“The key is to be able to serve ‘her’ wherever, however and whenever she wants to engage with the brand,” says William Acevedo, senior vice president of retail and outlet channels for The Limited. “From design through merchandising, we edit with her in mind, we present with her navigation in mind, we wardrobe with her sense of desire, [and we know] how to put together outfits and maximize those outfits from a versatility perspective.”
Recently, The Limited rolled out the capability of reserving items online to pick up in store. This was a deliberate move on the brand’s part as opposed to only letting customers purchase items online.
“We heard from our client that she wanted to commit to the purchase after she got to the location rather than before. She didn’t want to make a purchase and arrive at the store, then change her mind or make a return,” Acevedo says. “She wanted that flexibility. We are really focused on creating the processes and experience that will allow her to engage with us, on her terms, in her way.”
Shop Whenever and However
The company wants to ensure the client can shop in store, online or on the go. Therefore, The Limited took a strategic move to focus on its mobile initiatives due to the growth of mobile shopping. Forty percent of the brand’s traffic is now through mobile and it accounted for 26 percent of sales last year.
“We are really focusing on optimizing the experience,” says Jenn McClain, vice president of e-commerce and alternative business channels for The Limited. “It’s not whatever’s on desktop anymore – we are thinking of mobile first. We want everything that goes into the content of a page to be as optimized as possible.”
To enhance the mobile experience, The Limited has partnered with mobile-focused companies such as Akamai, ShopRunner, Moovweb, Certona and Scene7. These partners will make online shopping easier for users and boost the mobile site for lightning-fast performance, according to McClain.
Along with enhancing the operations, The Limited is raising the bar for its product presentations. With image-based apps like Instagram and Snapchat growing in popularity every day, consumers are more image-focused than ever. The Limited uses this to its advantage by changing the way it showcases its product to the consumer.
“We’ve put a big focus on our new photography – giving it movement and a more editorial feel,” McClain says. We want our products to be fun and also sophisticated.”
The Limited’s goal is for the mobile site to transcend the typical e-commerce, commercial site. With the storytelling, product education and inspiration, The Limited believes it can greatly improve its mobile offering.
Image-based design can show “her” versatility in the product. “She has no issue investing in a key piece, but being able to show her multiple ways to wear it, that’s something we’ve embarked on and are looking to improve,” McClain says. “This is a big opportunity to reach a larger client base.”
The Limited has discussed developing a brand-specific app, but it is figuring out what content would be important for its client and how an app could ultimately improve her shopping experience.
It’s generally difficult to anticipate what a typical client will need or want. That is why The Limited relies on instinct, arts and a science balance.
“We focus on connecting with her, but also still preserving that element and opportunity of discovery and broadening beyond that scientific predictability,” Acevedo says. “That doesn’t mean we do not try to imagine on her behalf and present her things that she may not have imagined for herself. But we do so in the construct of what we already know from her.”
To support its client, The Limited offers a propriety credit card program that provides a comprehensive set of benefits that it differentiates based on the level of shopping frequency and annual spend. For those who don’t want to add another credit card to their pile, it also offers a non-tender program called “Virtual Dollars” that allows customers to earn dollars during certain periods and redeem them later on.
“It’s about understanding what our sophisticated professional really wants out of a loyalty program,” Acevedo tells RM. “Does she want it to be a monetary program or a surprise-and-delight program that also allows her to make purchases at other places than The Limited? You really have to structure it based on what your client thinks is important and of value to her.”
As a smaller brand, The Limited describes its company culture as filled with “leaders, managers and doers,” where leadership and contribution come from every chair. Internal company values of openness, resourcefulness and community extend into the core of the brand and end up serving the client.
“We are by many accounts the first women’s apparel specialty store,” Acevedo says. “It’s all about remaining true to the fact that we set out to really provide her an opportunity to cut through clutter and really home in on those things that are most important to her. We position ourselves – not above her – but side by side with her as a trusted advisor.”