Podcast – Interview with Industry Experts on the Future of Retail and D2C Marketing
The first episode in a new series of the csuite podcast called ‘Marketing Futures’, produced in partnership with SAP. Guests from Stitch Fix, Bravissimo and SAP talk about the changing face of the retail landscape, focusing on the future of retail and direct to consumer.
In the first episode in the ‘Marketing Futures’ series, produced in partnership with SAP, Graham Barrett was joined online by Fiona Walter, Director of Marketing and Product UK, at Stitch Fix, Julie Austin, Marketing and Digital Director at Bravissimo and Robin Barrett Wilson, Industry Executive Advisor, Fashion at SAP.
This episode explored the changing face of the retail landscape, focusing on the future of retail and direct to consumer.
Stitch Fix was founded in the US over 10 years ago, with more than 4.2m active customers and an annual revenue of $2bn, they have a presence in the UK and globally.
They are an accessible and affordable online personal styling service that blends data science with human stylists. In essence, a customer would go online, fill in a quick style quiz, tell them about their preferences in terms of their style, their budget, their size and so on.
Then depending on which market you’re in, they match them with a personal stylist who handpicks five items of clothing and sends it to the customer's house, where they can try everything on before purchasing.
Trends as a Result of the Pandemic
While discussing trends that arose during the pandemic, Fiona explained that by virtue of being a 100% digital business, they saw a growth of ecommerce penetration.
She said that they have benefitted from the shift online as many people have tried Stitch Fix who potentially otherwise wouldn’t have considered them before.
The second trend that Fiona said they’ve noticed, particularly from a marketing perspective, is a growing appetite for more authentic marketing content. In response, she said they have leant towards more homespun photography, created not only by their stylists, but also their customers.
She explained that they found that not only were the production costs lower, but those kinds of assets are resonating a lot more with customers, whether that’s inorganic, social, or even in emails.
She said that as a by-product they’ve seen that it encourages more customers in an organic social space to generate and share their own head-to-toe looks, perpetuating a natural virality and word of mouth.
Fiona said that the third trend they’ve seen accelerate during the pandemic, is this idea that they have a more conscious consumption out there and consumers are making much more considered purchase decisions regardless of what it is they're purchasing. This has benefitted Stitch Fix because their business model naturally aligns with a more considered way of buying clothes.
Julie then added that at Bravissimo, even though they’ve come at a different springboard in terms of background to Stitch Fix, that they have seen very similar trends.
Bravissimo is 26 years old, with 26 physical stores in the UK, one in the US and an online shop, but started off with mail order, then navigated to retail becoming online in the last 10 years.
Adapting the Business
Julie explained that in the last 12 months ecommerce has become 50% of their retail sales, outside the fact their shops were shut [due to the pandemic]. One of the biggest challenges was the business’ foundation comes from a service perspective in terms of fitting she said.
Julie said that they don’t just sell bras, they fit and support their customers to feel amazing, and this is intrinsically linked to physically being with their customers, but this was inevitably challenging.
She explained that their biggest pivot has been virtual fitting and finding a way to provide the service in a virtual world. She said they’ve advanced to virtual fittings through Zoom or Teams, and they have done over 30,000 of those in the last 12 months.
Robin added that the interesting thing about fashion, is that the government decided who was essential and who wasn’t when it came to retail during the pandemic. She said this led to brands questioning what they were going to do, but after a couple of months people were naturally drawn to shopping without much to do.
She explained that brands started to use their customers ideas, put them on social media, create a community, build brand awareness and commitment, a trend which was apparent all throughout lockdown.
She continued by saying that a year-old data is no longer relevant, that understanding of what happened last week now becomes what’s relevant this week.
Historically it has been younger generations that drives change regarding sustainability. But according to Robin, since the pandemic, health, and wellbeing, not just for yourself, but everyone is really something that people have brought to the forefront of their thoughts. She said that we’re seeing other generations starting to think about a sustainable shift.
Robin explains that fashion has a big challenge, it’s the largest culprit of pollution on earth behind oil and gas, which means they must educate their consumers and be transparent about where things are coming from because their consumers are accustomed to buying things at a lower price.
Julie agreed with Robin and said that it’s really important for it to be an all-age focus. She said that Bravissimo ran groups with customers in lockdown, and they found that the demographic challenging them on their sustainability was mostly baby boomers.
Julie explained that the most fiercely competitive commercial month, is November and that it’s so important to stick to your principles regarding Black Friday. She said they talked an awful lot about a trading proposition for Black Friday and eventually made the decision to focus on bra recycling.
They asked their customers to recycle and helped them to swap their old bras for something that’s going to last.
Julie believes that it's not about paying lip service, it's about joining all the dots up because customers now see through it.
This episode and all upcoming episodes are available on www.csuitepodcast.com with links to follow on your favourite podcast app or social media.