How one luxury brand is connecting online with offline so customers ‘never have to start over’

US premium lifestyle brand Shinola is using technology to help create a ‘singular’ customer experience but says it must not lose sight of the importance of a human touch.

Luxury watch and leather brand Shinola is hoping to close the gap between the online and offline experience to ensure its customers “never have to start over”.

The hope is shoppers who visit a physical store will be able to browse online at a later date (or vice-versa) and the website or in-store staff “will already know who they are”.

“Most retailers that say they’re ‘omnichannel’ are not. They’re actually ‘multichannel’,” says the company’s recently appointed CEO Tom Lewand, talking to Marketing Week at Dreamforce in San Francisco.

“What we’re trying to do is create a single-channel experience for the consumer so they never have to start over.”

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, the luxury lifestyle brand opened its maiden UK store in central London in 2014 and has more than 30 stores across the US, as well as a strong online presence and wholesale business.

A series of technology investments has allowed Shinola to track consumers’ behaviours on the website and in-store, as well as enabling it to create personalised experiences and journeys for its shoppers.

Previously, Shinola would supply an instruction manual with its watches but now it sends a pdf manual specific to that watch, for example.

Creating a personal experience

“[New technologies] really do allow us to customise the journey to who he or she is. Now we can give them that singular experience, so even if they live in the Bay Area [San Francisco] and decide to go to our store in Detroit, we’ll know who they are,” he adds.

Shinola, which was one of Marketing Week’s ‘100 Disruptive Brands’ in 2016, will also use technology to support customers post-purchase.

“In our case, most of our watches last six to seven years with a battery but we can track that. We can contact our customers after three or four years and say ‘hey, why don’t you come into the store and we’ll refresh your battery’,” he says

“We want to be able to deliver the experience that you want and not the ones you don’t.”

Human touch over tech

While Lewand says Shinola has seen significant early returns since adopting Salesforce’s cloud computing technologies two months ago, he is adamant “nothing, including technology, should replace personal interaction”, adding “not only is technology not a sales driver, technology follows everything else”.

Lewand says despite adopting new technologies, Shinola is still first and foremost focused on the interaction the brand has with the product, its team members and customers.

“We need to listen to consumers and be able to adapt to what they need,” he says. “We’re big enough that we have scale but not so big that we can’t pivot.”

According to Lewand, personal interactions such as touch and feel are still more important to the brand and he would consider it a win if customers don’t notice any changes made to its website since the introduction of cloud computing technology.

“Customers should be more comfortable going on our website now than they were a year ago. If we can do all of this in the background and you as a customer don’t notice, then we’ve done our job,” Lewand says.

The challenges

Satisfying its customers is one thing for Shinola but differentiating itself from competitors when it reluctantly falls into the over-saturated ‘lifestyle brand’ category is a different challenge.

“The only term I hate more than ‘omnichannel’ is ‘lifestyle brand’ and when you look around our store, well, we are kind of a lifestyle brand. So it becomes that much more important for us to customise that journey,” Lewand adds.

We want to be able to deliver the experience that you want and not the ones that you don’t.

Tom Lewand, Shinola

Having only adopted Salesforce platforms at the end of July, Lewand claims Shinola and its sister brand Filson have already experienced a” huge rise” in ROI that has “exceeded expectations”, but that success always returns to that “human element”.

“The most exciting thing we’ve recognised is how our associates are so eager to adopt new technologies. They’re really embracing it, whether it’s on the iPad or launching a new point-of-sale system. They’re excited about the idea that when you come to our store, no matter where it is, we know who you are,” he concludes.



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  1. Romario Eichlig 28 Sep 2018

    Your subheadline has a typo. 🙂

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