How Knix Is Bringing Digital Strategy to Bricks-and-mortar
To say that it’s been an interesting 10 years for Knix CEO Joanna Griffiths is an understatement.
Back in 2013, Joanna Griffiths, who was 29 at the time, launched an idea she hatched while pursuing her MBA—leak-proof underwear for women. She looked to a crowdfunding platform to get her business off the ground. Today, her company is worth $100 million and is known for revolutionizing not only the way women view undergarments but also how they view themselves.
“It was a wild and outrageous idea,” Griffiths says about creating leak-proof underwear. “I wanted to make a product that a large group of people needed, that affected an intimate part of their lives. It affected their self-esteem and how they thought of themselves. In many cases, these women wouldn’t want to leave their house or be intimate with their partners. I knew something had to change.”
While Knix products have always been sold through their online shop, by January 2022 the company will have rolled out brick-and-mortar retail stores in six markets across North America—in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Santa Monica, San Francisco and San Diego.
The introduction of traditional retail shops is a big deal for Knix, though it’s not the first time the company’s products have been available in store. Her 2013 crowdfunding campaign was so successful, it resulted in a wholesale deal with one of Canada’s top department stores.
Griffiths says she didn’t see that important message of self-acceptance come through when she was selling her products through other retailers and so, never one to ignore her gut feeling, Griffiths decided to pull out of the wholesale business completely in 2016 and focus solely on building the company online and developing a brand that would become synonymous with women’s empowerment, inclusivity, innovation and self-love.
Her hunch paid off.
“Over three years, we grew 3,800 per cent,” she explained. “Running a company is really hard when things are going badly, but it’s just as challenging when things are going well and you have to navigate all the success.”
Developing an omnichannel digital strategy
Now, she is venturing into in-store retail with a clear focus on what she wants to accomplish. At the top of her list is creating a seamless experience for women, not only for the way they shop both online and in-person but also once again, making sure her customers feel like their best selves.
The stores will be an extension of the inclusive community Knix has so carefully created online—a warm and welcoming place where trying on intimates is a comfortable experience and where no question is too awkward to ask. But having a unified shopping experience is just as critical, she explained.
“Whether you have one store or 1,500 stores, the customers expect that it will be a seamless, omnichannel experience. They want to buy online, pick-up in-store or have easy in-store returns or they want to shop in stores and ship to home.”
According to the 2020 global survey of executives by Mckinsey & Company, the pandemic has accelerated the digital commerce experience by three years in North America. As a result, consumers are now sophisticated and experienced online shoppers. Respondents are three times likelier now than before the crisis to say that the majority of their customer interactions are digital in nature, the study reported.
“Today’s consumer is digitally savvy and they expect their shopping experience to be seamless with all the tools and benefits of e-commerce at their fingertips every step of their transaction path,” says Jason Test, PayPal’s vice-president of digital and in-store commerce. “They want information about the product before they step foot in the store, they want to pay for it with a tap of their phone when they’re in the shop and then they want to be able to buy a different colour online when they come home.”
Test says that the digital strategy behind Knix, both online and in-store, will go a long way in setting up this new phase of the business for success.
Griffiths has been careful about developing her business’s digital strategy and positioning it for growth from the moment she decided to develop the Knix brand into an online store. The first thing she did was invest in partners that would help her build and scale the business. “I found an amazing fulfillment center and partnered with a (website provider) so that I wouldn’t have to become a tech company,” she says.
At the same time, she implemented PayPal to process the payments, a move she says helped develop trust in the Knix brand as their customers were familiar with PayPal’s ability to provide secure transactions. “We partner with the best so that we can focus on what we do best,” she says.
Another tip she always passes along is the importance of having a checkout process that is “as seamless as possible” as it is an instrumental part of the online sales funnel and the in-store experience. “E-commerce is all about removing frictions to purchase, so streamlining that final step is extremely important,” she says. “It’s a smart business decision. This is particularly true when a company sells online where there’s a global market in play.”
“It was a really important step for us in the beginning when we started selling in multiple countries, we worked with PayPal in the background to make that happen,” she says. “It may seem like a small thing but when the sale is done in U.S. dollars, and you are paid in U.S. dollars, and it’s put in our account as U.S. dollars, those small gains really do add up over time.”
But planning for a digital strategy that will fuel a business both online and in-store is not just about today’s needs but about predicting tomorrow’s innovations. The 2021 Trends & Spends survey, commissioned by PayPal Canada, asked consumers what they expected from their retail experience in five years. About 29 per cent of respondents said they expected to see drone deliveries, 25 per cent said they expected facial recognition for payment and 17 per cent said they expected virtual-reality fitting rooms. Most insightful was that one in four respondents said they don’t expect to use cash at all within the next five years and three in five said they expect cashless transactions to be part of the typical shopping experience.
“This all points to the growing importance of the digital economy, not only online but in our physical existence as well,” Test says. “This is only going to become a bigger part of our lives and companies need to be prepared. Preparing for the future with innovation is what has led to Knix’s own staying power throughout the last eight years. From the very start of her business, Griffiths has always been able to pivot and look ahead rather than focus on what’s taken place in the past.”
“Pulling out of the wholesale business and focusing online was scary and terrifying but it was the best decision we ever made,” Griffiths says. “We learned the importance of investing in the brand and building community so that of all the competition, customers choose you.”
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