Editorial Roundtable: How To Become A Customer-First Company
eBay, Away, Parachute, peach, quip and Salesfloor all consider themselves a customer-first company—learn what it takes to join them
PSFK’s Editorial Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.
Last year, PSFK described the 10 pillars propping up the new shopper experience. But we live in a retail reality so rich that it bears multi-stage analysis and review. This year then as we promote our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK is reflecting on a different concern: how do you actually go about making the new shopper experience happen? That is, what nuts and bolts are necessary in the creation of a fully functioning machine that can respond to today’s retail landscape? The things that happen behind the scenes, behind the fitting rooms, behind the window displays.
Beyond understanding what customers want—convenience, personalization, and seamless, omnichannel access—how can you create an organization that wields employee development, optimized operations, and the latest technologies to deliver on those wants? In other words, what does it take to create a customer-first company?
Our Future of Retail 2017 experts include:
Bob Kupbens | Vice President, Seller Experience and Global Trust at eBay – the multinational online marketplace remains one of the most recognized names in the dot-com space.
Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip – an oral care company that has simplified oral health for many a happy mouth.
Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute – a company rethinking the quality, comfort and design of your bedding—at a sliver of the price.
Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away – the luggage company who tailors its collection of products for the modern traveler.
Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor – a tech platform redefining the role of ‘salespeople’ for the industry’s largest retailers.
Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach – an intimate apparel company using machine learning and in-person and virtual appointments for optimal bra fit.
(Below is the first part of a four-part editorial series).
The customer can no longer simply be right, they must be the focal point of an operational approach that keeps them front and center at every touch point, one that doesn’t just deliver a superior product but a superior customer experience along with it. Any industry examples of a customer-first approach that have caught your attention? How does your own company ensure or lend to a customer-first experience?
Bob Kupbens | Vice President, Seller Experience and Global Trust at eBay
“eBay embraces an overarching customer-first mindset at every step of the shopping experience. Through robust data analytics, we have a deep understanding of all aspects of shopping behavior and the customer journey. eBay utilizes these insights to simplify common retail pain points.
As a global marketplace, eBay considers both buyers and sellers as our customers. We partner with our sellers to ensure they have the latest insights on trending items and price points in order to help them ultimately convert a browser into a buyer. Our main goal in this process is to remove any customer friction. While we hold our sellers to a high standard, we reward those sellers who offer exceptional service, such as fast shipping & handling and liberal return policies. On the eBay side, we also have protections in place like the eBay Money Back Guarantee, where a customer can get a full refund should they receive an item not as described. At every step of the shopping journey, our ultimate objective is to put the customer first and instill confidence in eBay being the ultimate marketplace for both buyers and sellers.”
Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute
“Parachute is in a category where the purchase experience has been historically confusing and the customer experience terrible. Now there are more choices, meaning people can be more critical. Essentially, new and emerging brands are emphasizing the customer experience because customers are demanding it.
At Parachute, our business is built entirely on putting the customer first. We begin by executing a high-quality product. Then we educate consumers so they can purchase with confidence. We recognize the benefit of opening up communication on multiple touch points—our Customer Experience Team, our Showroom Store, our social media channels—to leverage direct feedback from our community. This feedback loop enables us to make customer-centric business decisions. We’re thinking about our customers all the time—from the new products we introduce to the e-commerce user experience we design and develop.
Our customers are engaging with many other brands, so we make it a priority to be aware of who is setting the bar. This helps us evolve how we connect with our customers. Here are a few brands that have caught our attention:
- Zappos aims to provide the best online customer service experience and offers a 365 day return policy. They’re one of the earliest examples of a customer-first approach.
- Amazon built their business to be extremely convenient for both shoppers and sellers; they designed the entire shopping experience to be easily transactional.
- Warby Parker is a great example of a brand creating a holistic customer experience around the product they specialize in. They pioneered the at-home try on experience for online shoppers, host unique events for their community and partner with other like-minded brands.
