C. Wonder's Chris Burch Rocked Aberdeen's Retail Summit In Keynote Address
By Bob Johns, associate editor
Last week I attended Aberdeen Group’s Retail and Consumer Markets Summit in New York. The turnout was great, and the speakers were phenomenal. The information that the retailers gave during their presentations was surprisingly candid, but one theme was prevalent throughout nearly every event — customer centricity. After NRF this year, my colleague, Matt Pillar, wrote an article about customer centricity and how it has really moved from something retailers always talked about, to something they are really implementing. This summit continued with that focus and was emphasized right from the start.
Keynote speaker Chris Burch talked of his consumer products brand, C. Wonder, and how it has created a customer experience rather than just a store. He has worked to create a brand and store experience that has become “a shopping destination that transports women into a world of luxury and surprises.” Burch feels that stores need to be more inviting and exciting. He strives to create an environment of jubilant celebration. It is not uncommon to find associates and customers dancing in the aisles or singing along to the upbeat music playing through the sound system. Burch is even going so far as to hire dancers from local dance academies to work in the stores and interact with customers.
From end to end, Burch focuses on his core female customer. He spends several months a year in China visiting factories to make sure every item is exactly what the consumer is looking for, and that he can have it made at the price required. Creating that valuable product is key to C. Wonder’s success. The female customer that Burch focuses on is looking for true value with their purchases, not just cheap products. The product and store experience must exude a feeling of class, value, and luxury, but the pricing must be reasonable for the target market.
Burch feels that the customer focus begins with manufacturing and sourcing, runs through the supply chain, and into the various sales channels. Even when a customer returns an item, Burch wants their experience to be rewarding. It is not uncommon for the customer returning an item to receive a free gift from C. Wonder when the return is completed. How many times have you returned something and gotten a present from a retailer? For me, normally returns are a hassle, and I end up with a bad impression of the company when the transaction is completed.
Burch’s goal is to shake up retail to its core. In this slow economy, he is in the process of launching nine different brands ranging from office supplies to fashion. He believes his commitment to the customer experience will show though in every brand through the product selection, design, and pricing and across channels as the websites and mobile commerce sites fully integrate with the store experience. This will allow for the success of the new ventures and the growth of his current brands.
C. Wonder’s focus on the customer even extends to the checkout experience. Mobile checkout is everywhere in C. Wonder, so the associate comes to the customer when they are ready to check out. Even on a day that is slammed with customers, the associates can quickly and conveniently get the customer checked out with a personal, interactive experience.
Knowing your customer and creating a destination store is something we have been hearing for a while, but the opening of C. Wonder, and the dramatic four-year transformation J.C. Penney is attempting, shows that retailers are beginning to take the customer seriously. With limited growth year over year in brick-and-mortar sales, retailers need to find the differentiator to bring in new sales, boost current sales, and take sales from their competitors.