Businesses are usually founded around a new product or service, but Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms, believes it is not so much about what you are selling these days, and more about how you are selling it.
Those who know Toms as a footwear and glasses brand are not getting the whole picture. Toms bills itself as a One for One brand, defined by its business model of donating to a charitable cause each time something is purchased.
‘With the One for One model, the customer is now empowered when they make a purchase,’ explains Mycoskie. ‘When customers buy a pair of shoes, they know that a pair of shoes is being given to a child. When you buy a pair of Toms sunglasses one person will be helped to improve their sight through surgery or prescription glasses.’
LS:N Global first predicted the rise of Conscience Commerce in 2011. For more on Toms, read our Innovate feature.
Top five take-outs
1. Don’t start a company, found a movement. ‘We don’t call Toms a company, we call it a movement,’ says Mycoskie.
2. Use peer-to-peer networks. Today’s savvy shoppers are less trustful of advertising, according to Mycoskie.
3. Provide One for One. The ‘buy-one, give-one-away’ model enables people to understand the positive impact of their purchases.
4. Make your business about the model. Mycoskie doesn’t run a clothing, footwear or homewares store, but a One for One store.
5. Be a Brandstander. Align your product, service or business model with a cause.
Linda Rodin never thought of herself as an entrepreneur or a trailblazer. But six years ago, the stylist and former boutique owner began mixing up a blend of oils in her kitchen, solely to satisfy her own beauty needs and to make gifts for friends. Word spread and a business was born. The goal was to hydrate the skin and create a luminous complexion without making exaggerated anti-ageing claims.
Today, her RODIN brand includes 12 products and is distributed worldwide. She views neither her customers nor those in her social circle as confined by traditional demographic categories. ‘I’ve appealed to so many people: young models, friends with daughters, people who are 94 and everybody in between,’ she says.
And yet she sees her success as owing in part to her image as a Baby Boomer, speaking to women in a way most brands don’t. ‘I think if I were 30, 40 or even 50 not many people would be that interested. I think I unknowingly landed on something,’ she says. ‘Women sometimes come up to me who are certainly my age and older and say, ‘God, you’re such an icon, thank you for taking us seriously and I love your product.’ That’s crazy to me.’
Top five take-outs
1. Speak directly to women over 50. Don’t try to sell them products with images of 20something models.
2. Help women to embrace age. ‘I get very scared of the alternative,’ says Rodin, ‘not meaning death, meaning a bad facelift.’
3. Ageless style inspires. Women of all ages connect with confidence and passion for products.
4. Celebrate second-act entrepreneurs. They prove age doesn’t mean slowing down.
5. Look back. Rodin has released a perfume inspired by her mother in the 1950s. ‘I think women will embrace it, young or old,’ she tells LS:N Global.
Of all the retailers at World Retail Congress, few are as renowned as Mike Gould, the former CEO and Chairman of Bloomingdale’s. Gould, who retired this year aged 70, led Bloomingdale’s for 22 years. Bloomingdale’s has continued his legacy – making the department store a destination by bringing in one-of-a-kind products – in this autumn’s 100% Bloomingdale’s campaign, which presented shoppers with exclusive capsule collections from 100 different designers.
Looking back at his career, Gould regards the biggest change as the level of consumer choice. ‘The consumer has so many more choices today,’ he says. ‘You can buy almost anything online today that you can buy in a store.’
For retailers working in this environment, the greatest challenge is differentiation. In this context, editorial becomes as important as exclusivity. ‘The store becomes an editor of a line,’ says Gould. ‘How do you [make the assortment] different for your customers? What is different for those consumers that they just can’t get elsewhere?’
Summing up his recipe for success, Gould reaches for a mix of three qualities. ‘Part of it is theatre, part of it is entertainment, part of it is shopping.’ But his true belief is in leadership. ‘The only way you differentiate yourself is through your people,’ he says.
Top five take-outs
1. Be an editor. Curate the best of the best to give choice-overloaded consumers the selection they crave.
2. Excite your customers with retail theatre. ‘People want that interaction,’ says Gould.
3. Watch out for China and India. The rising middle classes in these countries will be critical to retail development, says Gould.
4. Think unique. Gould’s strategy has been to make Bloomingdale’s a destination by sourcing one-of-a-kind items and experiences to its stores.
5. Get across all channels. ‘A customer who shops both in-store and online is three to four times more valuable than a customer who shops in one channel,’ says Gould.
In recent years, stories around 3D printing and its potential to disrupt traditional manufacturing processes, revolutionise retail and empower consumers have abounded in the technology and lifestyle media. At International CES, MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis and his team unveiled three new printer models and a range of new digital services which bring us a leap closer to realising a third industrial revolution. In short, Pettis wants to make it easier for you to 3D print.
‘Our mission is to unlock people’s creativity, to empower them to think differently and give them a way to let their creativity out into the world, and make a difference,’ says Pettis. ‘It’s never been easier to be a creative explorer.’
Top five take-outs
1. Empower consumers. The key to 3D printing is that it places customers rather than brands in control.
2. Disrupt industry. 3D printing provides a way for people to experiment with one-off designs at home, which can be adopted by others or improved.
3. Be accessible. MakerBot’s mission is to make 3D printing as easy as possible.
4. Create an ecosystem. It’s no longer just about the hardware, but the digital services that make it simpler and more rewarding to use a 3D printer.
5. Prepare for the third industrial revolution. Revise your retail, communications, marketing and supply chain to incorporate this new technology.