Reaching new heights with an innovative omnichannel strategy

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Omnichannel retailing melds the O2O customer journey to provide multi-channel best practices for great customer experience with compelling business outcomes. Perhaps no other retail brand does it better than American outdoor apparel retailer, The North Face with its commitment to fostering a culture of anytime and anywhere omnichannel retail, not just for their customers but their employees as well. To highlight their involvement with the upcoming Seamless Indonesia 2017, I caught up with their Head of Customer Life-Cycle, Ian Dewar in a quick phone interview, whilst he was on a hike at the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina. 

Ian Dewar

Retail guru and avid adventurer, Ian Dewar

D: Hey Ian, hope the connection is okay in the mountains! Thanks for giving us some of your time. Tell us a bit about your role and what that involves on a daily basis.

Hi Darren, yeah it’s cool from the top here, summer is my time of the year! My role is focused on building a complete understanding of our customers lifecycle from awareness to purchase to utilization of The North Face’s products.  As our products are relatively high ticket and have a very long use life we are very focused on getting to know our customers and encouraging them to take part in more outdoor activities.

My team uses purchase and behavior data to curate messaging and content delivery to our customers in a way that not only encourages them to come back to The North Face more often – but also to do more outdoor activities with the gear they purchase from us.

D:What is the biggest challenge that you’re currently facing and how are your team solving it?

Many of our customers look at us as a single item company.  They purchase a backpack, an insulated jacket or a rain jacket from us and we don’t see them again for years.  We are working to better understand what our customers love to do – so that we can tailor our messaging to those activities on a very personalized level.  We use our Loyalty program to encourage more event participation and we use social media to elevate the content and story telling to support these activities.  Since our products last a long time we don’t get much replacement business, however as we engage with our customers in more categories we are giving them more reasons to come back to The North Face for new product.


D:What one trend in the retail industry has your attention and why?

Customer are demanding uniqueness and personalization.  Gone are the days of black jackets and tan pants for outdoor activities. Customers are becoming more specialized in their activities and want product specific for what they are doing – be that fast-hiking on overnight get-a-ways, ski mountaineering, light weight rainwear for city use or even comfortable roomy tents for setting up a basecamp for a weekend at the lake.  No longer do we look at our customers as one type of “outdoor enthusiast” we see them as very much individuals and are starting to understand that our customers want to curate their own collection of products. We need to have more variation in color, more variation in product use and we need to be ready for ready for multiple use from city to forest to mountains.


D: How has retail changed since you first got involved in it?

Absolutely. When I first started in the outdoor industry it was gear.  Everything was designed specifically for an outdoor purpose but not for any other use.  Now there is a cross over with urban utility, with fashion, with student needs.  Our product is as likely to be used on a university campus as it is on the side of a mountain.  And our customers are demanding product that has high functionality and high visual appeal.

We need to work great and look good.  The addition of outdoor urban and athletic leisure has made the cross over from athletic wear to casual wear much more prominent and we are focusing now on being more relevant to our customers on and off the mountain.

D: Give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be presenting at Seamless Indonesia?

At The North Face the activities in mountain sports will always be our core product and will be the core customer we talk to – however as we expand into cities and countries that don’t have as many snow covered peaks we need to continue to be relevant.  In Indonesia we have a huge opportunity to tailor our message to an audience with a growing interest in outdoor activities – be it endurance running, hiking, rock climbing or taking a mountain holiday.

With the right combination of data and localization we can turn our stores into key adventure outposts and use social media to build an emotional connection with our customers that helps them learn to love the outdoors and continue to come back to The North Face for new product and new experiences.

D: Why are you excited to be participating in the conference?

I think Indonesia has tremendous opportunity in retail space and for a brand like The North Face in the activity and experience space.  Indonesian consumers are highly connected and love great digital experiences – with a strong content program and a link to key outdoor activities The North Face can build a connection with a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts.  I am excited to see the emergence of technology that connects in-store to online to real world experiences.  Indonesia is a perfect place for The North Face to encourage this since there are so many beautiful places to see from high volcanoes, to hiking trails, to perfect beaches to alpine lakes.

D: Thanks Ian! Happy climbing and see you in Jakarta for Seamless Indonesia! 


Wondering which peak in Indonesia that Ian will be coming next? Join him at Seamless Indonesia where over 70 innovators, disruptions and entrepreneurs will take the stage to discuss the latest trends and strategies for winning in the age of seamless commerce. Seats are limited, click HERE to find out more.


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