Every year, Black Friday ecommerce sales increase, often at the expense of foot traffic. Online shopping is so convenient that fewer people are inclined to stake out the Best Buy parking lot at 4 a.m. Still, Canadian apparel brand Roots had its best Black Friday in 2017, though there’s a twist: Many of its online sales happened inside the store.
In the past, Roots created gift guides. It’s a common holiday strategy for retailers, but last year, the brand wanted to do something different. Roots invited 500 of its best customers and influencers to a fashion show. That’s another common tactic for retailers; Paris Men’s Fashion Week just wrapped up the other day.
But what made Roots’ fashion show different is that the event was entirely shoppable.
“Think about bloggers and the Instagram celebrities. How do you get them really excited to come to your event?” asks Almira Cuizon, the brand’s Vice President of Retail Operations, who spoke at Worldwide Business Research’s Future Stores event in Seattle last week. “So we gave them the opportunity to experience something they’ve never seen before. The residual effect was, Roots was the coolest place in town.”
Northern Light featured a 120-foot screen and a soundtrack curated by local artists. The models, a mix of real live humans and digital projections, were covered in snow, ice, and freezing rain. This was a nod to the brand’s Canadian heritage. (Roots’ signature item is a pair of thick, gray wool socks with a red stripe.)
The large screen was designed to make spectators feel like they, too, were in the middle of a blizzard.
“As you get to see it on screen, people want to have a sense of feeling with the product,” explains Cuizon. “The idea is to capture and evoke the passion we have for our brand and get people excited about it.”
Roots worked with Soundpay, a Canadian company that uses sound waves to transform smartphones into mobile wallets. When the music sent ultrasonic waves into the air, they were inaudible to the human ear, though smartphones could pick them up.
The soundwaves then went to an app where users could scan anything the models wore, much like Shazam. And of course, everyone had the option to make purchases. The Black Friday deals were built in, complete with expedited shipping. Roots livestreamed the fashion show on Facebook, allowing customers to join in from home as well.
Over the last few weeks, Northern Light secured a Canadian Event Industry Award and an Excellence In Retailing Award from the Retail Council of Canada. It was a cool, innovative campaign, but more than that, it drove business results.
“The excitement you get from something like that is hard to quantify,” says Cuizon. “But we did have a record-breaking quarter and a record-breaking Black Friday week.”
The campaign is the latest example of Roots’ omnichannel marketing, a term many brands at Future Stores are moving away from. Cuizon prefers to think of it as the “endless aisle.”
Whatever you want to call it, Roots has always been a pioneer there. The brand even had a transactional website in 1999, back when Amazon had only just moved beyond books.
“We deliver the product in whichever way the customer wants. If you come into our store and we don’t have a size, we’ll order it for you right there with tablets,” says Cuizon. “Brick and mortar is very strong for us because we’re married to technology. So many retailers fight against it, but you have to embrace the technology that’s coming.”
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