Omnichannel Meets Luxury: Q&A with Keep.com CEO Stacie Henderson
We frequently talk about the importance of omnichannel shopping experiences. They’re crucial for every retailer to master, given how complicated today’s customer journey is. But more than that, as Keep.com CEO Stacie Henderson points out, no normal person uses the word “omnichannel.”
To a consumer, an experience is an experience and if yours isn’t good enough, another brand’s will be. Nobody understands this more than Stacie, who oversees a digital-first ecommerce site after more than a decade with more traditional retailers such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Versace.
Luxury brands haven’t always been the fastest to embrace digital transformation. Stacie touched on this at our event back in February, but there’s only so much time during a fireside chat. We were lucky enough to speak with Stacie again to learn what sets luxury brands apart, how she launched the ecommerce business in the U.S. for Versace and which retailers she thinks are really getting it right.
Given your previous roles, how do you think luxury brands can find the balance between remaining exclusive and aspirational, while still catering to the online shopper?
The days of luxury brands having to sacrifice who they are to be online are over. You just have to make sure your imagery and your copy reflect the brand. We’re currently working on a redesign of Keep.com and I always say to my people, “The first image should be so powerful that when I go to the site, I shouldn’t have to ask what site I’m on.” Without a logo present, I should still know that I’m visiting Versace, Gucci or Neiman Marcus. If I don’t, you’re not doing your brand justice, especially in luxury. There’s no pair of leather shoes in the world good enough to justify a $1,200 price tag — luxury brands are so protective of their names because the brand is what people are paying for.
Which retailers do you think are really nailing the omnichannel experience?
Warby Parker is one. Everything is so seamless and just flows, whether you’re on your laptop, your phone, or in the store. It leaves you with a warm and fuzzy experience. Nordstrom is another one. I started working with them back at Versace and even then, they were so ahead of the game. The service is excellent so your expectations and experience don’t change from one channel to the next.
This is important for every major brand, not just retail. My seven-year-old son had to write a book at school and he doesn’t know it, but it was about branding. He wrote a story about how he only wants to stay at the Four Seasons because it’s always the same no matter the location (you can also add the pictures are so beautiful on the site) and they always give him a teddy bear when he goes there. He doesn’t know Mommy is using AMEX points, but it’s so interesting and speaks to that feeling people get about good brand experiences.
How did you launch ecommerce at Versace?
It wasn’t even in my job description; I was just obsessed with ecommerce. I introduced social media to Versace worldwide back in 2008 or 2009 and we were one of the first luxury brands to have a social presence. Then I got the bug and started going to every conference in the world, or at least all the ones my budget would allow.
From there, I started email marketing. I started ecommerce by ordering and monitoring the entire consumer experience from five or six luxury brands online. I found out where their logistics centers were and how that would work. This whole project was under the radar because I knew if I asked for permission, they’d say, “Are you crazy?!” Eventually, I talked our CEO into doing ecommerce. They started it in Europe and when it came to the U.S., I became project lead. It launched in 2013 and beat expectations month-over-month by triple digits that first year.
How do your content and commerce play off one another?
When I joined Keep.com, I wanted our content to be deeper. If you’re commerce-first, it’s all about making sure people know you’re commerce-first and making content in such a way that almost works as icing on the cake and complements the commerce. The content should work to enhance sales or build your community / sense of purpose without distracting people from shopping.
For example, during New York Fashion Week, we really focused on street style and showing you things from that day. We went out and took shots of people on the street and added a bit of humor to it because you always want to entertain, no matter what. If we shot a girl on the street wearing great boots, we’d recommend where you can get a pair like it. On Keep.com, we always want to show consumers what they can wear that day, not swimsuits in February. We’d show booties and use that content as inspiration for people to go buy them.
What’s the number one thing retailers need to do to thrive in 2018?
I think retailers have to cut out the mediocrity and and deliver extraordinary experiences, appealing merchandising, and ensure their retail space has a soul There needs to be a unique product mix and and an atmosphere that tells the story of the brand. Retailers also need to personalize their experiences, which can be done in many ways. The simplest of course is the way sales people greet you when you walk in the store. When I was in grad school, I saved all my money to buy this bag from Louis Vuitton. After I went to the store twice, they just knew how to greet me and to engage with me.
Today, we are fortunate to have this experience online as well. I am convinced that in the near future, we will be able to mirror the in-person experience on a mobile device or a laptop.