How Loft’s Omnichannel Retail Strategy Is Evolving
Loft's Michelle Horowitz finds that omnichannel means reacting to customers needs with even greater immediacy. But next: brick-and-mortars need to adapt social media experiences for in-store.
As the lines between online and offline commerce continue to blur, the concept of omnichannel retail requires that brands do more than simply make it easier to shop via an app or in a store, says Michelle Horowitz, SVP of marketing for Ann Inc. women’s fashion chains Loft and Lou & Grey.
Speaking on an Advertising Club of NY panel with Story CEO Rachel Shechtman and Emma Sokoloff, strategic partnership’s manager for Casper, Horowitz discussed the challenges of satisfying customers’ expectations across e-commerce social media connections.
Omnichannel Retail 3.0 Is About ‘Community’
“Some say omnichannel is just ‘multi-channel rebranded,'” panel moderator Courtney McKlveen, VP/industry lead for Retail, QSR, and Travel at Yahoo. “Some say it’s a revolutionary way of thinking about customers. What’s one thing that you leave the crowd with that you’re thinking this is sort of next for us, or this is the next challenge for retail?”
“You can’t beat the word experience more than a dead horse, but I think the other thing that will come later is community,” Horowitz said. “We’re the same people who live online as we live offline. It’s certain things that have become part of our daily lives in the virtual wold. Who doesn’t spend a day at least clicking for five seconds on LinkedIn or Facebook? Where’s the 3.0 version of community in the physical world? It would make sense. I think that’s something that will become increasingly important and a differentiator for certain retailers.”
When asked to provide some thoughts on programs that Loft has done that “engages a customer while she’s on the move,” Horowitz pointed to the insights the company was able to glean from hosting events, sharing content, and thinking of ways to keep the conversations going long past the moment they occurred.
The Meaning of Mobile
“We know that [our customer] spends a lot of time interacting with us on mobile, not only through the website, where we spend a lot of time looking at UX and how we tell stories, but also through search,” Horowitz said. “So we want to find ways of enabling her. Friction-less checkout is an example. We’re also paying a lot of attention to how she participates with us on social channels. For us, an interesting area that we’re looking at is both with Instagram stories and Snapchat. We’re exploring and expanding the idea that content is only temporary. Instead, we’re looking at how can we also make it evergreen for her.”
As an example of the ways Loft is trying to connect social media to its physical locations, the company’s recent live event in Chicago serves as a possible template.
“We used Snapchat to tell the story of what we were doing in Chicago and to make it more exciting for people who were there as well as for those who weren’t,” Horowitz said. “But we also thought about ways we could add value to Snapchat — which is all about being in the moment — to have some continuity, so our customers could find those items of clothing that were displayed on Snapchat afterwards. For us, mobility is about being able to tell our stories and have them last over time, while balancing real-time accessibility.”
Personalization Is Experience
While Horowitz and her co-panelists discussed the role of various channels and technologies to connect with mobile-focused consumers, she didn’t discuss specific plans or views involving retail’s embrace of beacons as a tool for driving one-to-one marketing in-store.
Specific vendors’ offerings are not what impresses retailers — or their customers, for that matter, Horowitz noted. Nevertheless, the company is exploring different ways it can use technology to drive greater “personalization.”
“We’ve been doing a lot of reading and doing a lot of testing around personalization and talking to our customers and providing messaging relevant at the right time,” she said. “We’ve also been looking at the technology to help us read and react to our shoppers’ behavior, in terms of the traffic that’s outside of the store and how that influences traffics within the store. That is part of the larger data mix as well.”