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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

lululemon athletica's Retail Experience

lululemon athletica SoHoI had never been to lululemon athletica. However, David Polinchock, my retail experience partner in crime who is passionate about the notion of 'oneline', insisted that we visit while in SoHo during our retail experience tour. I'm so glad we did!

[See Customer Experience: In-Store & Online for the introduction to our series which I started detailing in Levi's Retail Experience and now this post.]

The SoHo lululemon store was a feast for the eyes: delicious colors, interesting juxtapositions, and whimsical sections filled with intense yet relevant information.

lululemon athletica employees set goalsTake these clipboards on the wall. As you entered the store, they filled a section of wall immediately on the right-hand side. David pointed out that each clipboard represented information related to an individual store employee.  Note the photos.  Each clipboard captured an empolyee's 5 and 10 year goals. David and I spoke with a store associate who told us about her goals.

[On the lululemon website, you can hear from employees what lululemon means to them.]

In fact, you - as members of the lululemon community - are encouraged to set your own goals. You see, lululemon isn't just a store selling clothes. It's a place that is: "supportive, fashionable, empowering". Here's their blogpost on welcome to goal week.

[And a video of lululemon founder Chip Wilson on goal-setting.]

By the way, the "supportive, fashionable, empowering" quote comes from a recent article titled Health & happiness from the Charlotte Observer.

The article observes how lululemon, an experiential brand that successfully integrates the in-store and online experience, Charlotte store staff "began fanning out to make connections... They began and continue enthusiastically visiting yoga and Pilates classes and other active groups and events across the area, though not to practice heavy-handed salesmanship" but rather to talk culture and develop community.  Although lululemon athletica, per its website, specializes in yoga-inspired athletic apparel, both store and website go beyond apparel to embrace community.  

lululemon athletica community boardDavid pointed out to me that the store display units were on wheels.  The reason: on Saturdays, the store offers a free yoga class at 10am. For more information, check out yoga info 101 with details on the different types of yoga offered and yoga studios in the neighborhood.

I found a kiosk [pictured here on the right] with brochures, information, contact information, etc. relating to the community in which this SoHo store operates.

Another interesting program is that of community ambassadors "unique individuals in our store communities who embody the lululemon lifestyle and live our culture."  As described in the Charlotte Observer article, "...brand ambassadors ... receive a gift certificate for clothing and can regularly teach at the showroom in exchange for giving the company feedback on products."  The benefit: more business for ambassadors and increased awareness of lululemon.

lululemon athletica checkout[This post, lululemon athletica video shoot post from Glamamom, gives you a taste for how the brand lives beyond the physical store.]

As you can see from these photos here, the store is visually engaging. Take a look at this Design Feedback forum board where store visitors can share feedback on the products they've tried out.


No surprise, you can also share product feedback online.

As Bruce Sanders from RIMtailing noted in his post titled Offer Neatness to Creative Shoppers, the overall store layout conveys a sense of friendliness.

lululemon athletica product feedback In addition to its website, and blog, lululemon posts photos to Flickr. Images inspire [e.g., Imagine Running to Ethiopia; love your body], capture community moments [e.g., the 2010 lululemon Ambassador Summit] or show products in action [e.g., Dads Don't Stink].

Other interesting lululemon inspired findings:
In thinking over the lululemon athletica retail experience, I can't help but admire how well integrated all of the in-store and online elements are.  I'm also reminded of other organizations I admire, Zappos, Fiskars with the Fiskateers Brand Ambassadors and Trader Joe's.

In a recent post titled Be a marketing specialist not a generalist, Joe Pulizzi refers to Higher Purpose Content Marketing.  lululemon athletica strikes me as embodying higher purpose retailing.

Wouldn't it be amazing if more retailers could create high purpose retail experiences?

Added 9/18/2010:  Lululemon Grows Fast on a Slim Budget from Wall Street Journal

6 comments:

CV Harquail said...

C. B., I've always had a bit of a hesitation about lululemnon-- high prices, the life philosophy distilled from the teachings of a bona fide cult, and the general misuse of the brand's products by people trying to 'buy' the image rather than develop their 'practice'-- quite an array of hesitations, actually. But there is no denying it-- they really do execute on all of their ideas, in an integrated and interesting way. Thanks for such a complete (and well-linked) description. It would make great material for a class case conversation.
cvh

CB Whittemore said...

CV,

I really appreciate your comment. I was surprised by what I discovered and how consistently the online/offline integration works in nurturing the sense of community.

Thanks for sharing your perspective.

Best,
CB

Jennifer Hunsicker said...

Lots of great ideas in this article that I will keep in mind for our tile showroom! The Ambassasdors idea has really peaked my interest and I will be looking for ways to impliment a simular program. Thanks again for the inspiration!

CB Whittemore said...

Jennifer, thanks for the feedback. Please do let me know how you implement the amabassador concept and what results you see. That should be fascinating!

Best,
CB

Jill said...

Thanks for linking to Glamamom's post about lulu's musical. I hadn't puchased anything from them until a couple of months ago. I'm a marathon runner and always considered lulu more yoga-wear. I visited the Union Square store prior to the video shoot and bought some pants. Turns out they're great for running too. Distilled from a cult? Buying an image? I don't put that much thought into my athletic gear but I do like my new pants and would definitely return!

CB Whittemore said...

Jill, I really enjoyed your lulu post and love hearing about your experience with their gear.

I’ve been paying a lot more attention lately to athletic wear and now notice lulu being used for a variety of non-yoga activities. The company obviously puts a lot of effort into creating gear that works for active women. That’s cool!

Thanks for visiting and all the best,
CB

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