NRF 2017: Lululemon strengthens community by digitising CRM

As Lululemon continues to grow its brand, it is more important than ever for the retailer to stay true to its loyal customers who are part of a community built up over the years by its stores across the globe.

Speaking at NRF 2017 in NYC this week, digital officer of Lululemon, Miguel Almeida, described how the retailer has begun to take the first steps of its digital transformation journey, while ensuring it strengthens its community of customers.

Almeida said Lululemon's focus was never directly the purchasing of physical products, but the community it built around healthy living and mindfulness.

"Lululemon geared up and was set up to give products, services and information to help customers lead a healthy life," said Almeida, who explained that many of its stores started off as yoga studios which would hold classes in the evenings.

Founded in 1998 in Vancouver, the brand now has 400 stores across the world, with 12,000 employees and plans to double its revenue over the next five years. Almeida said if Lululemon is going to grow as much in the next five years as it has over the last 19, the brand has to digitally transform.

"Retail has always been about relationships, but that has been lost in the last decades – but for us it's never lost."

Almeida said he does not want Lululemon to lose its personal relationship with its customers, or its authenticity. "The goal is to build a digital ecosystem which amplifies the core of what the company is about – human experiences, relationships and connections," he explained.

"It's about building a digital DNA and mindset within the company, with a culture of agility, scale and intelligence. And it's about evolving a culture of tribal knowledge to a culture of scientific knowledge and data will be at the core."

The digital transformation began 12 months ago, soon after Almeida joined the retailer, with the launch of a new CRM platform which was built in partnership with AgilOne.

"If relationships were at the core of everything we've done, CRM has been at the core of this company," said Almeida.

Prior to the new CRM platform, store managers would have lists and files on customers, local to each shop. "They know the people coming in and out better than retailers with sophisticated systems," he said. "But a CRM engine was the first step on this journey and we had the privilege to start from zero."

Almeida described how the new CRM system had to aggregate multiple shopper records which had been created over the years into one unified view of the customer. The retailer then enriched the basic customer data with additional information such as purchase history and whether they participated in in-store events, like yoga classes.

"At the end of the day, it's not only about sales for us, but a mix of reaching the right audience with the right level of engagement," he said. "And if we have that strong engagement, sales ultimately end up happening just naturally."

Almeida said guests who engage with Lululemon across all of its channels have a 10x higher annual spend that guests that just engage with one.

Since implementing the platform and using customer data wisely to send personalised marketing messages, Lululemon has recorded an increase in site visits by 50%, while sign-ups to its events on a local level have increased by 25%.

"It shows you the power of engagement when you have this intelligence and bringing it back to the connection of relationships," he said.

Meanwhile, the retailer has also optimised its website for mobile users. Almeida also has plans to redesign the retailer's app to be less of a transactional experience and instead a platform to connect with customers by providing information on local stores using geo-location, or allowing customers to view a calendar of yoga classes and book and store tickets within the app. 

"It's about leveraging technology to drive that element of human connection – not about letting the technology run wild without human interaction."