"Bottle Up Kindness" (w/ Ingrid Milman, Ann Taylor)

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Brian sits down at eTail West 2019 with Ingrid Milman, eCommerce Strategist for Ann Inc (Ann Taylor | LOFT | Lou & Grey). Ingrid talks about customer expectations in the digital age, clienteling as a culture, and how to lace kindness into a brand culture from top to bottom - from employee interaction to customer experience.

Show Notes:

Main Takeaways:

  • Brian interviews Ingrid Milman the Director of E-Commerce and Digital Marketing at Ann Inc. at eTail West 2019.

  • Ann Inc really does have a brand offering for every type of woman.

  • Brian wants Ann to bring their retail expertise to men's clothing

  • Will consumers begin to treat physical products like digital options?

From UX Design to Customer Experience: Ingrid Joins Ann Inc:

  • Director of Digital Marketing & E-Commerce at ANN INC., Ingrid Millman, actually started her career as a UX designer at Goldman Sachs.

  • After finding out that she didn't enjoy financial services, Ingrid spent a year in Spain studying art history, after which she moved back to the U.S and took a job with Este Lauder Companies as an e-commerce product manager, transitioning from data and UX design to a client facing position.

  • At Estée Lauder Companies Inc for six years Ingrid worked on several big-brand partnerships, like the first partnership between MAC and Rihanna, which is ridiculously cool.

  • Eventually moving on to Ann Inc. a company that Ingrid says is unique in that they serve women at every stage of life.

A Brand For Every Stage of Life: Fit, Fabric, and Finances:

  • Ingrid explains that Ann has built out relevant brands for women of all ages, and budgets.

  • Ann Taylor which is marketed towards women who are their 30's and 40's and are already established in their careers (Ann Taylor also has a fabulous shoe selection).

  • Loft is a younger, more casual, but still appropriate for work brand, which can also be transitioned to evening wear.

  • And Lou and Grey, which is Ann Taylor's younger millennial sister brand is highly focused on fit, fabric (everything is super soft), and comfort.

  • Ann Inc. also has Loft Outlets and Ann Taylor Factory Stores for more budget-conscious customers.

  • Brian wants Ann to apply their retail expertise and selection to men's clothing.

It's The Year of Clientelling: How Ann Inc. Brands Are Stepping Up

  • Ingrid says that going forward brands are going to have to be incredibly customer-centric, centering their offerings around solving problems that customers have as opposed to focusing only on color pallets and mannequin outfitting.

  • Brian loves this and points out that too many brands are focusing on color schemes as opposed to figuring out how to solve their customer's problems.

  • Also, as Future Commerce pointed out in our prediction episode: It is, in fact, the year of "clienteling."

  • So how does Ann Inc. hone in on clientelling? Well, one way is through their customer service experience. Ingrid describes how all Loft sales associates (in all 500 retail locations) are trained to be incredibly friendly to not only customers but to each other, creating a relaxed, and helpful environment for customers to shop in.

  • "It's all about making fashion more accessible and breaking down those frustration barriers."

  • And that easing of barriers to entry includes Ann Inc stores offering additional sizes beyond traditional sizing, including petite, tall, and plus-sizes:Ann Taylor Sizing Charts .

An Unlimited Sustainable Closet: How Ann Taylor is Stepping Into The Subscription Space:

  • Ann Taylor's newest initiative: Infinite Style by Ann Taylor, a subscription-esque service that allows you to build a rented wardrobe, and then exchange the items for new pieces.

  • This service is so incredible because it allows a customer to essentially build an entire wardrobe around a season or weight loss, or changing trends.

  • Infinite Style would be great for women who love new clothes, and staying on top of trends but have limited closet space.

  • The service seems like an expanded single-brand Rent The Runway.

  • Brian says that this is the future of clothes and that he wants this same initiative for men's clothing,

  • Ingrid says that the future of retail is significantly more gender neutral and that retailers need to place more of an emphasis on fit and fabric in the long term. In the short term, retailers really need to focus on building out solutions t that are implementable.

We enjoyed getting to speak with Ingrid, and hearing how Ann Inc is stepping up to build out a positive experience for their customers!

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