Kids’ Clothing Brand Trimfit Develops A Location Strategy Without A Branded Location
Big box retail marketing vet Ryan Craver holds forth on the right strategy for app-based discounts and why he hates the term ‘omnichannel.’
One of the primary marketing values of a big box retailer is the actual store itself. The large buildings sporting a familiar logo that can be seen from all directions and vantages does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing in shoppers.
But in the past year, kids’ hosiery and apparel brand Trimfit, which was founded in 1921 in Manhattan, realized that its presence in some of the largest global department store chains hadn’t necessarily translated into automatic sales.
As the company continues the massive rebranding it began last year, Ryan Craver, who heads up Emerging Brands, License and Digital Strategy for Trimfit parent Lamour Group’s global brand roster, has actually found several advantages and flexibility in helping his company focus directly on sales, rather than depending on the store itself to lead the marketing strategy.
Craver has seen how it works on the retail side close-up: Before Lamour, Craver served as SVP, chief of staff for the Department Store Group at Hudson’s Bay. He also worked in analytics at Accenture, where he managed insights for brands such as Virgin Media and Best Buy.
GeoMarketing: How would you describe your role at Trimfit?
Ryan Craver: There are two current roles. The first role is running the Trimfit brand. Trimfit will be a hundred-year-old brand in 2021 and joined the Lamour Group brand about 2 years ago. Our children’s wear products are sold nationally in big box retailers such as Kohl’s, Macy’s, Costco Canada to “small box” retailers on blocks throughout the US and Canada. We also do a significant amount of business with Amazon and several other e-tailers.
My second role is running the digital and license strategy for the broader Lamour Group and its various brands (including Trimfit). Lamour Group owns a number of brands and also has the exclusive license for brands like New Balance and Joe Fresh. These are brands in which we’re providing the design, manufacturing, and sales of those brands.
The two roles involve figuring out how to grow each of these brands, ensure each is digitally relevant, and determine which additional brands we should attach ourselves to.
What are the specific items on your agenda at Trimfit these days?
For Trimfit specifically, we are in the midst of a dramatic rebrand including the look, the feel, the copy, the messaging, the packaging and launch of several new product classifications. It’s been underway for a couple months now and we have quite a bit of progress to show.
We’re also looking at how do we make the brand easier to sell for retailers.
Given your background at Hudson Bay and Lord & Taylor, how do you view that challenge you have at Trimfit?
Having come from big box retail, it is well known that retail isn’t the fastest moving industry to change. I take this personally and feel that as a brand, we have a partial responsibility to drive some of this change. We have to figure out what we can provide our retailers to boost their sales. Things like photography, things like copy, and the ability for us to directly ship to their customer, as opposed to giving them the inventory in batches and elongating the time it takes from factory to shelf.
We can ship our products directly to their customer. The happier their customer is, the happier the retailers are. And the happier they remain, the more they purchase from us. Trimfit is only as successful as the retailers in which we are sold in and the experiences customers have with the brand.
Because a lot of these retailers are incredibly large and complex, we’re sometimes charged with determining how we can drive promotions and personalized offers to their particular customers using mobile, using tech like geo-location.
In terms of working with physical retailers as a brand sold in their stores, how do you use geo-targeting and location-based advertising?
Trimfit was the first apparel brand to provide a coupon direct to the consumer through Ibotta earlier this year in every Kohl’s, Macy’s and BJ’s Wholesale in which we sell our product in.
If you go to IBotta’s app, a majority of the coupons tend to attract customers by saying, “Buy $100 worth of store merchandise and get $10 off,” or, “Buy $100 worth on our dot-com site and get $10 off.”
What we did with Ibotta was message consumers, saying, “Hey, you’re in close proximity to a Macy’s. Go into a Macy’s, purchase, scan the coupon and we’ll give you $1 off.”
Why that’s interesting is because we’re going direct to the consumer with an actual discount, as opposed to going through the retailers point-of-sale system. Additionally, we have access to the customer data on who is purchasing, what they are purchasing and where they are purchasing.
Prior to the consumer actually scanning their coupon, we asked, “Have you ever heard of Trimfit? Have you previously purchased a Trimfit product?”
And we discovered that about 63 percent of those who ran an actual coupon had not ever purchased Trimfit.
Was that a surprise? And what was the value of that information?
That was quite a surprise, a complete surprise. It made me realize how much more that just sitting next to another brand like OshKosh or a Carter’s in a retail store, you’re not really known unless you call yourself out. That made us shift our focus to brand awareness and incentives a lot more.
Most digital strategies tend to involve direct response as opposed to brand awareness. Once again touching on your experience at Hudson Bay and as a consultant at Accenture, how did your past roles give you insight into what you had to do to drive awareness?
When I first started with Hudson Bay and Lord and Taylor, the focus wasn’t necessarily on digital. The focus was still brick-and-mortar. Having sat there with a rudimentary website, having sat there with a lack of a mobile site, it was pretty clear that we needed those things. The first and only priority was maintaining store sales when it should have been both.
Fast forward to Trimfit and there is no ecommerce site or direct to consumer sales. There’s no mobile site. There’s no direct-to-consumer couponing. That immediately told me, look, you’re even further behind where you were previously. The exciting part is that you don’t have the digital team so you can quickly build one. It kind of just came in right away that there’s a need to get us up to speed very, very quickly.
First and foremost, we launched a transactional ecommerce site for consumers. We updated it so that consumers were able to purchase directly from us. Secondly, we had to provide our wholesale customers and mom-and-pop stores the ability to purchase via online. So we launched a second site for wholesale accounts via Bluecherry B2B Commerce (formerly Threadvine).
