When you think of millennial brands, Carter's, the manufacturer and retailer of baby apparel and accessories, doesn't immediately spring to mind. Yet that's just what Carter's is, catering to new and expectant moms who more often than not fall into the coveted millennial demographic. In fact, 80 percent of all babies are born to millennial moms, according to Greg Foglesong, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Carter's.
Therefore, Carter's has had to tailor its marketing and operations with the millennial mom in mind. That means digital and omnichannel, in large part driven by mobile, have become focal points for the baby brand. In a presentation yesterday at the Demandware Xchange Conference in Hollywood, Fla., Foglesong and Janet Sherlock, chief information officer at Carter's, discussed how the retailer is effectively merging technology and marketing to serve its customers the seamless shopping experiences they've come to expect.
Mobile a Must
Smartphones have become an ingrained part of nearly all consumers' lives, but especially for millennials. They're rarely without their phones, including when shopping. Foglesong joked that while it may not be a parenting best practice, moms shopping in Carter's stores frequently have a baby in one hand and their phone in the other, scrolling to find more product info, a better deal, customer reviews, among other things.
Knowing this behavior, Carter's has invested significant time and resources into improving its mobile website. Particular areas of emphasis are personalizing the shopping experience, as well as improving site search and product discovery, Foglesong said.
For now Carter's just has a mobile site, but an app may not be too far away. Improving the mobile site is priority No.1, then a potential app. Carter's is identifying how an app could be a value add to its customers, particularly its most loyal customers.
Extending its Reach
Carter's is in growth mode, having doubled its business in the last five years. Already the market leader in the baby apparel category in the U.S., the company wants to be the same internationally. There's a reason to believe it can get there. After examining its site traffic, Carter's found that near 40 percent was coming from outside the U.S. Carter's currently ships its products into 80 countries, and has brick-and-mortar stores in nearly 40 countries.
“Those shoppers have the same value proposition as our U.S. customers – cute clothes, fair pricing, and trustworthy and dependable products,” Foglesong said, adding that international growth is a key initiative for Carter's. “Lots of babies are being born.”
While consumer demand may be there, that doesn't mean Carter's international expansion plans aren't without its challenges. From pricing to packaging to product sizing, Carter's is working through the challenges of selling internationally. It's doing so with the help of third-party partners, who have expertise in the local marketplace that Carter's doesn't, noted Sherlock. It's not like Canada, where Carter's was essentially able to pick up its technology stack and use it there, Sherlock added.
A Team Effort
For Carter's to accomplish its growth initiatives – best consumer experience in children's apparel; extended reach of the brand (stores, international, e-commerce, new product categories); and strengthening its performance-based culture internally – it's going to need to move quickly and have its internal teams aligned, especially marketing and IT.
Both Foglesong and Sherlock talked of the importance of being on Demandware's flexible and scalable commerce platform, and how it's enabled them to move quickly. While not always harmonious, the relationship between Carter's IT and marketing teams is efficient. The teams work together constantly to create, implement and execute the systems and tools needed to satisfy Carter's digital-first millennial customers.
“Technology is always evolving, just like our customers,” Sherlock said. She noted that with opportunities such as personalization, international and omnichannel, come different technology integrations. Having a strong team with all players aligned on the same goals will enable Carter's to take full advantage of the opportunities at hand.