Uri Minkoff at the 2016 WWD Beauty CEO Summit

“When we started, there was a dictatorship in fashion,” said Uri Minkoff, cofounder and chief executive officer at Rebecca Minkoff. “We had to create a peer-to-peer relationship and break down the dictatorship and create a democracy with the customer where we would ultimately be on the same level.”

This meant taking to digital to build a brand that, according to Minkoff, was among the first to have a presence on the leading social media channels, from Instagram to Snapchat.

“We invited the consumer in to experience the brand,” Minkoff said of programs where followers were able to crowdsource designs, for example.

Once the brand had firm footing — from its own e-commerce site at rebeccaminkoff.com, to global wholesale accounts and a large social media following — Minkoff turned the focus to physical retail. The first Rebecca Minkoff flagship opened on Greene Street in Manhattan’s SoHo in November 2014, and technology played a critical role.

“She wants to be catered to; she wants the brand to know her likes and tastes,” Minkoff said, noting that, previously, stores were unable to perfect the “human element,” whether this meant a sales associate trying to “stalk you down in the store” to the moment a shopper has to leave the fitting room to get a different size.

Minkoff wanted to solve all of these retail problems in the brands’ stores. For starters, smart fitting rooms allow shoppers to add clothing to a fitting room from a connected wall at the entrance of the store. Once inside the fitting room, they can adjust the lighting using the mirror that doubles as an interactive touchscreen to request different sizes or styles with the tap of their finger. Product recommendations based on what was brought into the fitting room also populate the mirror.

Minkoff said the combination of these features in the brand’s freestanding stores have resulted in apparel sales being three times higher than originally anticipated.

Today, the brand has seven stores in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and the Middle East. A door in Chicago will open next month.

Minkoff said the brand decided to take the notion of experiential retail even further last year when opening its Los Angeles store in October. He already knew that stores could serve as showrooms and distribution centers, but he wanted to see if the new boutique could double as an entertainment hub.

“Let’s have hip-hop yoga classes in the dark and let’s run each class with 30 people. Let’s do this four to five classes a day and see what happens,” Minkoff said.

The result: E-commerce traffic spiked, which led to a new theory for Minkoff.

“If you create entertainment in-store you have people in the store, but it’s that extended peer-to-peer network that goes on out there that created FOMO [fear of missing out]. It created an external surge of traffic on our social and e-commerce areas, which yielded higher conversion.”

Another example of this occurred in October when the brand partnered with Smashbox and Donald Robertson, who was hand-painting Rebecca Minkoff products in-store while customers were able to custom make lipsticks with Smashbox. Minkoff said this garnered 19 million impressions on Instagram for that night alone, along with a spike in web traffic and conversion.

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