February 20, 2019
Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast with Jeff Ragovin is Luke Droulez, the CMO of Parachute. Luke describes transitioning the online brand into the brick and mortar space, the role of UGC for improving in-store experience, and competing with established players in the market. Coming from the finance world and working his way up to the top, Luke shares his top tips for aspiring CMOs.
Jeff Ragovin: Could you talk to us about taking Parachute from digital to brick and mortar?
Luke Droulez: As far as the evolution towards omnichannel, I think for us it was always a foregone conclusion when you consider the types of products we sell at Parachute. It is a very tactile purchasing experience. We do try to reduce the friction of shopping online with perks like free shipping and returns, as well as the 90 day risk-free trial. Nevertheless, 90% of e-commerce is still happening in offline environments. The fact is: You need to be where your customers are. So, we have pursued the retail strategy.
I think retail is evolving beyond large footprint stores in big malls. That’s why we opt for smaller spaces in neighborhoods where our customers live, work, shop and eat. We also don't believe in merchandising our stores with the towels and sheets stacked up to the ceiling. Instead, our employees are encouraged to drape the fabrics so that consumers can touch and feel them. We like to inspire our consumers. We find that the role of the store employee is more of a concierge design service, where people will often come in and ask store assistants for design advice. Beyond that, we see retail as being an important part of community building. We are always looking to improve the payback windows through store events, activications, pop ins. We find that retail is just good for our brand, and if I were to open up a store in a DMA it gives me another way to convert a customer. Ultimately, we want customers to have the best experience -- regardless of whether they buy the product and how they heard about it.
Stores are physical manifestations of the brand. People looking for inspiration and education will go there. I think we try to use a feedback loop, and a lot of our stores serve as focus groups. Oftentimes, our stores will open our eyes to new ways customers are using or styling our products. We then make sure that insight is reflected in the other work we are doing, whether that be on our website, our blog, our social channels, etc. I think it’s just always thinking about the customer journey -- in a lot of ways your experience mirrors the ideal experience. For us to be a heritage brand and a long term viable company, it’s important that everybody has both a consistent, positive experience both digital and offline.
Jeff Ragovin: How are you guys creating great in-store experiences?
Luke Droulez: By standardizing the approach. When we look at opening a store, its making sure its the right neighborhood, that its surrounded by our target audience. It's also about making sure that we have the right co-tenants. You want to make sure that you are aligned with the surrounding brands and stores. Your neighbors should be an accurate representation of how you want the brand to be perceived. As we look at our retail roll out, those are the main factors to consider.
From my end of the marketing side, its making sure that people are aware. One thing we do with every store opening is host a housewarming party; we are a home brand and we feel the best way to get people excited is to invite them into our home. We’ll usually partner with local vendors for food, beverage and entertainment and give us guests a small house warming gift. We make sure that we follow up with the appropriate cadence of events and activations. I think as we become better at consolidating and centralizing that dataset, and we get a better view into the omnichannel customer, we will continue to layer on top of that data to improve both the online and offline experience accordingly.
Jeff Ragovin: How are you leveraging in-store consumer?
Luke Droulez: We do set up Google locations for all of our stores, and we do encourage customers to leave positive reviews. Ideally, we like to create an inbound marketing funnel. A good example of that, which I think encourages customers from a social proof perspective, is our UGC. We have over 5,000 submissions to #MyParachuteHome. I think what’s nice is that a lot of UGC is unprompted, which shows advocacy in a way that maybe a survey or product review request may not.
Jeff Ragovin: You were a financial trader before you came over to Parachute to work in operations, and you now are the CMO. Do you have any advice for aspiring CMOs?
Luke Droulez: The biggest things that play a factor to me are the size of the company, the industry vertical and the team. I was fortunate in that I joined the company as the first hire, and so it did give me a lot of white space in terms of defining my role in the company and how it could evolve. I was also lucky in terms of the team in that, as the company grew, I surrounded myself with really smart people. I was connected with a lot of the company’s external mentors, advisers and investors who were strong area experts that guided me in my development.
Marketing is predicated on having a high quality product, so knowing you have a high quality product offering is really important because as you think about the broader business goals, you know that the hard parts are mostly covered which leaves more opportunity for growth. If you want to work for a bigger brand name, it is more likely a longer path to the role of CMO; whereas at a startup, depending on where you're coming in from, there is more opportunity to climb to the top. Both can be equally rewarding 00 it's just a question of what you want to do and how you want to do it.
Jeff Ragovin: What keeps you up at night?
Luke Droulez: I get more nervous about the things I can’t control than the things I can, such as a broader economic slow-down more likely caused by China because those are things that can radically change your perception of how things are going to move forward. For me, I think understanding how things work is really important. I find that I stay at work later than I should when I can't understand how a problem works. I really am a big fan of root-cause analysis, and as much as I can understand how something is a success or a failure defines how happy I am with moving forward with it.
Jeff Ragovin: How do you compete with the more established brands who have unlimited resources?
Luke Droulez: I think our competitors often have had better access to distribution, broader brand recognition and more physical resources. But, I think we have more flexibility as a brand in terms of how we decide to grow -- from assortment to distribution, marketing, and even team growth. I think we’ve really been able to leverage that flexibility and agility over the last five years. So the big things that i'm keenly focused on in the coming years is making sure that we maintain that. As a startup the thing that you can do especially with the use of first party data is react to the market a lot faster and so that’s what we really want to leverage.
Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.
Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes