Being customer-centric is easier said than done in retail. Among the impediments that exist includes how to best create an environment that puts all necessary data retailer control, how to empower employees to ask and answer any question rooted in customer data, and how to impart a level of trust in that environment where the culture slowly changes to embrace data driven decision making.
Chris Fitzpatrick, VP Business Analytics and Strategy at vineyard vines, recently recorded a podcast with Caroline Baldwin, Editor at Essential Retail, touching on some of the lessons learned in their own journey solving those kinds of issues, including:
The complete recording of that interview can be found here, which we’ve transcribed segments of below:
Caroline Baldwin:[00:00:12] Hello and welcome to the Retail Ramble podcast I'm bringing to you from ShopTalk in Las Vegas, I'm Caroline Baldwin. I'm the Editor and I'm also your host today. And with me I have Chris Fitzpatrick who's the V.P. of Business Analytics and Strategy at vineyard vines….
Caroline Baldwin:[00:00:34] Tell our listeners a little bit more about vineyard vines, because you're on the East Coast of the U.S., is that right?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:00:40] Correct. vineyard vines has been around for 20 years, it's based in Stamford, Connecticut. It's an apparel brand that was founded by two brothers. And the idea behind the brand is this "every day should feel this good" mantra of bringing the good life to you wherever you go. They started the brand making neckties originally, because they hated wearing neckties oddly enough, but they always thought that if you could bring patterns and color with you to work on a tie it would make you feel a little bit better…
Caroline Baldwin:[00:02:19] So, let's chat about what's the strategy going forward when it comes to data? Have you, predominantly or always been and on top of your various channels or has it been quite difficult to get a single view of your customer so to speak?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:02:32] It's been challenging in the past and it's one of the reasons why we engaged with CCG, was to try to look for ways and unique ways of marrying all that data together so we could stitch together what the customer looked and felt like and how they shopped us and what they appreciated about the brand what they did not. So, we've been working with them [CCG] for about 18 months on this project and it's allowed us to kind of break down a lot of those silos and allow our teams to ask more interesting questions about what's going on in the brand in the customer experience.
“..one of the reasons why we engaged with CCG, was to try to look for unique ways of marrying all that data so we could stitch together what the customer looked and felt like and how they shopped us and what they appreciated about the brand what they did not.”
Caroline Baldwin:[00:03:01] And what was the feeling like beforehand then?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:03:05] It was challenging in the sense that because everything was so disparate you'd really have a hard time asking questions because you weren't sure if you could ever get the data. So we predominantly relied on financial metrics to drive the business, for the most part. Whereas now we're pivoting it towards more customer centric KPIs, if you will. We're looking at acquisition retention, we are more closely looking at it down to the product categories and understanding which categories of product are driving greater levels of engagement, and we're doing that through the product developed...
Caroline Baldwin:[00:03:47] So what's the biggest change feeling internally to the business, now you've rolled out this [CI for Retail] platform from CCG?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:03:51] I think that the team feels the ease at which they can get the information now. It’s a very self-service friendly environment for them to work in. It's not intimidating for the most junior member of the team all the way up to a very senior data scientists.They can get in there and do extremely sophisticated work then that person can present things to the broader team and allow them to engage with the data and understand the customer's behavior in a much more seamless fashion than they would before.
Caroline Baldwin:[00:04:24] I see. So tell me about the 150% ROI story that I've been sent? That's super impressive, so what does that mean?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:04:26] So about a year ago is really when we started to build out the products and build out proof of concept. And for the first six months or so we were just building out different proofs of concept and getting used to it using the data. And as we started to expose that data to our teams and particularly our marketing team, they were able to look at cross shopping behavior, look at the way customers were engaging in different markets, and they were able to target those consumers a little bit more directly with things that are more personalized to them. And through those campaigns that we were able to kind of visualize information from, from the CCG platform, it enabled us to drive a greater level of revenue and then profit through the business…
“And as we started to expose that data to our teams and particularly our marketing team, they were able to look at cross shopping behavior, look at the way customers were engaging in different markets, and they were able to target those consumers a little bit more directly with things that are more personalized to them.”