- Redbull transcended their core product offering to create experiences also. Who would have thought an energy drink would spark a massive media company?
Join us in NYC on Jan 17 for our Future of Retail 2017 launch event. The event is geared for any retailers, brands, agencies, technology companies and service providers looking to translate the trends included in our flagship report in actionable business practices.
Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor
“A customer-first approach is in part what inspired the creation of our solution. While the in-store experience puts the customer at the center of sales associates’ attention, retailers have struggled to translate that same customer-first experience to their online stores. Salesfloor was created to help bridge that gap. One example is Saks Fifth Avenue, one of our clients, who is known as not only one of the premier luxury retailers, but one of the most customer-centric retailers, too. Saks has a narrow focus on making sure that its customers have a consistently high level of personalized service whether shopping in-store or online. Saks uses Salesfloor to integrate its salespeople online and to make sure that customers have an experience that closely mimics the in-store experience. Customers can then shop online with a local store associate who can suggest items and make personalized recommendations, just like they would in-store.”
Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip
“It wouldn’t surprise me if everyone used this brand as an example here, but Everlane has always been on the cutting-edge of the ‘consumer-first’ approach, and recently sent out an email that epitomized this. Due to falling Cashmere prices (a traditionally expensive wool) worldwide, Everlane sent an email to existing and prospective customers to explain that they were going to pass on these manufacturing price savings directly to customers, dropping the prices of their cashmere products in their online store. Harry’s did a similar thing by vastly improving their razors after a year or more of customer feedback, adding flexibility, a trimming edge and more, and yet keeping their prices the same despite the increase in cost to manufacture.
We had a similar story to this at quip, albeit for different reasons. After soft launching at the beginning of 2015, many of our early adopters had a less than perfect experience following delay of shipments due to an initial supply chain model. By the time the holidays came around last 2015, we had switched to a world-class toothbrush manufacturer, a vastly improved supply chain and, in doing so, taken the time to upgrade many of the toothbrush features in the process to use early adopter feedback to improve fit, finish, and performance. This switch increased our cost of manufacturing, but we didn’t want our early adopters, the inspiration behind the improvements and yet the ones that had the worst experience, to not benefit from their trust in us. So, throughout the winter of last year, we upgraded every single subscriber for free to the new model.
Instead of receiving their expected brush head replacement in their subscription refill pack, they instead received a note saying ‘thanks for the feedback’ along with a brand new ‘generation 2’ quip. It was a project that was not easy to pull off given our early stages and limited resources, but it was something we were passionate about and example of how we strive to always put the customer first.”
Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach
“Peach was created to deliver an experience rather than just a product, so this one is easy to answer. We have set out to reinvent the intimate apparel experience because the current one is fundamentally broken, from product design far removed from real women’s bodies, through advertising that fuels and leverages fears and insecurities, to retail experiences that are either degrading, disrespectful, or just an afterthought. At peach, we are developing an ‘army’ of independent stylists who represent peach all around the country and deliver the shopping experience to women in person or through video, in group settings or private appointments, at home or elsewhere, and work with them to find their bra fit. After the initial purchase, the stylist is there to support her customer with any future purchases and repurchases, through any channels that work for these two humans—whether it’s a click of a button on a website, a phone call, or over cocktails.”
Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away
“My co-founder, Jen, and I came from Warby Parker who had a really customer-centric focus, without question a leader in the optical space and also in e-commerce more broadly. From day one of building Away, being extraordinarily customer-first was part of our DNA. Customer experience is infused into how every department develops their goals, and we really empower the team to always think about how we can go above and beyond for our customers.”
Built on a robust study of trends and patterns in the market, the Future of Retail 2017 report offers transformational strategies for a customer-first business. The directional playbook from PSFK‘s research team helps business leaders drive success with insights into empowering employees, optimizing operations and leveraging technology.
Note: If you would like to participate in a coming PSFK Editorial Roundtable, please contact us here.