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For Trunk Club, Finding The Right Fit Amidst Ever-Altering Preferences

It only takes 127.6 seconds for a consumer to initiate a subscription, so what’s getting in the way of more merchants onboarding more subscribers? The inaugural PYMNTS Subscription Commerce Conversion Index™, a Recurly collaboration, presents more than 2000 data points across 176 subscription commerce merchants in nine different categories to benchmark what it takes to deliver an experience that keeps customers engaged. This first issue also features an interview with Trunk Club CMO Linda Bartman who describes what it takes to find a groove in a market inundated with subscription box services.

Long stereotyped as busy and shopping-averse, American men have found time to shop in the whenever/wherever world of eCommerce.

And with this male shopping shift, the eCommerce market has seen a deluge of subscription services. From Bombfell for clothing to Dollar Shave Club for grooming, men now have more options than ever.

In 2011, just around the time when these subscription services were founded, Chicago-based on-demand clothing service Trunk Club was gaining popularity, garnering $11 million in Series A venture capital funding.

Acquired by Nordstrom in 2014, Trunk Club is now a frontrunner in men’s clothing services. The company currently operates eight U.S. stores —  called Clubhouses — and has also launched women’s apparel.

PYMNTS recently caught up with Trunk Club’s CMO Linda Bartman to discuss how the company has evolved since its acquisition and where it sees itself in a saturated market.

Finding its marketing groove

Trunk Club, which defines itself as an alternative retail service, serves men, primarily in their 30s to early 50s, online and in-store, by connecting them with in-house stylists who hand-pick their clothes.

But age, of course, is just a number. According to Bartman, the company focuses first on what its customer base does day to day and the lifestyles they lead.

“Someone who is in their 40s or 50s, they have a lot going on,” she said. “Many of them have kids and they are just short on time, but they still want the service of clothing. Whereas, folks who are a little bit younger have a bit more time to shop. There’s a different way to communicate with them — they might want come into our Clubhouses.”

For Trunk Club, catering to a diverse base has meant building a deep understanding of its customers’ likes and dislikes and using that insight to target its marketing.

There are consumers who prefer certain brands, there are some whose lifestyle inches more toward luxury — and then there are customers who prefer more functional clothing, Bartman explained.

“We leverage our data to create targeted strategies to make sure that we are providing the right messaging and the right offers to the right customers,” she said.

To make meaningful customer connections, Trunk Club has focused on personalization — whether that’s in educating new customers or introducing new features to long-standing members.

“We keep things that are most important to them in top of our mind,” Bartman said.

Doing so, however, means executing distinctly different engagement strategies as the brand interacts with customers online and in-store.

Intersecting in-store experience and digital strategy

Since Trunk Club opened its first “Clubhouse” in Chicago almost eight years ago, the company has expanded.

The Clubhouses, which are decorated with dark leather furniture and walnut-accented bars, are stores where customers can meet their stylists and shop for clothes while sipping on complimentary whiskey and champagne.

This expansion of brick-and-mortar stores comes at a time when legacy retailers like J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Sears are all shrinking footprints. Trunk Club, however, doesn’t see itself heading in that direction.

“We believe that people still do want to come into a branded location and experience shopping, and we know that because we have a growing number of customers across Trunk Club locations that come in looking for different [experiences],” Bartman said. “We see a demand for that, which is why we feel very strongly about brick-and-mortar stores.”

The company’s acquisition by Nordstrom has also generated a new stream of customers and has helped tap into its parent company’s loyalty program, inventory and logistics network.

“There’s a lot of synergy between Nordstrom and the customers that we serve,” Bartman said.

In January this year, Nordstrom expanded its loyalty program to include Trunk Club purchases, which, Bartman explained, has driven interaction between the two brands and between one another’s customers and, in turn, boosted foot traffic.

Withstanding growing pains

With consumers exposed to more subscription options than ever, the pressure to stand apart from others means retailers must provide more than a seamless checkout experience.

For Trunk Club, staying competitive has meant engaging with customers, when and however they want. From onboarding customers with the right mix of online questions to having stylists interact with them over the phone, the company is continuing to find new ways (and old ways) to keep customers engaged, Bartman said.

The clothing service recently launched new features for enabling customers to review orders before they are dispatched and to schedule future deliveries all through a tap on their phone, she added.

But as the company finds new ways to further refine and differentiate its services, it also continues to experience growing pains.

Last November, Nordstrom announced that it was taking a $197 million write-down on Trunk Club. That took the company’s value to $150 million, down from $350 million when it was acquired only two years earlier. Lower-than-expected future growth and profitability were cited.

To bounce back, the company is now looking to introduce new offerings to both current and future customers.

“We are looking at it as a part of the puzzle and working out what does that next phase look like, what do we add to that to make it more experiential?” Bartman said.

However, looking at market trends — for retailers and subscription services alike — solving the puzzle will necessarily mean continually readjusting course to keep relationships with shoppers alive.

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About the Index

The PYMNTS.com Subscription Commerce Conversion Index TM, a Recurly collaboration, measures frictions that exists in the digital shopping experience for subscription services and products and how they affect the final conversion rates for a merchant. This index analyzes why certain sites are better at converting sales than others by examining several pre-payment factors that generate either friction or sales.

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New PYMNTS Report: The CFO’s Guide To Digitizing B2B Payments – August 2020 

The CFO’s Guide To Digitizing B2B Payments, a PYMNTS and Comdata collaboration, examines how companies are updating their AP approaches to protect their cash flows, support their vendors and enable their financial departments to operate remotely.

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