In part two we chat to Life with Bird husband and wife design duo, Bridget McCall and Nick Van Messner on how they successfully juggle their flagship bricks and mortar boutique with an online store; the importance of giving customers the `whole experience’; and how MiiBrand App and online technology will continue to evolve the online element of their brand which is the fastest changing and growing area of their business.
As operators of both bricks and mortar boutiques and an online store, how do you successfully manage both? are they different customers from in-store to online?
Obviously the main difference is that online can reach a much broader audience to our four retail stores. I would say they are one in the same customer that shop online and buy from our stores depending on how tech savvy they are, its just that we have the opportunity to sell both Nationally and Internationally through our online boutique.
We have one staff member who manages the online store and various other media platforms internally at head office, where as we have a manager and staff at all stores. The staff that run and manage each for these are quite different and require quite a different skill set and different attributes even though essentially they are all sales related.
As a designer brand, your pieces are crafted with high quality fabrics and attention to detail, do you find bricks and mortar is still an essential element for people to touch and feel your product? please explain.
It’s incredibly important to give customers the whole experience of being able to touch and feel and wear our clothes. In saying that, we also feel that if you know the brand, and know our fit then its just as easy to buy online. Some things work better online than others. For us, tops, dresses and accessories do better than bottoms for instance, but once people have owned the label before then they find it easier to confidently buy in to something if the fit is the same.
We also treat our online like a fifth store so we find that customers often try things on at store level but may want to think about it and then buy online a couple of days later. It seems to be becoming a more regular way of doing things. I think people often casually shop the strip and then like to order and have something delivered- people seem to love the idea of a ‘gift’ to ones-self turning up with the post man. People are also more time poor so online shopping gives them the option of buying without taking up too much time. So overall we hpe to offer different experiences to those that require different things whether it be the touch and feel of something, or the option to buy no fuss online quickly.
Do you find one is more successful than the other? why/why not?
Both are treated as retail for us, but that is where the comparisons generally stop. At the bricks and mortar end of the spectrum your dealing with larger overheads including staffing, wages, rents and so on, where as our online overheads are much smaller. In terms of one being more successful than the other, they aren’t comparable in their set up, just that the bottom line at the end of the day has a good profit margin and both avenues do for us which is great!
You have just signed up to take part in the MiiBrand new app that uses online technology to encourage customers to follow their favourite brands and keep up to date with sales and offers – with both sides of your business already covered, why do you need this app? What extra incentive do you think it will offer that your other channels don’t?
Online is definitely the fastest changing and growing area of our business. You’d be completely naive to say that you already have it covered and don’t need to change and nurture it with the times. MiiBrand is really exciting because its at the forefront of something new allowing us to interact on a new level with our customers. It’s a really efficient way of promoting and marketing new deliveries, flash sales and promos to people that want to be targeted, and to those in the right area at the time.
The thing about online alerts and marketing in general is that your sending your whole data base information when they don’t necessarily want to be bothered all the time. Miibrand targets those who do at the right time and place.
Do you think MiiBrand and other apps such as this will help retailers who don’t have a strong online presence yet? how?
Absolutely. There is no reason why it wouldn’t enhance any labels brand awareness within the market place. Growing your reach to the public is what it’s all about.
What other tactics have you employed to in still brand loyalty and keep your existing customers/fans returning instore/online?
Customer loyalty is a big one for us. We have VIPs we want to look after and reward for their loyalty to the brand, and we do that by letting them know before the general public about upcoming events, special discounts and so on. A lot more people want to be alerted via text and email about these benefits so we see a lot more people joining up to our data base monthly. We also like to offer free shipping and returns options online so that encourages people to buy without any risk.
What’s in store for the future of Life with Bird both online and in-store?
We’re working on bettering our current online systems and the content we provide so to offer the best service and experience possible. We do the same at store level too with constant training and rewards for our staff. Customer service is as important as the product. We’re working on all levels to create synergy between our online and retail in store experiences as we see both extremely important to the future of our business.