Behaving Boldly – How Chico’s re-imagined and repositioned their brand to add value and a point of view

GRMA Perspectives brings you insights from industry leaders.

This month we caught up with Shelagh Stoneham, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Chico’s to talk about their new campaign around age positivity that has been making waves in the retail industry. With the ascent of women’s influence transforming the marketplace, workplace, and our lives, there hasn’t been a better time to change perception about how women view themselves, celebrate their unique life experiences and how they embrace life with a style that is ageless.

Chico’s “How Bold Are You” campaign aims to celebrate women and the joy that comes with age. After two years of research leading to Chico’s brand refresh, including everything from product assortment to an inspiring campaign encouraging women to join together in growing both bolder and older, Chico’s is changing the conversation with their customer in the most authentic way.

Q & A with Shelagh Stoneham, Senior Vice President Marketing, Chico’s

Shelagh Stoneham, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Chico’s

Please share your thoughts around Age Positivity as your core cause:

Today, it’s not enough for brands to simply have great product. They have to authentically stand for something that resonates emotionally with their customer and their customer’s lifestyle. Chico’s is a happy, fun, positive brand for stylish women. We know our customer is not one age, one size, or one ethnicity; we are a brand of inclusion. Age positivity is a natural fit for us, because we truly believe that it’s important to encourage women to live life on their own terms. Whatever age or chapter they are experiencing, we encourage women to boldly express themselves. It was important for us to use our platform to share that with the world. The idea of growing “bolder” also resonates with our style: our clothes are bold! They are colorful! They have gorgeous prints! It’s wonderful to have a message that genuinely dovetails with who we are!

With changing demographics and new emerging trends, what was the biggest challenge Chico’s was facing in acquiring new customers and retaining your loyal customers:

We are very fortunate to have very high brand awareness; but we have much lower consideration, which is common when people don’t fully understand your brand.

We started the journey by doing a lot of research to better understand our current and potential customers. It confirmed that she really is, as we always say… “the most interesting woman in the room”; she’s smart, funny, opinionated, community minded.

We knew that by asking “How Bold Are You?”™, we would resonate with our current customer and attract like-minded new customers. It was a showcase for us to demonstrate that age is irrelevant to enjoying life in style.

What did you find was most relevant to your core customers today? How did this influence your decision with regards to designing product and experience for your customer?

Our core customer comes to us for style guidance and solutions.  Her body is changing and we help her look and feel fabulous. She also prizes our unique point of view, and that she won’t see herself coming and going in our clothes. We use our customer as the lens for all that we do, from our Most Amazing Personal Service in boutiques, to our focus on fit and fabric that flatters her body, to the influencers we work with on social media, to the hundreds of original prints our in-house artists generate every year. She is forefront in our minds. Our So Slimming™ technology, for example, ensures that pants are not only comfortable but are flattering on a wide array of body types. We always want her to know that we have gorgeous clothes that support her and her lifestyle, for nearly every occasion.

Describe today’s online and offline customer experience at Chico’s.

Our boutique experience is one of our key differentiators as a brand: our style experts are trained to help the women that shop with us find the clothes that truly fit their style and look best on them. They create relationships with their customers that sometimes span decades; it’s remarkable.

The next chapter for us is making sure to expand that amazing boutique experience digitally. Our website is beautiful, easy to use, and provides handy recommendations and tips, but we really want to make the exceptional personal service of our boutiques and call center available on dcomm for all who want it, when they want it.

Who owns the customer experience within your organization (Marketing, Merchandising, Operations, etc.?)

We have an entire division devoted to customer experience. But frankly the whole organization puts our customer at the core of everything we do. We’re a ‘customer first’ company. From a marketing perspective, that means making sure we deliver relevant content and experiences across all touchpoints. And that we stand for all things “bold”.

How do you co-create inspiration with your customers through social media.

We love hearing from our customers in social media. It’s a place where you can have a real time dialogue, and even bounce ideas off of your most vocal customers. We love to ask her questions with the new Facebook quiz functionality, and poll her on Instagram Stories. We also love to inspire her with posts from our favorite social media influencers: these women really know how to style and wear our clothes fabulously. We see great engagement when we repost them- it gives customers a sense of what Chico’s looks like on real life, very stylish women, in the “wild” as we call it. They show off the versatility of our pieces.

Can you share some of your measurable results from your product and brand refresh.

It’s still early, but we have seen an increase in brand consideration from our target, which we are thrilled about!

What would you have done differently, if anything?

Started this Bold movement earlier! It is really resonating, and we are looking forward to getting more and more women involved.

What do you see are the greatest opportunities for the future of retail.

Any time an industry is in flux there is tremendous opportunity. The future lies in in the combination of that ineffable emotional connection with customers followed up with delivering on that promise, via a seamless, personalized experience across all platforms, from mobile, digital, social, to bricks and mortar.