Shopping habits that accelerated in the last year look like they’re here to stay.
We spoke with three digital marketing executives—Angela Clark, EVP of Digital at True Religion, Roshan Varma, VP of Digital at Tapestry, and Steve Morales, VP of Marketing at NYDJ—about the challenges they faced while pivoting their focus to e-commerce during the pandemic and how they’ll continue to rely on digital channels as stores reopen.
Recreating the in-store shopping experience online
One of the biggest challenges that came with the sudden need to close retail stores was not knowing how long the shutdown would last. But once it became clear that stores would have to remain closed for more than just a few weeks, brands had to reconsider how they could connect with and support their customers virtually.
True Religion implemented live chat on their website, opting not to add bot functionality right away in order to get the service up and running faster. They also added some of their store associates to their customer service team (remotely) to help field incoming requests and inquiries. These agents were uniquely suited to the task because they already had the knowledge and training to support customers effectively.
With everything that was going on in the middle of a pandemic, we had to think about the customer's mindset and their connectivity with the brand on a more emotional level.
- Angela Clark, EVP of Digital at True Religion
NYDJ also reimagined the role of their retail associates to be more customer service-focused, so they could continue to provide the personalized attention their shoppers have come to expect. “We cater to a slightly older consumer who’s grown with the brand, even as it started as Not Your Daughter's Jeans. Our customers like that one-on-one attention and need that one-on-one help sometimes when ordering through the site,” said Steve Morales, VP of Marketing at NYDJ. The company made customer service a priority from the beginning, offering dedicated support by phone, FaceTime, and Zoom.
Tapestry—a leading New York-based house of modern luxury accessories and lifestyle brands including Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman—engaged customers with events like Zoom shopping parties. “We're an accessories business with handbags and shoes, and shoes are very tough to sell online without that in-store experience,” said Roshan Varma, VP of Digital at Tapestry. “We tried to bring as much of the in-store shopping experience to our customers as possible, using digital channels.”
Leaning on empathetic messaging to foster loyalty and retention
True Religion launched their SMS program with Attentive about a month before the pandemic hit the US, so they leaned into their text channel to open a direct line of communication with their subscribers during this time. “We tried to communicate as much as possible that we were here, and we were available for customers if they were in the mood to shop,” said Angela Clark, EVP of Digital at True Religion.
But with the challenges that consumers were experiencing due to the pandemic, True Religion recognized that there were opportunities to text subscribers about more than just shopping. In fact, some of their most engaged text messages were ones that acknowledged what people might be going through.
“We were really encouraged to see that our customers responded to that in a very positive way,” said Clark. “I think there's an element of humanity that we learned about—there was an opportunity to do that through SMS and other channels.”
NYDJ also understood the importance of treating customers as humans first and shoppers second, even during a time when many brands had to prioritize conversion rates and revenue. “We have a very loyal customer base, and they expect a lot from us,” said Morales. “We launched a campaign called ‘Together We Thrive’ with our long-time partner United Way—an organization we’ve worked with before through our retail stores—to support local communities and small businesses.”
The campaign offered subscribers a 25% off site-wide discount. And, for every order placed, NYDJ committed to donating 10% to United Way—a philanthropic approach that resonated with NYDJ’s audience.
Using brand insights to inform how customers browse and buy
Tapestry focused on being customer-centric in their approach to e-commerce over the last year. For the company and its brands, creating a positive shopping experience includes being culturally relevant but also inclusive.
Being inclusive is one of the core principles for our brands, and one way we could do that is by giving people flexible payment options. We've been working with installment payment providers and have been seeing strong results.
- Roshan Varma, VP of Digital at Tapestry
NYDJ was already working with a buy now, pay later platform before the pandemic hit, but as the year progressed, data showed that less than 5% of sales were buy now, pay later transactions. When the brand later moved to Shopify, they almost immediately saw indications that the platform was a good fit for NYDJ customers. “We saw that 49% of our users were using Shop Pay, and we saw that the AOV was 20% higher with people who use Shop Pay,” said Morales, adding that the brand is now considering the Shop Pay installments plan.
Morales also emphasized the importance of leaning on the data available to you and your team when deciding which platforms are the best for your business to invest in.
During this same time, the team at True Religion was looking for tools that would have a positive impact on ROI and their customer service experience, so implementing help desk software—like Zendesk—was a priority, alongside adding ratings and reviews to their website. “I know from other brands I've worked for how valuable ratings and reviews are, especially during a pandemic where people might not want to shop with us online but were forced to—those ratings and reviews become even more important,” said Clark.
Looking ahead: balancing e-commerce with store reopenings
As the world begins to open back up, brands have to consider what their customers want to be buying after spending more than a year at home. NYDJ launched their Forever Comfort loungewear collection at the end of last year and is shifting into being more of a full outfitting and lifestyle brand.
The NYDJ marketing team also set aside a budget to experiment with email and SMS acquisition campaigns through paid social. In a recent successful campaign, they A/B tested SMS sign-up on two different landing pages: one with an opt-in offering a significant discount versus one driving to their Fit Quiz on NYDJ.com. “We had data showing that a few hundred people were taking the quiz organically every day, so we wanted to expand upon that interest,” said Morales.
For True Religion, driving their online shoppers into stores as much as possible is a top priority. They plan to focus on developing store traffic-driving events and offers through all of their marketing channels.
Launching a loyalty program is another priority for True Religion to gain more insight into where and how their customers are shopping. “If we know they shopped in the store, or we know they shopped online, then when they call in with a problem or a question, we’ll have more data about who they are. That way, we can really help inform the customer and make it a very useful experience,” said Clark.
At Tapestry, creating more segmented experiences across their media channels and websites will be a main focus for the team, in addition to driving in-store traffic, especially as the holiday season approaches. “We've spent this time really thinking about what our brands are, what they stand for, and how to best express that with our customers across both stores and online,” said Varma.
The return to in-store shopping presents marketers with a unique opportunity to leverage SMS for keeping subscribers informed about reopening plans, health and safety guidelines, and even exclusive promotions for in-store shoppers.
There are a lot of advantages to using SMS versus email to communicate with customers. The fact that it's so much more immediate and conversational really allows you to tailor the messages you send to different segments of your audience—like products going on sale or region-specific promotions.
- Roshan Varma, VP of Digital at Tapestry
Want to learn more about how you can use segmentation to personalize your text message program and increase ROI? Check out these five strategies.