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9Tailors’ CMO Jeff Lahens on emphasizing the human element in retail

Posted by Alex Samuely on Apr 22, 2021

Last updated on August 18th, 2021 at 09:41 am

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Humans crave connection—within groups, at their jobs, and with various experiences. Although most retailers operate in a for-profit business model, they can forge better relationships with consumers by putting more effort into providing a memorable experience centered on emotions. The experience may not immediately result in a sale, but the potential for a long-lasting connection with the brand will outweigh the short-term retail objectives.

According to Jeff Lahens, Chief Marketing Officer of custom clothing company 9Tailors and founder of curated ecommerce shop Bréda Marketplace, brands should focus on making their retail experiences less transaction-oriented and more of a catalyst for connections. Consumers with emotional ties to a brand are more likely to become long-term customers as well as valuable company advocates.

To deepen connections, brands can begin by examining their customer service standards and ensuring their sales associates feel equipped to listen to shoppers and provide customized recommendations. Additionally, retailers should build their brand by identifying a niche in the marketplace—an angle that will help differentiate them from competitors and underscore why consumers should shop there.

Jeff recently sat down for an Endless Aisle podcast episode with NewStore’s Senior Director of Marketing, Marcus LaRobardiere, to discuss the human element in retail and the launch of his new ecommerce marketplace. Read on for several highlights from Marcus and Jeff’s conversation, some of which have been edited for clarity.

On the ultimate mission of Bréda Marketplace

“My focus has been to give back to causes that have to do with youth development or education. With Bréda, we created a drop-ship site where twenty percent of the dollars raised will be donated to nonprofits. 

“It’s still in beta mode, and it’s really going to be curated. It’s about creators who are doing good in the world. We’re focusing on Black creators, but we also open up to other creators who want to be sustainable.”

On 9Tailors’ unique business model

“We have a very situational positioning in the marketplace. Some brands started online and [later] created stores. We always had the brick-and-mortar—a place where people can find community with our space. When people come to our space, they feel something different they haven’t experienced elsewhere. Having the leadership here on the floor who are very attentive to your needs…I think the consumer really responds to that. 

“We don’t create an item until there’s a body that walks into the store and wants to create something. We don’t hold any inventory either. Our fabrics are outsourced from pretty much all over the world, and we spend the time to educate a consumer [on] why the fabric feels so soft, [or] what’s the difference between this thread count and that thread count.”

On the true core of customer service

“[Customer service] is really about creating good blood in your business. By recreating good blood, you [have] to think about what nutrients your business needs, and it’s about listening to your customer. If there’s not a lot of people in my store at one point, if I only have one client to focus on, it allows me to be a hundred percent attentive to their needs and not worrying about ‘where’s my next appointment going to come in,’ or ‘somebody just [walked in] and am I going to miss the opportunity to really listen to that customer.’”

On the importance of developing brand advocates

“We want customers to be advocates of the brand. I’ll tell you this story. We had a mother who brought her daughter to the shop and I asked her where [she found] us. She said, ‘I guess, online. But for some reason, you guys felt like the right place for my daughter.’ So, it’s that emotional connection we have with our customers—it’s hard to translate over email. The mom had to bring her daughter there to see and experience that.

“How does your customer feel after they’re in your store? Does it feel like they just bought something? Or did it feel like they experienced something? I’d rather the customer experiences something versus buying something.”

On leveraging creativity to maximize the retail experience

“We had to figure out how to make that human experience less of a transaction, [and] more of a connection. How can we create an experience [that is] very niche? There’s a lot of push right now for sustainability, which is super important for our society and environment. So, there’s a need to declutter the experience, where it’s not so much about putting a lot of inventory in your store, but what is it that my customer is relying on me for?

“I think that’s being creative right now in the retail space. I’d love for retail to create small boutiques within big boutiques. You saw that with a store like Nordstrom, who are creating little pockets of stores in their big stores. That way, there [are] multiple experiences.”

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