At the NRF’s Shop.org conference this week, we’re seeing a renewed emphasis on personal values in the marketing mix. The retail industry continues to be disrupted in new and interesting ways, but brands are finding success taking personalization to a much more personal level.
Anna Cole, Director of eCommerce at Carhartt, talked about their experiences with user-generated content. In our business we don’t typically need a rugged, weather resistant jacket to survive the interior elements of the office space, but as an award-winning partner of Carhartt, we’re obviously huge fans. But what struck me in the Carhartt story was how they’ve been listening to and connecting with their customers throughout their 125-year history:
Starting with only two sewing machines and five employees, Hamilton Carhartt established Hamilton Carhartt & Company. At first, he failed. But after asking railroad workers what exactly they needed, he succeeded.
Of course, a hundred-odd-years later customers are posting ratings and reviews, sharing photos and hashtags, sharing checkout comments, and supporting each other in community Q&As. But it’s not the content, it’s the intent to help other owners that has permeated the Carhartt community.
I was also excited to hear Gunnar Lovelace from Thrive Market – one of very few retailers I’ve heard admit that they are “not trying to out-Amazon Amazon.” Instead they are trying to speak “specifically and authentically” to their customers. In the Thrive model, instead of a 100 options for a category, only 2 highly curated options might be available. By highly curated, we mean very focused on ingredients, methods, and values that match up to those of the Thrive community that is hyper focused on personal health and social responsibility. As Gunnar tells it, their success is defined by their ability to sell a healthier alternative to a mainstream product at the same price.
Brian Tilzer of CVS Health also weighed in on their commitment to making their customers’ lives easier. Rather than mining data and using AI to find ways to bring customers into the pharmacy more often (for those valuable impulse buys), they want to find ways to make their customers’ lives easier, save their time, and live a healthier life. That may mean fewer store visits. That’s a big commitment for a chain with over 9,000 stores, and Brian reiterated that’s their individual commitments to healthy values as something they simply have to live every day to make it work.
I think we’re going to see a lot more brands and retailers bringing their own values and their customers’ values to the forefront. As Gunnar put it: The social mission and the success of the business will be the same mission.