A fast-growing activewear retailer with a celebrity connection is applying lessons learned as a pure-play e-commerce operation to its brick-and-mortar experience.
“We were founded as a digitally native, member-based retailer,” said Ron Harries, head of retail, Fabletics. “We want to drive our omnichannel customers through cross-channel commerce.”
Counting actress Kate Hudson as one of its founders, Fabletics launched as an e-commerce site in 2013. In 2015, the company made its initial foray into the physical store channel. It currently has 38 North American retail stores, with the goal of opening up to 100 stores nationwide.
“We tried different formats in A-plus and B-plus malls,” recalled Harries. “We tried locations with competition close by and locations with competition not there. Fabletics did better in higher-quality malls with lots of nearby competitors. It leads to there being a lot of people looking for high-quality products at a fantastic value.”
Fabletics ensures that it offers a seamless customer experience across all digital and physical platforms. The retailer is able to acquire new members in brick-and-mortar stores, as well as online.
“You can shop online or in-store as a guest, membership is not required,” said Harries. “However, guests are not eligible for special discounts and perks offered to members.”
According to Harries, about 70% of in-store shoppers are represented by returning or acquiring members, with the remaining 30% consisting of guests. When Fabletics first launched retail stores, only 50% of in-store shoppers were members.
To ensure that both members and guests have a consistently seamless shopping experience when visiting a brick-and-mortar store, Fabletics has developed and deployed OmniSuite, a proprietary, cloud-based enterprise retail platform. OmniSuite combines e-commerce, POS and order management solutions with back-office systems, in an effort to bridge the gap between in-store and online operations and experience.
“Anything in the store can be bought online and vice versa,” explained Harries. “We have iPads outside and inside the fitting rooms running a solution called OmniShop that allows everything that goes into the fitting room to be scanned into a cart, which allows us to track what goes in and is then purchased or not purchased. It also provides real-time awareness of what the customer tries on, so we can compile data for actionable points.
“It’s an opportunity to interact with customers in a way that avoids the awkward moment of an associate either standing right outside the fitting room door or not being attentive enough,” Harries continued. “Associates interact when the customer wants them to.”
By scanning fitting room items into an online cart, Fabletics also enables shoppers to save items they decide not to buy. They can then log into their member account to purchase goods later, as well as search the retailer’s complete online inventory for desired products in different sizes and colors.
The OmniSuite platform and its applications enable Fabletics to deliver personalized service with a 360-degree view of customer transactions and interactions across all channels. The retailer is not limited to deploying OmniSuite inside its own brick-and-mortar stores.
“We can roll OmniSuite out anywhere there is secure WiFi or cell service,” said Harries. “We have done pop-ups, or could do an activation at an office.”
EXPANSION: As part of its aggressive store expansion, Fabletics is also changing store design to create a more appealing and customer-centric environment.
“The original store design was on the dark side,” said Harries. “We wanted to add technology and atmospheric elements. Atmosphere matters, we call it ‘lit and fit’ — great lighting and open atmosphere with great music and aware associates.”
Specific ongoing changes to the retailer’s store design include a lighter color palette and a more open fitting room experience, as well as the addition of in-store technology. The numbers back up the value of Fabletics’ effort to transform its entire brick-and-mortar experience. Comparable store sales rose 34% in 2019 compared to 2017-18. Traffic conversion increased 15% during that period, and overall traffic also rose.
One more omnichannel service Fabletics offers in its stores is seamless returns of online purchases for members.
“Each item has what we call a license plate number (LPN) linked to a specific member transaction,” said Harries. “We can get historical data on the purchase from the member account by scanning the LPN, so there is no need for a receipt.”