Caroline Baldwin:[00:05:07] But why did you decide to go with CCG for this space?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:05:10] There [were] a couple of reasons. One, culturally they fit in with our business really, really, well. I think that's really important and something that people overlook a lot. It's an intimidating topic. It can be very intimidating for a broad cross-section of people, and their team does a very, very, good job of speaking to the business community in a manner in which they can understand what's being done…
Caroline Baldwin:[00:07:21] I see. So tell me from a "having all your data in one place" perspective is there anything that you've learned that's really quirky about your customers? Or maybe something that you thought, "our customers shop like this," but actually when you have the data together, it's like, "Oh God, no, actually we had it wrong," and it's different?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:07:37] One of the things that we found that was fascinating is our customer is very transient. They shop in multiple stores in multiple markets, and it's interesting because our brand, because we do a lot of really unique personalized products in different markets, it makes sense that they would do that. But when you finally see it, and we see how many people crossover into different markets and they go to a store in New York and then from Ohio, but then when they go down to Florida they also go into a store? There's not a lot of brands that when you are on vacation you directly go into a store that you could go to at home….
“One of the things that we found [through our data] that was fascinating is our customer is very transient. They shop in multiple stores in multiple markets, and it's interesting because our brand, because we do a lot of really unique personalized products in different markets, it makes sense...”
Caroline Baldwin:[00:08:12] That's really interesting. Tell us about the real time business challenges that you've been able to address after using this data, I think you and I were talking earlier about the holiday? This recent holiday data, and being able to make real time to quickly change things when you thought something was going wrong? Tell us a bit about that.
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:08:25] Yes, there were two instances of that. One was around our female consumer. We were really kind of just looking at her and not understanding what she was shopping for, how often she was engaging with the brand, and then at what times of the year. And then we started to realize that many of our female shoppers were not actually buying into our women's line. So we started tailoring our messaging a little bit more clearly to our female customer and saw that she started to engage more with our women's line.
Caroline Baldwin:[00:08:54] Which I guess is quite difficult when you start off with a brand that's selling neckties you become the men's clothing brand and it's difficult to remind people well actually, we've got women's lines, don't come in just to buy your husband a tie for Christmas, like maybe treat yourself at the same time.
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:09:07] Yeah, it is. Most of our consumers are coming in and buying for their whole family but they weren't buying for themselves. So that was a really pretty significant unlock for us. The other one was just looking at our outlet business and understanding where our business was performing in a certain manner and we were trying to understand, is it that our customer is moving into a different channel, or are they migrating, or are we cannibalizing our business? And it allows us a lot us to dig in deeper and really pull together a plan for holiday to directly drive them into the stores with a unique product offering…
“…[CI for Retail] allows us to dig in deeper and really pull together a plan for holiday to directly drive [customers] into the stores with a unique product offering”
Caroline Baldwin:[00:10:53] And going forward, in the next five years, 10 years what's the biggest challenge coming over the hill? What's really worrying you?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:11:00] It's personalization . The customer's expectations grow so fast, so quickly, every year, and keeping up with that is really challenging and you have to be able to understand, what are the things they actually appreciate? Because you could spend, I mean you see all the tech that's here, you can spend endless amounts of time and money building out all these things, and your customer may not even care. So, that's one of our challenges is really getting clear insight into what our customer appreciates about our brand and making sure we drive value through that.
“The customer's expectations grow so fast, so quickly, every year, and keeping up with that is really challenging and you have to be able to understand, what are the things they actually appreciate?”
Caroline Baldwin:[00:11:28] And is this personalization from a business perspective, say when that online, the surface that the shirt, and the fit, and colors that they like? Or is it more getting their initials embossed in a tie? What kind of personalization are we talking?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:11:43] It's a little bit of everything quite honestly.
"[Personalization is] putting unique products in markets where that customer expects them"
Caroline Baldwin:[00:11:48] It's a huge trend in products. At NRF (National Retail Federation Conference), in January we went around various different stores and I think nearly every single store had some form that "hey, personalize this product" or at Sephora with a perfume bottle that you could initial or getting your bag, and most stores have it, so that's huge over here right?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:12:03] Yeah, and for us we've done it in a different way in some ways, in the sense we have partnered with the NFL, the MLB, leagues as well as a lot of collegiate, a lot of colleges. What we're finding the consumer that already loved our brands likes putting their logo with our brands and it's kind of an all ships rise. They want to see things they love. Your university, you have a very strong feeling towards it. And if you have a strong feeling towards that branch is another reason to come back and purchase.
Caroline Baldwin:[00:12:35] And does that, because obviously with sports it does divide people, and is that good? Do you then alienate? Are you worried about maybe alienating people that aren't into the NFL and such?
Chris Fitzpatrick:[00:12:47] We haven't seen it yet. I think for the most part there's a subset of our customer that appreciates it and that's who we're catering to…
Caroline Baldwin:[00:14:47] Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining us on the Retail Ramble. I know you've got a really busy week at Shops Talk, so we really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us and to our listeners out there, thank you for listening to the Retail Ramble podcast. We'll be back with you with another episode next week.
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