Retail Executive

NOV/DEC 2017

Retail Executive is the trusted advisor to top retail executives from the industry’s most profitable retailers. We help retail executives succeed in their job role and grow their business via exclusive, actionable, peer-driven content.

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and let them run with the execution. I served as their thought partner by answering their questions and pro- viding thoughtful feedback, skeptically validating their ideas and offering insight when necessary. Retail Executive: In what ways does Birchbox help the user truly get to know, understand, and use its products? Agarwal: We have several touchpoints with our cus- tomers whereby we educate our customers about their products, how to use them, the ingredients in them, and more. Every monthly box includes a card with informa- tion about each sample and directions for using it. Our social team develops dynamic content for all of our chan- nels, including YouTube, Instagram, Instagram Stories, Facebook, Facebook Live, and our online magazine that's designed to provide easy tips and tricks, trend insights, and useful info from our merchants. Our copy team also writes the product descriptions and how-to-use details for every single product on Putting things in the Birchbox voice is how we make beauty exceptional- ly approachable and relevant for our customers. Retail Executive: How important are brand advocates to boosting the customer experience for your users? Agarwal: It's twofold. We will potentially partner with certain brands to create unique content for our customers. Also, we ensure that our internal "discovery specialists," as we call them, are fully equipped to un- derstand each and every product so that when some- one calls us with a question, our fully trained team is able to provide the highest and best support. Retail Executive: How do you rely on social media to operate the business? Agarwal: This new generation of customers wants to hear directly from the brand in a very honest, human way. We rely on social media to deliver our honest mes- sages. There's something very pure about having some- one in the company take over Birchbox's Instagram Stories to showcase her beauty routine. Customers respond to that — they want to know real people work here and do the same things they do. Our Instagram Stories are different every day. Every couple of days, someone from one of the teams takes over our Insta- gram Story to share her life. I've used Instagram Story to offer a sneak peek of our warehouse. We're not try- ing to keep any secrets here at Birchbox. We want to be transparent, so I gave them a tour. We view social media as a really wonderful way to remain a human brand and to stay in touch with our customers. ees' jobs involve owning something end to end. As such, one of the associates created an entire inventory plan- ning process for our packaging. She put us on blanket contracts with vendors; she worked with every internal team responsible for packaging changes, etc. Not only did that help the profitability of our company, but it also helped to create unique customer experiences, because we had time and processes to invest in updating our packaging. In many companies, you wouldn't expect your associates to own such an important revamp. This goes for me, too. I am fully empowered in my own role to create the vision for operations. Birchbox trusts our judgement, and we hire people who real- ly believe in that as well — people who want freedom mixed with structure. Retail Executive: You encourage your team to be "thought partners" while giving them the free- dom to reach their goals in the way they see fit. How do you foster this collaborative environment? Agarwal: There are 12 people on my team, and we have conversations every single day to talk through challenges, ideas, etc. But I try very hard to not tell them exactly what to do. That's what keeps us running well. We have an extremely fluid group working with us, which builds a culture of collaboration. It also allows us to put multiple people in a room to think about a prob- lem in a different way. I try to make sure that everyone knows how to do their job well while remaining a func- tional expert. We ensure that we're thought partners for each other. Here's an example. As a company, we set a goal to save a certain amount of money. I translated that into an op- erations goal, which I then shared with my team, as we are fully transparent. From there, our fulfillment and warehousing manager then had the freedom to reach that goal as he chose. In fact, he's already done so in a variety of ways. He identified that we were overbuilding boxes each month. By building fewer boxes and focus- ing the labor elsewhere he was able to reach his goal. The point is that he had the freedom to create the plan to achieve the goal he designed. He took ownership of the problem, which created a more realistic approach to the problem than I may have seen, because he's the one closest to the issue. Here's another example. I challenged our technolo- gy team to create a more targeted experience for our newest subscribers. They leveraged technology to de- termine a specific subset of new users. My goal was to create special welcome boxes to make sure this specific subset of new users felt welcomed into the Birchbox ex- perience. But I did not give the technology team a spe- cific direction. Rather, I explained the desired outcome RETAILEXECUTIVE.COM NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 20 EXCLUSIVE RETAIL FEATURE Executive By E. Harris BETTING BIG ON BIRCHBOX

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