Marketing strategies advisors can learn from retailers

Marketing strategies advisors can learn from retailers

Lisa Joyce | February 11, 2019

There's more similarities between dress shopping and financial advice than you may think

Pop quiz: Why do your clients continue to do business with you?

A) Your quarterly reporting statements look better than the advisor down the street.B) Your investment management approach delivers better returns than the advisor down the street.C) You've created an emotional connection with clients by nurturing personal relationships and delivering great experiences.

If you answered C, you've succeeded in utilizing experiential marketing.

And that emotional connection you've fostered through your brand and your service is what drives continued client loyalty. Jenny Fleiss, CEO and co-founder of Jetblack, Walmart's first portfolio company within its startup incubator, and co-founder of Rent the Runway which provides designer dress and accessory rentals, shared seven insights into how experiential marketing is disrupting traditional e-commerce at National LINC 2019.

While Fleiss's remarks are directed at e-commerce, the lessons apply to any industry—including financial advisory.

7 strategies advisors can learn from retailers

1. Build your brand on a feeling

Fleiss recalls one of Rent the Runway's first customers who tried on a Tory Burch gold sequined dress and exclaimed, “I look hot!" That was an aha moment for Fleiss. “That customer was empowered and ready to take on the world. It wasn't about the dress—it was about the Cinderella moment she was experiencing," said Fleiss. “An experience is the most powerful marketing and branding tool you have."

2. Physical locations are important

When Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman launched Rent the Runway in 2009, they envisioned that their digitally native company would remain firmly in the online world. But they discovered that brick and mortar retail locations could actually deepen customer relationships and improve sales. At their retail locations, conversion rates skyrocketed to 70% and customers brought friends to shop and validate their choices. And Rent the Runway saved on their biggest operational cost: shipping.

Today, Rent the Runway has storefronts in New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles. “You need a full tool kit—voice, text, stores—to meet evolving customer expectations for reinventing the shopping experience," said Fleiss. “Stores are a powerful tool in experiential marketing and creating a feeling of community."

3. Legitimize customer behavior

The two biggest return time frames for retailers are the days following New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day. While retailers understood that customers were buying and wearing outfits for those occasions and then returning them, they were powerless to do anything about it.

So instead, Rent the Runway built a business model that legitimizes that consumer behavior. “Often when consumers face a problem, they come up with a hack," explained Fleiss. “As entrepreneurs, that gives us an opportunity to solve that problem."

4. Listen, learn and evolve

Fleiss told attendees that Rent the Runway is a different business than it was ten years ago. For example, in additional to physical spaces, they've added a subscription service.

“We listened to consumers and kept trying to do things better," said Fleiss. “If we didn't do that, we would never have kept up with the changing world around us."

5. Technology + people make the experience better

Jetblack, available in New York City, provides personal shopping over text and voice with highly personalized one to one shipping experiences. Fleiss strongly believes that technology—particularly conversational commerce using natural language interfaces—will drive retail commerce in the future. The key is to use data about the customer to orchestrate an interaction that feels human and happens quickly.

6. Too much choice isn't always good

Do a quick Google search for almost any product and you receive hundreds, or even thousands, of options. While choice can be good, too many choices mean having to sift through the clutter. That's one reason why e-commerce merchants that provide personalized options such as Netflix, Spotify and Stitch Fix resonate with customers.

Jetblack narrows down the choices that consumers have to sift through to make a purchase and presents them with just a few selections based on data Jetblack collects.

This efficiency is critical for Jetblack's target market of urban, time-starved families, much like Fleiss herself, a wife and mother of three.

7. Social media drives experiential marketing

To win and keep customers, you have to deliver experiences that customers want to share on social media, said Fleiss.

Social media also drives designers to work with Rent the Runway. Customers post their photos and tag the brands, extending designers' marketing reach exponentially. And when customers post photos of themselves wearing rentals not found in retail stores—think the hot pink rather than the “safer" black version of a dress—designers can expose their more creative and fun styles to more consumers.

Bottom line is that how a customer experiences a brand is critical to the success of any business—be it dresses or financial advice. “With so many options, we need our brand to really touch customers. If you can do that, you will be rewarded," said Fleiss.


For investment professional use only.

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