Lastly, and definitely most importantly, ensuring customers know where we sold our items today. That involved highlighting the fact that we’re available in Macy’s, Kohl’s, Costco Canada and even online through marketplaces like Amazon. Without having a consumer site, wholesale site and broadcasting we are national in many retailers, awareness was marginal at best. Now I believe, we have a platform to broadcast our voice and focus on growing the business.
How closely do you coordinate marketing programs with Trimfit’s brick-and-mortar partners?
Very closely. What’s so exciting today is that if you don’t have brick and mortar stores, you have all the tools necessary to go direct-to-consumer. It’s all about consulting your top customers and letting them know what you are looking to do.
The ability to get directly into the pocket (via mobile) to let them know about a brand or about a product we are selling in small stores to big box stores to e-tailers is here. That decoupling, or that ability to go direct-to-consumer vs. through the retailer is extremely powerful.
When we build a campaign or a strategy for a particular retailer, we make sure that everything that we’re providing to those retailers, both in terms of location and types of product, is exclusive to them.
Then on the marketing side, we seek particular customers and we work with the retailer in doing so. We’ll ask, “Are you okay with us running this Ibotta campaign provided we fund it? How can we drive traffic on your dotcom to our product pages on your site?” We keep that audience intact yet aware of what our brand can offer.
For our own channels, for our own dotcom marketing, and for our own mom-and-pop customers, we will let them know about the brand and say, “Hey, we want to make it easy for you.
We aren’t going to force you to a retailer you don’t typically visit or have an account with.. We don’t want to force you to go just to our dotcom. If you have an Amazon account, and it’s easier for you to go buy from Amazon, here’s our Amazon page.” We are all about frictionless commerce as opposed to dedicated commerce or forced commerce.
That sounds a lot like “omnichannel,” which is certainly a buzzword we’ve explored a lot. What do you think of that term? Is it necessary or is it too obvious and general? Does it lack concrete definition?
I should be careful on the quote here, but I truly dislike the term. I think the term is horrendous. History repeats itself, right?
How do you mean?
We’ve had multiple channels historically. If you remember the days of the Sears catalog, that was when we first started having “omnichannel.” Customers could pick up in store, at depots, ship direct and orders could be placed via phone, fax to call centers, stores or depots. No different than today. That was a significant portion of business for Sears and for others that utilized the catalog.
At the end of the day, I think it doesn’t really matter [what term we use]. We just have to realize that the customer is the most empowered customer in history and they have the greatest amount of choice they’ve ever had. As long as we are focused on the fact that omnichannel is just strictly commerce, then I think we should be okay.
Where I see certain retailers faltering, or having issues, is they try and focus their efforts and their push into a particular channel, for a number of reasons. Some do it because they know that digital is the growth area and that retailers are seeing declining same-store sales at their brick-and-mortar locations. Some are doing it because they know that return rates are higher on digital and they have lower return rates when you get them the store. And others seek specific channels based on profitability.
I think that needs to go away. There needs to be the realization that no customer is the same. All customers want to interact in different ways and we just have to be able to provide support to them and in each of those various channels.
Now, someone may come back and say, “Well, how do you explain an Amazon?” Amazon very clearly has stated that they’re all about frictionless commerce online and that’s their current experience. Longer-term Amazon may move into brick-and-mortar. And they may start to pick up some additional types of customers or types of purchases in categories they don’t excel in today.
There are three big areas of focus when it comes to serving today’s customer, whether we call it the omnichannel customer or not. The first is intrigue. How do we create intrigue for a brand when there’s so much choice and content generated out there?
Some of the ways are through proximity, through geo-targeting, through personalization.
The second thing is, “How do we create immediacy?”
A lot of these customers are looking for self-sufficient, faster experiences. Experiences with mobile ordering for restaurants, hailing car services via Uber and messaging customer service have created new expectations that bleed into retail. Customers want to do it themselves, they want to get it quickly and they don’t believe that they should pay for it.
Then the third one is how do we make it frictionless? Whether it’s social media going with “buy buttons” or whether it’s mobile payments in app or in brick. Lost sales are just a click, swipe or touch away. Those are kind of the plays that I think everyone needs to focus on across all channels, regardless of whether we call it omnichannel or not.
In terms of creating immediacy in the stores themselves, what are your thoughts on beacons as a tool for driving purchases and creating a better “in-store experience?”
I am a bit frustrated with the way in which beacons have played out thus far. I kind of think of it similar to how Google AdWords started out.
If you remember, everyone was so focused on attribution and what they actually drove post-click. If they actually drove dollars or e-commerce dollars, everyone was excited. It’s the same for beacons today. The majority of people are focused on whether that coupon tied to a beacon resulted in the conversion. Until we get over that mindset, we’re going to continue to focus on these coupons. That said, coupons are incredibly important for a lot of the retailers today, so I think there is definitely value there.
Beyond that, there’s a lot of value in general brand awareness with in-store by creating self-sufficient experiences. I’ll go back to that Ibotta data: with 63 percent never having purchased our brand, and they were driven by a targeted promotion, how many more people can I get to, with a positive brand reinforcement by just saying to a consumer, “Hey, did you realize Trimfit now sells bras and underwear? I know that you only know of Maidenform and Jockey, but take a look at our bras. Here’s our everyday value pricing and here’s the product features.”
We can add other features as well in which you are using appointment scheduling for in-store events or knowing the proximity of a customer coming to pickup an online order up.”
Those types of experiences are amazing and then you take that one step further to that third point that I made was maybe you could even do self-sufficient checkout of that particular product.
I think there’s a lot more to come with beacons and brick tech. I think it’s not great right now and all the focus is on promotions. Longer-term, there’s a play to generally inform, have positive brand reinforcements or discovery, and then move into the actual transactional piece.