e-commerce for some tiny company called Walmart) to discuss the future of e-commerce, and her comprehensive understanding of the benefits of “smart shopping” are just another reminder that Fabletics is doing it right, and doing it their own way! At the base of the “smart shopping” goal is the concept of combining the online shopping experience with brick-and-mortar shopping, utilizing technological advances, in order to create a seamless, thoughtful, and personalized shopping experience across the board.
For Fabletics, that starts with proprietary technology that was created to capture consumer information, and translates that information into customized advertising, choosing website items, and creating repeat customers. At stated by Hudson, “We’re in the business of wanting to please our customer and know them. That’s how we create loyalty.” Essentially, by providing consumers with personalized attention, Fabletics creates the sense of a positive ongoing relationship.
When a customer enters a Fabletics brick-and-mortar store, the customer is “scanned in”, and each item placed in a fitting room is checked in by a salesperson on the floor. From there, items that are not purchased in-store will show up in a customer’s cart upon their next visit to the site, and their size and style preferences are saved, teaching salespeople which styles to suggest, and auto-loading preferred styles upon website visits. Additionally, customized coupons and promotions are sent to consumers, increasing the likelihood that they will utilize these promotions. In the past, this type of individualized attention was provided mostly by personal shoppers at luxury department stores. Now, with the collection of data, this type of personalized attention, and level of care, can be successfully mimicked in stores with any price point.
By providing such a consumer-centric shopping experience in physical stores, as well as online, Fabletics also encourages feedback from customers, who feel included in the loyal Fabletics community. This concept works in a cyclical fashion. Consumers post reviews of products, desires for new product, and other information that is pertinent to athleisure. In turn, the company parlays this useful information to create desired products, allowing the consumer to essentially dictate aspects of the company. Finally, when consumers see their desires and reports being realized, they feel even more valuable to the company, the community, and the brand. In a thoroughly modern manner, this is a very contemporary crowdsourced way to structure a company, compared to the rigid press releases and dictated visions of companies of decades past.
In addition to creating a more personalized consumer atmosphere, this type of metrics collection also provides priceless information for Fabletics. For example, if a particular item has been tried on numerous times by clients, but never purchased, with the top complaint concerning fit, the Fabletics team will be made aware of the potential issue via metrics, and will be able to address the issue in a timely fashion, rather than rolling out a product solely online, and having to deal with several returns and exchanges due to the same sizing concern. According to Hudson, “because we’re tech-focused, we’re able to know what our customers want and create less waste.” By addressing fit issues, styling concerns, and other potential retail disasters on smaller batches of new items, awaiting consumer reaction, and then ordering more product to launch online, Fabletics essentially minimizes the guessing game that is so common in the realm of digital marketplaces.
How does a single label retailer compete in the age of Amazon and Target? Well, Kate isn’t afraid. As she puts it, “There’s Amazon and then there’s what we’re doing and how to build on that.” To elaborate, big box retailers have always existed against single “mom and pop” retailers, just as online marketplace giants dominate the realm of internet retail, with hundreds of brands, and a worldwide reach.
However, digitally native brands, like Fabletics, can thrive and compete in this marketplace by offering a more customized, luxurious, and tailored shopping experience via utilization of smart technology, and brick mining. By expanding into the world of brick-and-mortar shopping as an effort to increase their insights, which are then translated back to online shopping, Fabletics is paving the way for the future of e-commerce. By proving the success of this “backward” way of expanding their business, Fabletics is now a successful example for other up-and-coming companies that are adapting this business model, including Bonobos, and Untuckit. As Kate profoundly and simply put it, “we roll with the times.”