Retail

Adore Me: Giving Lingerie A High-Tech Touch

While Victoria’s Secret struggles as the lingerie industry goes increasingly omnichannel, a hyper customer focus and an obsession with tech has helped AdoreMe build a solid eCommerce presence, along with a cautious brick-and-mortar play. Chief Technology Officer Bogdan Lukaciu tells PYMNTS how the brand has worked to achieve low cart abandonment and high conversion rates, while remaining unseduced by VC charm.

It might seem like it would be a challenge to get Bogdan Lucaciu to conduct an interview on Valentine's Day. After all, he does run a company that sells intimate apparel – and it is a holiday closely associated with intimacy. But it’s not Valentine's Day that will put demands on Lucaciu’s time – it’s the days leading up to Valentine's Day.

Lucaciu is the chief technology officer of Adore Me, an eCommerce and brick-and-mortar retailer that has adjusted to disruptive changes in its market, including the bankruptcy of the parent company of Victoria’s Secret. He has led the company through the turmoil in the general retail business by focusing on customer-centric practices and technology – Lucaciu is intimately involved in every customer and every transaction.

“We’re focused on capital efficiency,” he noted. “We haven't raised money [since 2013] because we're profitable and trying to grow while focusing on the unmet needs of the women who buy the products. Right now, I see a lot of companies working hard at raising money and spending investor money. We have a very healthy long-term outlook, and that’s because we work hard for our customers.”

Their last funding round was in 2013, in which they raised $11.5 million; a "fraction" of what their competitors and other DTC firms have raised.

Lucaciu’s goal is for Adore Me to be the Zara of lingerie. Its pricing and inventory are meant to be “inclusive,” rather than pigeon-holed as “affordable” or plus-sized, he noted. The company currently has six retail shops across the country, after backing off a public statement a few years ago that it would open 300 stores.

Adore Me is ranked No. 9 on Crain’s New York’s Fast 50 list of the fastest-growing companies in New York, and has ranked three times on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America.

Since it was founded in 2012, the company has grown to a team of 140 employees across the U.S. and Europe, with revenues growing from $1 million in 2012 to $84 million in 2016.

Self-described as more of a tech guy than a lingerie guy, Lucaciu has coordinated a suite of tech offerings that not only get products in front of customers quickly, but also keep those customers engaged with sophisticated software and coding tools. Without getting too deep into the details, Lucaciu has become a fan of Google’s Angular platform, which allows one set of code to be written for web and mobile. The deployment of Adore Me’s online magazine and catalog is supported by Angular, and has enabled Lucaciu and his team to be agile where its corporate competitors are not. Using Angular improves the user experience – and for Lucaciu, UX is key to AdoreMe’s success. On the front end, he noted, smart data practices enables the ability to run several UX experiments and roll out different features to different segments.

“It enables us to monitor sales and create KPIs that help us drive decision-making,” he said. “Instead of using Excel sheets from the U.S. headquarters and trying to prepare for a big meeting, we can drive decisions in minutes. And also, I love seeing the learnings we get from customer service about our shipping, tracking and interactions. We can actually push solutions to anything pretty fast. It’s about listening, learning and reacting.”

Lucaciu is big on experimentation. His infrastructure and small engineering team all have the green light to make product decisions, measure KPIs and adjust internal features. His vigilance with every step of the purchase funnel reinforces his trust in his team and his willingness to take risks.

Marketing activities are closely tied to the team’s experiments. “To make the best decisions, I want our people to use their brains for important stuff,” he noted. “Technology liberates the headspace of all our colleagues – and the creative ideas from technology help the customer. Using capital efficiency, we can do much more effective things when we’re focused on the customer. By making decisions with fewer people, we can have a bigger impact.”

The focus on metrics and customer behavior has helped Adore Me achieve a lower cart abandonment rate and higher conversion rate. Lucaciu’s efforts are supported by the recent Checkout Conversion Index, which showed that at the end of Q4, the overall CCI score was 54.6, an increase of 3.2 points since Q1 (an increase of 6.3 percent). This translated into approximately $97.8 billion in sales that were put at risk due to checkout friction, a 43.7 percent decrease in less than a year’s time.

It also reflects improvements not only in retailers’ desktop conversion rates, but also their mobile conversion rates. PYMNTS research shows that 1.9 of every 100 mobile browsers hit “buy” in Q4 of 2019, an increase of 0.1 percentage points since Q1. At the same time, the share of consumers who bought products they browsed on retailers’ desktop sites increased 0.23 percentage points to 4.1 between Q1 and Q4 of 2019.

While they’re confident in their eCommerce expansion, Adore Me has been cautious about brick-and-mortar expansion, regarding Victoria’s Secret as a cautionary tale.

“Right now, we're taking each of the stores to the best level that they can be and doing a lot of innovation there,” Lucaciu said. “We have magic mirrors in each of the six stores, and analytics feeds that drive merchandising and inventory management. And again, the people in the stores are super important, more so than the technology.”

Adore Me is not about to be seduced by the VC money that might make expansion easier but could impede innovation. As Lucaciu noted, he doesn’t want to have money to burn and inventory to waste. In fact, that might just be the company’s philosophy in a nutshell.

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