To attract and retain consumers in today’s retail environment, many direct-to-consumer companies are getting creative and offering eco-friendly products, transparent supply chains, personalized experiences, and accessibility to the best deals on the market. At our recent Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) On the Road | Los Angeles event, I discussed these topics and more with four women leading disruption in the industry during a panel titled, An Inside Look at Retail’s New Normal. The panel featured executives Kim Tobman, chief revenue officer, The Bouqs Company; Molly Kang, co-founder and CEO, Floravere; Nicole Robertson, co-founder and CEO, Swap Society; and Shannon Lackey, vice president, merchandising, Hollar. These executives shared with me how their companies are satisfying the modern consumer.

Kang is modernizing the traditional bridal shopping experience for her customers at Floravere. “It’s an industry that’s so entrenched in tradition, for a lot of good reasons, but it wasn’t keeping up with the shopping behavior of women,” Kang explained. “She’s starting her shopping process online, and so she has a Pinterest board, she has stuff she’s saved on Instagram, yet when she walks into a shop they have no idea what dresses she’s looking for or what she’s saved. All this research that she’s done in advance isn’t reflected at all in the dresses that she’ll see in-store.”

To address this disconnect between online and offline, Floravere collects information like the bride-to-be’s wedding date, gown preferences, and gown size when women book appointments online for in-person showroom visits. This allows stylists to pull dresses and accessories prior to shoppers arrival in the showroom, and provide a personalized styling experience in a private suite. “For a lot of women it [feels] like their red carpet, VIP moment, [like how] celebrities get styled for events where they go to a hotel suite and a stylist has pulled all this stuff for her,” noted Kang. “Floravere’s customers love it.”

Swap Society’s online apparel swapping format helps women “slow down their fashion consumption [while] still constantly refresh[ing] what they’re wearing,” Robertson said. The company offers consumers an easy, affordable way to shop sustainably by accepting all brands of clothing, even items missing tags, and taking care of shipping costs. Swap Society knows that modern consumers want ease of access, therefore “we try to make it really simple and easy for women to get into that loop of ‘OK, you’re done with those clothes, fill a bag, leave it out for your letter carrier,'” and earn points to swap on the site, Robertson says. She also says Swap Society’s goal is “to be available to the masses” and have priced items accordingly, not targeting only luxury shoppers like other swapping services.

Transparency and minimizing waste were two big passions behind starting The Bouqs Co., according to Tobman. The current customer experience at other floral businesses included “a lot of hidden fees and a lot of different surcharges that come with shipping flowers,” and it was ultimately not a transparent experience for the customer. The Bouqs Co. founders wanted a better customer experience, and were also concerned with making the business model more eco-friendly and sustainable. They created a way to “go directly from the farms to the consumer, because in that world we are able to really minimize the waste that happens. If you don’t order, it doesn’t get cut,” Tobman said.

The Bouqs Co. also addresses fair labor concerns by “paying 20 percent more than any of the other businesses out there,” said Tobman. Furthermore, it has built great relationships with the brand’s flower farmers. This high level of transparency in the supply chain has attracted and retained many customers who care about fair wages for workers and sustainable farming.

Lackey shared how Hollar addresses the needs of lower income consumers who may usually shop in physical dollar stores to avoid additional fees associated with online purchases. “But if a dollar store is your best option, we know that the quality and selection isn’t always great, it’s not always trendy, it doesn’t really feel like you’re getting exactly what you’re hoping to go buy,” Lackey said. With most price points under $10 and a large selection of $1 items, Lackey said Hollar’s goal is to bring consumers an affordable online product assortment that’s “always changing, always trendy, and at a quality they can count on.”

To hear more from the fabulous speakers on the 2019 WIRLC On the Road | Los Angeles: An Inside Look at Retail’s New Normal panel, members can click here to watch the full session.

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