maandag 29 december 2014

The Cloakroom: your online personal shopper

As you could read in my previous post, the fashion industry is one of the industries heavily disrupted by digital transformation. New players like Zalando and Vente-Exclusive became very important very quickly, and it doesn’t look like offline fashion retailers have found a solution to this new competition just yet. The online shopper is quite rational and price-sensitive, something both previous mentioned retailers understand and use to their advantage. Traditional retailers are struggling to compete online and are failing to meet Zalando’s combination of price, product range and delivery options, or Vente Exclusive’s temporary offers.

Traditional (offline), mortar stores compete strongly on the shop experience, and the price premium consumers are willing to pay. The same product can be sold for a higher price because of a different (not per se better) instore experience, customer service or store image. An online price premium for a product will be very hard to claim, if not directly linked to a better service such as faster delivery. The challenge lies in creating a unique, online shopper experience, bridging the gap between on- and offline. “The Cloakroom” does just that.

The Cloakroom, a Dutch company, claims to combine (some of the) advantages of online and offline shopping. As I was in need for a decent holiday outfit, I decided to give it a try a couple of weeks ago. The set-up is quite easy: you register with some basic information and take a ‘style quiz’ where you select different pictures of models dressed in a specific style. For different occasions, you select different outfits (pictures) you would wear: costume, business smart, casual smart, sportive, chique ... Based on your profile, a personal shopper reaches out to you.
"Our mission is to help men build and maintain a stylish wardrobe in a manner that is simple and convenient." - The Cloakroom

I received an e-mail and telephone call from Ilona. She introduced herself and the Cloakroom, explaining that based on our facebook connection (pictures), our talk (needs) and my style quiz, she would select 3 outfits and send them to me in a box, free of charge. We discussed what I was looking for, price range and style, and my box was delivered only a couple of days later.


The box came with a personal letter from Ilona, instructions for products I wanted to return and a price list. Was I 100% satisfied with what Ilona sent me? No. Would it have been totally free if I would have returned everything? Yes. It is however hard to return everything, as it would feel like saying they did a terrible job, which they didn't. I decided to keep one outfit I really liked and returned the other products - transport costs are paid for by The Cloakroom in advance.

For the pieces I returned, the reason why was asked in order to improve the next box. For the pieces I kept, I paid the (offline) retailer price. If I looked for the exact same products online, I probably would have been able to save some money. Because of the concept, however, I was prepared to pay the online price premium. Combining this personal approach (who doesn't like a personal shopper you don't actually need to go shopping with?) with the advantages of online shopping (speed, convenience, no overcrowded stores) is a winning strategy for digital native (and probably a lot of other) men. It isn't a suprise that there are some competitors out there, Outfittery to name one.

The Cloakroom succeeded in turning an offline service into an online USP. Of course there is room for improvement, but I I'm hooked on the concept. I'm not a mirror-selfie fan, but I'll make an exception for Ilona. A late merry christmas, and let's enter 2015 in style!

maandag 8 december 2014

Unpacking the digital consumer

With Future Buy, I researched the digital consumer anno 2014 for my employer, GfK. The results of this study are presented on different events such as the Ecommerce Xpo of last week in Kortrijk. Vincent Panneels (@20100panneels) attended this conference and wrote a review / summary of the presentation. You can find the slides and his summary below, enjoy!

Unpacking the digital consumer, GFK’s Future Buy report presented at E-COMMERCE Expo

During its first edition, the fair E-COMMERCE Expo didn’t simply present booths of companies active in the e-commerce or digital industry. Seminars were also organized to enhance the offer of the event and we had the opportunity to follow quite an interesting one, a presentation of the Future Buy report, by Bert Hendrickx of GFK. Of course it was very summarized and quickly presented to fit the seminar format (30 minutes only), but it highlighted quite a few interesting facts.

Be consistent

There were quite a few key facts that were presented. Such as
  • Belgium still seems to be behind its European neighbors when it comes to E-commerce (92% of people do think so).
  • Three out of four also admit they already filed a complaint against retailers or companies through different medias
    • 58% through email
    • 33% over the phone
    • and 25% used the corporate website
The arrival of smartphones allowing to combine different medias in one device, had actually one great impact for companies. Your consumer doesn’t care about the way he is in contact with your company. But he cares about the fact that all communications he has with you, must follow the same consistency.
Consistency needs to be applied on all channels of communication. And that is the essential impact of omnichannel.
Also, be sure that the omnichannel approach is coming to your category. Maybe today some categories are more impacted. For example, it is the case for fashion or technical goods. Those categories experience more the impact of pure players (e.g Zalando,…). But in the future, all categories will be impacted even the ones who seem behind today (e.g. Healthcare, education, automotive…).

Who is the Xtreme shopper?

Actually, consumers using mobile to do their purchase or interact with companies and retailers, needed to be analyzed a bit more. For this study, GFK took a closer look at the group they qualify as Xtreme shopper. These are consumers you need to consider for the future, as they are young and here to stay. GFK uncovered three key findings
  • Staying away is the new loyalty: A happy shopper doesn’t necessarily come back to your online store if he is happy with his purchase. However, if one has a bad experience with your shop, one necessarily will never come back.
  • Offline drives on experience: real physical stores need to play on the experiences a shopper cannot have online. So far, being stimulated with smell, taste, or touch are not experiences one can enjoy online.
  • Make online more personal: Online stores have many different information, even unique personal information about their customers. So online retailers should take advantage of the information they have in order to make the shopper’s experience more personal and tailor-made.

Don’t forget your mainstream shopper

Very well said by the speaker. Online is here to stay, but don’t forget the mainstream shopper visiting your stores. From this short presentation, we learnt a few key points from the study about online shoppers and e-commerce. And these will certainly bring more fuel to the engine of the “clicks and bricks” debate. In my opinion, the future will be successful for the companies and retailers who still think of making unique experiences of both online and physical stores. Just remember, consistency is key.