Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, David Morin, senior director, retail strategy and customer success at customer experience platform Narvar, discusses the digital tactics fashion can borrow from home goods retailers and how brands can develop stronger direct-to-consumer experiences.
Name: David Morin
Title: senior director, retail strategy and customer success
Which other industry has the best handle on the retail experience? What can apparel learn?
I am passionate about the intersection of technology and retail, and specifically how technology can be used to enhance customer experience. One industry that is doing this well right now is home goods. Brands like Lowe’s, Wayfair and others have been fearless in using technologies like augmented reality (AR) to help consumers make better purchase decisions, as well as offering customization of goods to enhance the overall experience and give consumers more ownership of the process.
There are a handful of apparel brands that are using these technologies today to differentiate, but especially in a world that is increasingly digital, apparel brands should look at ways to use these technologies, such as to visualize the fit of a product, to better align consumer expectations and provide more information in the buying process.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
In most cases, I’m a very decisive shopper. I have a pretty sharp sense of my preferences and taste and am willing to search for hours to find the exact thing I’m looking for. I value experiences that make it easy for me to search and have a clean and organized assortment, and also that are consistent with their delivery and communication. That being said, having a background in retail sales and an appreciation for the art of experience, I’m also prone to be wooed by something flashy, unique and spur-of-the-moment—both digitally and physically—from time to time.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Ease of transactions, consistency and selection. My favorite online retailer, Matches Fashion, is my first shopping choice because of their delivery consistency. There is never a question of when I’m going to get something since it never changes. And they make it easy on the return, too, with free DHL pickup. I’m not afraid to treat my home as a fitting room, and Matches makes it easy for me to try without risk. They get bonus points for letting me choose if I want eco-friendly packaging, or their iconic marbled boxes which make the unboxing experience all the more fun. Over the long term, I’m sure I’ve kept more than I’ve returned, so it’s the extra feeling of “peace of mind” that wins my business.
What’s your typical uniform?
Pre-Covid: black jeans and a bomber, with frequent shades of leopard. Post-Covid: several two-piece looks from the recent Missoni x Adidas athleisure collaboration. Crossing my fingers for another collection!
Which fashion era is your favorite?
The glam of Studio 54.
Who’s your style icon?
There are many people whose style I admire, but I would say I’m most inspired by the rock-and-roll chic of all things Saint Laurent.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Narvar has invested heavily in our configuration tools over the past year, to make it even easier for customer-facing internal teams—and retailers themselves—to adapt quickly to market changes. In the face of Covid, as retailers’ businesses were changing daily and volume shifted online, this proved to be one of the best decisions we could have made. We were able to update return policies, re-configure how returns were being routed, and added messaging and content to better set consumer expectations, all within minutes. Looking ahead to holiday, these investments in ease of configurability will continue to enable our retailers to be nimble through the season and quickly make changes as necessary to respond to evolving supply-chain pressure and customer expectations.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Narvar is truly a team environment with egos left at the door. This is certainly one of the most collaborative and supportive organizations I’ve been a part of, with cross-functional team members always willing to jump in to help.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
In the middle of Covid, one retailer shared with me an internal hashtag that was driving their company forward—#ittakesapandemic—and another, the quote “never waste a good crisis.” Both of these were in reference to how quickly their respective companies were able to come together as a company, be agile and launch full solutions that have been on the back burner or were slated on their roadmap for several years in the future. I have been excited by the number of retail companies that have adapted to the times and launched new services, such as BOPIS/curbside, and solutions to continue to engage customers. And it’s a good learning for the future that innovation can happen quickly if everyone bands together for a common purpose.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
The emergence of direct-to-consumer channels over the last decade already heightened the need for brands to build engaging and personal connections with their consumers. Covid has accelerated this need, as more consumers sought individual brands online. For multi-brand e-commerce companies, this means having to clearly communicate your brand value proposition to ensure that it resonates. What makes you different from other sites? What can you offer that other sites can’t? I’ve long thought that competing on price is a dangerous race to the bottom, and encourage these brands to differentiate on selection and curation, and/or services. For D2C brands, continue to strengthen the relationships and find ways to leverage the growth in direct channels to set you up for future success.
What keeps you up at night?
The overall state of the world, both due to the still-very-present pandemic and also the turbulent and divided political climate in the U.S.
What makes you most optimistic?
Professionally, working with some of the world’s biggest and best retailers and hearing stories about how they have adapted their businesses to emerging consumer demands (with the help of Narvar) makes me feel positive about the future of retail.
Personally, I’m inspired by seeing a new wave of youth using their voices for social justice.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
At Narvar, we believe brands that offer a seamless experience through ease, choice and convenience can build deeper connections and long-term loyalty with consumers. We have launched several products recently that are focused on location services for both package pick-up and returns drop-off. One of the features which proved to be extra valuable during Covid is printerless QR code returns. Since many consumers lost access to printers at the office or school, they were looking for quicker, contactless ways to return items, and we saw a tremendous uptick in adoption of this method.