Even prior to this year’s unforeseen challenges, the omnichannel revolution was well underway. At retail, brands have become more nimble and technologically adept as they attempt to serve increasingly digitally native consumers.
Canadian men’s wear retailer Harry Rosen embarked on a journey to integrate its in-store experience with robust online capabilities about two years ago, before Covid’s impact on retail could even be imagined. With 17 stores spread across the country, the premium suiting, casual and outerwear boutique chain began shifting its strategy, incorporating services to entice a new generation of shoppers and better serve existing devotees.
“I started doing a lot of surveying of how’re we architected today, and what the limitations of that architecture were,” said Ian Rosen, vice president of digital and strategy of the men’s fashion chain that was born in Toronto back in 1954. “My very quick understanding was that our strategy has to be digital, or we’re going to become obsolete.”
Not only did the company need to build up its online footprint, he said, but it also needed to seamlessly integrate its online channel with stores. It wasn’t just about having a functional website, but offering services that translated from the physical to the digital realm. When the coronavirus struck earlier this year, the brand’s multi-year plan became a mad dash.
“Our business has been built on the back of customer loyalty,” Rosen said, adding that the company is deeply reliant on the expertise of its highly trained clothing advisors. There are customers who have been shopping exclusively with one advisor for years, he said, and it became an immediate priority to translate those personalized interactions to the brand’s e-commerce site.
“We thought about how we could build into the advisor workflow the idea of digital curation, and bring a customer online,” he said. Some top clients feel very comfortable shopping with their personal advisor in store, he added, and replicating the experience online would be tough.
But in the age of Covid, safety and convenience have become essential, even for shoppers who prefer to peruse in person. Harry Rosen’s digital “Build a Bag” tool allows clothing advisors to curate looks based on their client’s needs, occasions for wear and personal preferences, and send those hand-picked selections directly to their inboxes.
Since customer profiles, including measurements, are integrated into the company’s database, shoppers can buy exactly what their stylist picked for them with just one click—an intuitive, personalized checkout experienced powered by e-commerce solutions provider Bold Commerce. And amid waves of retail shutdowns, the program has allowed Harry Rosen to keep its advisors active and earning commissions on sales while they promote cross-channel experiences.
Millennial shoppers, Rosen said, are less loyal than their older counterparts, but are absolutely attuned to the modern conveniences of shopping online. In fact, a quality web-based shopping experience is integral to earning their support, as many are already digitally native shoppers.
As the country enters a second wave of Covid infections, Harry Rosen has also implemented both buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup options for shoppers who order online. Mandatory retail closures have already begun to impact stores across the country, Rosen said. “It’s definitely hard to compensate for closures,” he said, “but it’s helping more than we projected it to.”
Online sales made up just about 5 percent of the company’s overall sales last year, but that number is tracking toward 22 percent this year, Rosen said. While Covid-related disruptions have undoubtedly accelerated e-commerce growth, he believes that Harry Rosen’s website will end up being the “biggest store by far on a run rate basis.”
“I think probably 50 percent of our business or more should start online,” he said, even if a shopper ultimately ends up purchasing in store.
To incentivize its digital business, the company is also implementing promotional tools, like a gamified loyalty program that allows shoppers to earn points on purchases. A new gallery targets individuals with a personalized selection of clothing tailored to their tastes based on past purchases, Rosen said. “If you buy a lot of one category, but we really want to get you into another, we’ll offer triple points on that category for the weekend,” he said by way of example.
Harry Rosen will also be bringing some of its in-person perks online, he added. The retailer caters to a large contingent of Chinese-Canadian shoppers who prefer to use digital wallets—like Alipay and WeChat Pay—when they shop in stores. Now, those options will be available online as well.
In a time where the occasions for custom suiting are few and far between, Harry Rosen’s business has shifted to more casual wear, like sweaters, jeans and polos. With more of its shoppers shifting to digital, the company now has an opportunity to capture important and instructive data about shopper appetites for certain styles as it heads into the spring season.
“A lot of the millennial generation are really excited by work from home, and they’re saying, ‘I never have to get dressed again,’” Rosen said, “but there are a bunch who are also saying, ‘I’m still going to invest in my work-from-home wardrobe because I want to look good and presentable, wherever I’m going.’”
Customers who are just beginning to “dip their toe into luxury,” even if it’s through more casual products, can be introduced to new brands along the company’s “new marketing journey,” Rosen said.