While any number of brands now market their wares on sustainability, inclusivity and transparency as of 2019, when Everlane was first getting off the ground in 2011, those buzzwords were far less common. In fact, Everlane built its first buzz as a direct-to-consumer (DTC) fashion brand with its promise of “radical transparency” for customers.
That transparency has evolved some over time. It started with pricing (so the customer knows exactly how much of what they are paying is a markup), and eventually expanded to Everlane’s production line, offering up data about each piece of apparel’s environmental impact. The goal, as Founder Michael Preysman told Glossy, is to be as transparent as they can in every place they can – which has meant the business has evolved into a more open book for shoppers.
“Where we’re not transparent is that we don’t share our Italian factory names, because if someone came in and took those factories, they could completely wipe us out,” said Preysman.
The year 2018 was a busy one for Everlane. The digitally native DTC fashion company opened two stores (one in New York and one in San Francisco), launched a new line of intimate apparel and vowed to further enhance their green business practices by removing all virgin plastic from their supply chain over the next few years.
“We’re really trying to rethink retail, to build service at the forefront of retail and maintain a beautiful experience,” Preysman said.
Though building a better customer experience gets talked up a lot these days, Preysman pointed out that the idea of providing customers with an engaging and even informative commerce experience isn’t really all that new. Retail, he noted, has been driven by discovery and experience since the beginning of the sale of goods. The industry’s big failure in the last decade, he added, was that it didn’t perceive that customers’ discovery channels were shifting to digital, and failed to adapt.
“It turns out the world is going to be omnichannel,” Preysman said. “People experience the world through physical, through digital, through social — whatever it is. And that’s not going to change. What’s going to change is the way you build the brand, what your main communication platform for it is.”
What digital has brought to retail, Preysman noted, is “one central customer viewpoint.”
That single viewpoint allows brands to build out a unitary consumer experience across channels. Whether the customer is online, on a mobile device or in an Everlane store, it’s all one account system, which means that once the customer knows what they want, the goal is to get it to them as smoothly as possible, in the smoothest number of steps.
“We have a long way to go, but I dream of a world where you can log in to our store from 30 miles away, reserve some things, come into the store an hour later, try what you like, keep what you like, don’t take what you don’t, maybe return an item and walk out the door, with barely having to talk to anyone,” he said. “That’s such an ideal experience for the customer.”
Ultimately, Everlane believes that by being transparent with the customer – and efficient with their time – they are offering consumers the ability to build their own esoteric best brand experience. It’s why their sales – which are generally rare events – heavily feature Everlane’s unique “Choose What You Pay” sales concept, which offers the option to pay one of three options for marked-down prices per item.
This holiday season, Everlane also announced that it had teamed up with Afterpay to offer customers an option to finance their purchases. To use Afterpay, the customer pays a quarter of the bill upfront, and the rest in four installments over six weeks. If a customer misses a payment, she has to pay a flat fee of $8.
Customers, Preysman pointed out, often know exactly what they want. Retailers as a group just need to find the right way to show it to them – and then, more importantly, find the right way to get it to them, and at the right price. Even better, the item should be produced in a way that is better for the planet. Sustainability has to be part of every brand’s mission, he noted, since their extinction offers no good business opportunities for anyone.
“But what we can do is offer a better alternative,” he said. “It’s always with an eye toward that: How do we set a standard and then next year push that standard forward? And the year after that, push that standard forward? Because there’s new technology, and there are new ways to do things, and consumers get smarter — so consumers catch up, and then you pull them forward. And then they catch up again, and you pull them forward.”