Brands emphasize customer experience at Shoptalk

Barneys and Lively are adding more to their brick-and-mortar offerings

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At Shoptalk 2019, retailers were buzzing about customer experience. From established brands like Barneys New York and newer companies such as lingerie startup Lively, all retailers are exploring how to use marketing, and both online and in-store offerings, to acquire and retain shoppers.

Barneys is modernizing its marketing, messaging and products to reach a younger consumer. The strategy, which comes on the heels of Barneys' recent announcement that it will be entering the cannabis space, includes a new marketing campaign and loyalty program.

"We have been around for 100 years, but the point is not to look back and allow our history and our legacy to define us," says Danielle Vitale, CEO of Barneys. At Shoptalk 2019, Vitale talked with Ad Age about the brand's new campaign, "Don't Put Us in a Box."

Barneys is also diversifying its product offerings. Last month, the retailer said it would be debuting a new high-end cannabis lifestyle and wellness shop, called The High End, within its Los Angeles store. Vitale says the brand is responding to consumer demand.

At Shoptalk, Barneys announced a new customer loyalty program that allows shoppers to participate and earn rewards even if they do not have a Barneys credit card.

Vitale hopes the new moves will help continue to bring customers into stores. Already, the brand is seeing an increase in younger shoppers. Barneys saw a 25 percent growth year-over-year in young consumers, and 60 percent of them were shopping in physical stores, according to Vitale.

Zola tries on brick-and-mortar

For Zola, the wedding company founded six years ago, breaking into the crowded wedding industry has been a challenge. Initially, the New York-based brand relied on word-of-mouth marketing, but as Zola has grown, it's courting consumers through brick-and-mortar experiences and new marketing channels. In January, the company opened its first physical store, a pop-up shop in Manhattan that will operate through April, during the busiest season for engagements. At the store, shoppers can pick out their registry and order wedding invitations, but they can also have fun at a CBD lounge inside the store and print out a personalized 3D cake topper.

"We wanted to bring to life the Zola experience in a way that is fun and unlike any other retailing store," says Shan-Lyn Ma, Zola's co-founder and CEO.

Lively doubles down on ambassador program

Just three years into existence, and lingerie startup Lively is already giving established underwear retailers a run for their money. The brand, which started as an e-commerce site in 2016 but has since expanded to channels including Nordstrom and its own retail store in New York, has been able to build awareness so quickly because of a robust ambassador program. The strategy taps into Lively's community of consumers, who serve as brand ambassadors and market the company through their own social channels.

"Our community built our brand," says Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Lively's founder. She notes that in 2016, Lively had 100 ambassadors; in 2017, it had 1,000. By last year, interest from shoppers ballooned so much that Lively now has 65,000 unpaid brand ambassadors. Grant says it's a two-way street—ambassadors tell Lively about their interests, and Lively will host events on topics like succulents, mental health awareness or art.

"As a brand we have a responsibility to understand our community and give them something more than just product and transactions," Grant says.

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