Brand, Culture Trump Omnichannel for Zumiez
The term omnichannel is thrown around so much in the retail industry these days that it begins to become just noise in some respects. In a session yesterday at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Seattle titled Defining Omnichannel for Your Brand: Setting Priorities to Meet Customer Expectations, it was interesting that Troy Brown, executive vice president of e-commerce and omnichannel at Zumiez, the youth culture fashion retailer, said that the term is rarely if ever used at the company.
Our job is to create a channel-less world, Brown said. With 600 stores and an e-commerce website, Zumiez fits the profile of an omnichannel retailer, even if it doesn't necessarily consider itself to be one.
We view omnichannel as just another way to provide our customers with the Zumiez brand experience, Brown said. The company has worked hard to create that brand experience — which Brown described as authentic, fun, edgy, among a handful of other adjectives — along with its culture and an intimate understanding of its customers. We want to be a curator of cool, Brown said, joking that the audience of retail executives not knowing of Zumiez was a good thing.
The demographic targeted by Zumiez is 12-24 year olds. The "cool" culture is embodied by Zumiez's founder Tom Campion, and is pushed down through the ranks at the company. It's important that we hire the right people who share the same set of values the company does, Brown said. Zumiez empowers every employee to make their own decisions, down to the store assocaite level.
Our kids [store associates] love to sell Zumiez products, Brown said. In fact, the company has created an incentive program for any store associate that reaches more than $100,000 sales in the past year. Dubbed the Zumiez 100K, the company treats all qualified employees to two days of fun and snowboarding at a Colorado resort. Zumiez's top seller last year was a 19-year-old girl in Seattle, and while Brown was unwilling to give the exact amount she sold, he did say the number would astound you.
We want people that are doing what they love and love what they're doing, Brown said.
The reality is we need to provide an outstanding experience across every touchpoint, including bridging the physical and digital worlds, Brown said. Zumiez does this by tearing down all channel conflict. He cited two examples: price parity and product returns. All Zumiez customers and prospects will see the same promotion and price for a product, regardless of channel. In addition, customers are able to make product returns in any channel regardless of where they bought the product (in-store or online). These tactics reduce conflict and build customer trust, Brown noted.
Even though Zumiez's primary demographic doesn't know a world without the internet, it still prefers to shop in the company's brick-and-mortar stores. They want instant gratification when they make a purchase; they're not willing to wait a couple days to have an online order shipped to their house, Brown said. In addition, Brown believes Zumiez is a brand that needs to be felt, not heard.
Wrapping up his presentation, Brown noted that at the end of the day, the fundamentals of retail haven't changed over the years — despite terms and concepts like omnichannel being added to the vernacular. You still need to have an intimate understanding of your customer and brand to succeed, he said. Technology has just made it easier for retailers like Zumiez to leverage those strengths across multiple channels.