rent the runway

While there have been a lot of interesting moves by direct-to-consumer brands in the last few years, the recent Rent the Runway and Marriott W Hotels partnership particularly stands out. In December, the pair rolled out a venture that’s going to make the jet-setting portion of their customers’ lives much easier.

Called Closet Concierge, this program helps ensure that Rent the Runway customers are dressed properly for any meeting, gala or dinner when staying at select W Hotels. They won’t have to pack various styles of clothes since their personally selected gown or suit will await them in their hotel room. This service is piloting in Aspen, Miami (South Beach), Washington, D.C., and Hollywood, and the partners intend for it to go national.

This unusually smart innovation is just the start of brands meeting consumers on-the-go and treating the location as a service. Here are three things retailers can learn from this sublime example of customer experience and convenience.

Create loyalty by removing friction

The retail industry as a whole needs to focus on removing friction from CX, and Rent the Runway provides an excellent example for other merchants to follow with Closet Concierge. After booking with a participating W Hotel, RTR customers receive an e-mail that lets them choose four items of clothing for $69. RTR then ships the selected items to the customer’s hotel room in advance of their arrival for them to wear during their trip. When it’s time to check out, hotel guests drop off the clothes at the front desk.

Talk about frictionless customer experience. RTR is expanding the “special occasion” rental use case from formalwear to very practical one-time-use ski togs and beyond, which ultimately saves consumers money and hassle — and reduces waste. They are also saving the traveler packing time and luggage space by delivering clothes directly to their hotel room closet. Talk about thinking outside the box.

Not only does the brand put the customer first at every step of the way, but it also offers a luxurious level of convenience. This brand-customer interaction promises to generate fantastic loyalty for RTR and W Hotels, and other retailers should look to similarly remove friction in the CX.

Anticipate consumers’ needs with data

What’s more, while any product from RTR’s inventory can be selected via Closet Concierge, customers appreciate being offered relevant suggestions. Therefore, each of the four hotels will have a curated selection of clothes specific to that locale. Obviously, clothing needs vary distinctly for Miami Beach vs. the ski slopes of Aspen, so this aspect makes complete sense.

Not only does this partnership offer travelers incredible convenience, but valuable customer data will also help power the brands. In the coming months as more W Hotel and RTR customers use the service, RTR will gain valuable first-party data that can be crunched to optimize what products are offered and which ones are upsold. If RTR’s customer acquisition slows at all in 2020, its marketers will be happy that they can leverage such intelligence to better service existing patrons while encouraging more repeat sales.

Among marketing industry watchers, Rent the Runway has been known for personalizing the CX on its web site and app and making convenient rental returns a priority. The meshing of convenience and curation in the W Hotels partnership continues that sophisticated CX mind-set.

Pay attention to off-line consumer behavior

There’s a whimsical nature to this experience that’s going to resonate positively with customers for RTR and W Hotels. It combines online fashion shopping with off-line behavior such as work travel and vacations in a way that’s never been done before. RTR not only plans to offer this service at more W Hotels over time, but it will also look to explore other kinds of partnerships that offer similar convenience and increase their physical footprint.

Such relationships build on Rent the Runway’s moves to make the location a service rather than a delivery concern, including drop-off boxes in WeWork and Nordstrom locations, in addition to its growing number of stores in major cities. The 10-year-old brand seems to be on a quest to be exactly where its customers are. RTR never stops iterating or rests on its laurels, which is central to why it’s become a $1 billion business.

Other retailers can learn from RTR’s location-as-a-service mind-set, its focus on curation, and its dedication to transforming the CX. If the way it ended in 2019 is any indication, this year should provide more innovative partnerships and services from the brand.

Andria Tay is Director of Marketing at Narvar.

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