Lululemon’s Virtual Shopping Experience Is Paving the Way for All DTC Brands
Image Courtesy of Lululemon
Traditionally known for its leggings and yoga pants, Lululemon expanded significantly over the last 24 months. While other brands and retailers grappled with store closures and an incredibly turbulent marketplace, Lululemon found success using digital marketing campaigns, opening seasonal stores, and creating a personalized virtual shopping experience.
In fact, the company increased its brand value by as much as 40% and its web traffic from 23% to 37% during the first two months of the pandemic. These numbers are no accident, though, as Lululemon promptly responded to changing consumer habits with a revamped digital and in-store strategy.
Humanized personalization in the digital landscape
Arguably, the team at Lululemon did a better job than any other at connecting with customers who were stuck at home during lockdowns. In April 2020, the brand created something unique for the community that changed its e-commerce sales dramatically: a live video-chat shopping experience.
Equipped with this feature, customers now had the option of scheduling 1:1 video meetings with Lululemon specialists to discuss product sizing, personalized recommendations, gift ideas, and just recently, footwear.
Lululemon specialists have also received additional training since the onset of the pandemic. What the brand coined as “omni educators” now work in stores and throughout its digital channels so that customers have access to personalized human experiences.
Consumer trends play into Lululemon’s favor
Pandemic-fueled consumer trends played a pivotal role in Lululemon’s success over the last two years.
Although pandemic restrictions have subsided significantly in recent months, roughly one out of four Americans continue to work from home, three out of four stay-at-home workouts are skipping the gym, and four out of ten say they’re more motivated to exercise while doing it at home.
“These trends play to our strengths and set up an opportunity for us to continue to innovate and gain market share,” said Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald. “This innovation demonstrates our consistent ability to be agile and anticipate the evolving needs of our guests.”
These trends played to Lululemon’s strengths so much so that the brand needed to find a way to reduce congestion outside their physical stores at the height of COVID. To its benefit, the brand introduced a virtual waitlist, appointment-based visits, and opened about 100 pop-up stores in 2020 that eased wait times at larger locations.
“In e-commerce, our investments are paying off as our sites have demonstrated the ability to more than handle the anticipated spike in volume,” said McDonald.
Footwear: the newest frontier
Looking ahead, 2022 may not be a year defined by the pandemic and that means brands have the flexibility to innovate in different ways.
In March, Lululemon launched the Blissfeelrunning shoe line for women. As the brand’s first foray into footwear, Blissfeel is designed to focus on the “unmet needs of active women.” The launch comes at an ideal time as the footwear market saw 20% growth in 2021 and is projected to do the same in 2022, according to Statistica.
Creating the collection for women wasn’t a coincidence, either, as Lululemon hopes to change the narrative around how performance shoes are designed.
“…Performance shoes are designed for men and then adapted for women,” Lululemon’s Chief Product Officer Sun Choe said in a company statement. “That didn’t sit well with us.”
And according to NPD Group’s Senior Industry Advisor and Footwear Analyst Matt Powell, this is the case across the board. Nike and Adidas and their competitors sell sneakers that are essentially smaller versions of men’s shoes.
“This is a dirty little secret of the industry. Lululemon is building a shoe from the inside out uniquely designed for women’s feet,” Powell said.
Think Gymshark, Youth to the People, Peloton, and others
Lululemon appears to have been in the right place at the right time to capitalize on shifting consumer trends, but a lot had to happen behind the scenes for this now industry-giant to flourish.
Whether it was collecting swathes of demographic data, boosting user-generated content, or pinpointing a segment of the market with a tailor-made product, we can learn a lot from this direct-to-consumer brand about how to operate in today’s world.
However, there are more digitally-native DTC brands hitting the market every day and innovating in the same vein as Lululemon—even if they haven’t been recognized for their efforts, yet. Think Gymshark, Youth to the People, Peloton, Warby Parker, or Harry’s.
All of these brands have doubled down on e-commerce over the last 24 months, but just as Lululemon opened an astonishing number of pop-ups across the country, there’s a unique opportunity for others to bring back brick-and-mortar with a vengeance and capitalize on digital in-store experiences.