Lululemon turns to digital transformation to support consumer community

Athletic apparel retailer’s executive vice-president of digital explains how the brand has used digital transformation to support its core value of a community ecosystem

Lululemon Athletica’s sports apparel business has developed from a single store to a global business with more than 400 bricks-and-mortar locations.

The firm’s goal has always been to build a brand that customers can trust to drive a dedicated health and wellness community, and its digital transformation is also focused on that aim, said Miguel Almeida, executive vice-president of digital, at NRF’s 2017 Big Show.

“We were never only a place where you can get physical products,” said Almeida. “Our goal now is to build a digital platform and a digital ecosystem that amplifies the core of what the company is about – and that is to give you experiences, community and relationships.”

In the 19 years it took Lululemon to grow into a global company, it generated various data sources that were siloed because of the nature of its stores and community.

As the business revolves around relationships, its “educators” in stores would take notes on customers so they could help them with their health and wellness issues.

“They know their customers better than some other retailers with sophisticated systems,” said Almeida.

But because of how the data was captured, via systems ranging from online forms to written notebooks, customers could sometimes be recorded several times because of differing email addresses or errors made when taking details.

CRM platform

The company began working on digital transformation in early 2016, partnering with customer engagement firm AgilOne to develop a customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

As with any CRM platform, the goal is to consolidate customer information to make it easier to gain insights and drive a better customer experience, but Lululemon hopes to use this data to return to a more traditional customer relationship.

The growth of omni-channel in the retail space has led to stores becoming more like product showrooms than places to make purchases – Lululemon uses its stores as “community hubs” where customers can explore healthy living.

“Retail has always been about relationships, but somehow that was lost,” said Almeida.

Lululemon’s data was then combined with third-party data to help identify patterns, giving store employees a better idea of who their customers are and how they behave across all channels.

Stores as experience locations

As a global business, Lululemon has to ensure its systems can scale, so it moved towards agile development to increase the speed of its roll-outs.

Previously, Lululemon’s website was more transactional and was not device-responsive, making it harder to navigate through mobile devices.

Now customers can use the mobile-friendly website to sign up for events and engage with the brand.

It has also launched a number of social marketing campaigns via social media to drive the community aspect of its business to more people.

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Almeida said this was a “connecting the dots” exercise to use the intelligence gleaned to engage with the right audience across all channels and create a more seamless customer experience.

“It allowed us, more than ever, to show the right content to the right audience in the right channel,” he said.

After using social media engines, visits to the brand’s website increased by 50%.

Almeida said leveraging social channels puts an emphasis on the “human connection” side of the business, feeling more like the company is run by people than software.

In the future, the brand will use a mobile app for customers to sign up for events and interact with each other and the retailer. This will help Lululemon to utilise other technologies such as beacons, encouraging customers to use their phones in-store.

Ultimately, Lululemon wants its digital transformation to create more “trust” in the brand, and help its various channels to become more relevant to customers, said Almeida.

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