At a time when more shopping is being done on mobile devices or with one in-hand, the need for a synchronous experience is a retail must.
“I always look at myself, my family and the people around me and how they shop,” Fabletics SVP and Head of Retail Ron Harries told PYMNTS as part of the Checkout.com “Commerce Voices” series. “Even even my wife, today, when we’re in a store, she won’t buy anything before she checks her phone first,” he added, calling the need to serve this new normal the “authentic organic approach.”
“If you see a price in a retail store today, you can check your phone real quick to see if that’s less expensive online or less expensive somewhere else,” Harries said. “That’s why it’s so important to come across in a way that is authentic to consumers and gives them the best price that they’re going to get in the marketplace at that moment.”
Alongside its flagship D2C website and membership program, Fabletics also now has 90 physical retail stores, including its first locations in Europe, and as such, is more focused than ever on delivering that holistic consumer experience — regardless of where and how a purchase occurs.
Fabletics’ OmniSuite point-of-sale (POS) system is configured so that the shopping and checkout experience is in many ways identical online and in-store, with the exception being that in physical locations there are live retail associates who can add to the overall encounter.
“It needs to be friction-free, which we’ve done a really nice job of,” he said. “Everything you can do online you can do in-store. We know their purchase history, return history, the colors they like, the sizes they like — all that information we have at our fingertips.”
And while one doesn’t need to be a member to shop, “If you are a member, we’ve got your credits that you have available that you can use in-store.”
Asked about the often talked-about idea of delighting customers as part of the shopping and checkout experience, Harries said Fabletics leans on retail associates more heavily for that kind of personal service, although the brand’s online platform does a good job of it, too.
“It’s easier in-store because the expectations are a little bit different,” he said. “You’ve got that human element, and I think anytime you can uplift people through that interaction and through that exchange, that’s an opportunity to delight. The cornerstone of our experience in-store is we want it to be uplifting.”
Delight comes in many forms, however, and for many consumers delight has nothing to do with interacting with salespeople while they browse in deep thought. That’s where thoughtfully built online checkout that can be done on a consumer’s mobile phone spells delight for some shoppers.
Harries told PYMNTS that Fabletics recently launched its “initial step into self-checkout in our retail stores through our mobile app,” adding that, “It’s going to take us a while to get exactly to that self-checkout point.”
For those who show up in a Fabletics location, associates talk up the benefits of membership, and if persuaded, they can join on the spot from their smartphone.
“That technology is already deployed in our stores where a consumer can use their own device. We just launched an enhancement to that last week,” he said. “It’s going to be critically important to have that as an option. The one thing I’d say is that the consumer really [needs to be] in charge of how they want to transact and how they want to shop.”
He believes that offering seamless omnichannel experiences will decide who survives the macroeconomic conditions currently hammering retail.
“If the consumer walks in, and if they want to transact on their own device, we’ve got to find a way to make that happen. If they want to shop using one of our retail associates, we provide that to the best of our ability. Those are all the things that are shaping what our roadmap looks like over the years to come,” he said.
There’s more to delighting shoppers than stores and smartphones, and Fabletics is perfecting its fulfillment and delivery offering to be in line with the new expectations.
“We’ve had endless aisles since day one,” he said. “If you’re in our retail store and we don’t have a size, or maybe you just want it shipped to an address, we can ship that from our fulfillment centers directly to the consumer. Buy online pick up in-store [BOPIS] is increasingly important. We will deploy a same-day, next-day delivery from the retail store later this year.”
That also applies to the membership program and the sense of belonging and community it creates among Fabletics fans who love the credits they’ve earned and are always looking for opportunities to use them, sometimes in novel ways, but always with an expectation.
“The consumer likes it when it’s a seamless approach across all formats,” Harries said. “So, whether you’re talking about a member transaction where they’re using member credits, or maybe it’s a member who wants to match something to an item they purchased a few months ago, we’ve got all that history.”
It’s the same for returns and exchanges, where there is the same demand for seamlessness.
Having physical locations plays an important role in this, and while Fabletics has enabled stores so that associates can transact from the fitting room to the mall corridor, Harries said, “Technology can’t be deployed for the sake of just technology. It has to enhance the experience of everybody involved, and that’s what we’re really focused on.”