Executive's Corner

How Natori’s Direct-to-Consumer Ecommerce Strategy is Accelerating Brand Growth

Heidi Maund / 4 min read

This is an exciting time to be building an ecommerce brand.

As the director of ecommerce for Natori, a leading fashion brand, I’ve spent the last several years developing our direct-to-consumer channel.

Natori has been selling to wholesalers for over 40 years and direct-to-consumer for about 10 years, but we only recently began to dedicate the resources necessary to really grow our direct-to-consumer business.

Expanding our direct-to-consumer channel has successfully served our customers in new ways, but it has been a challenge and a learning process every step of the way.

In this article, I’m going to share some of the strategies we’ve used to accelerate our growth.

The Direct-to-Consumer Channel: Challenges & Opportunities

As both a B2B and B2C brand for so many years, I’d like to think we’ve seen it all and have discovered the most effective ways to navigate ecommerce.

We’ve replatformed and redesigned the Natori website on BigCommerce, and we’ve started to get more innovative with our digital marketing.

It has been especially exciting from a marketing perspective because we’ve been able to do so many interesting things.

Traditionally, we relied on wholesalers to do a lot of our marketing, but going direct-to-consumer has enabled us to share our brand story with customers on our own site and in our own way.

We’ve also always embraced the multi-channel approach to selling online, so in addition to the wholesale and direct-to-consumer channels, we’ve also sold first-party to Amazon for many years and are actively testing and exploring various marketplaces both in the U.S. and internationally.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as we’ve built and executed our B2C ecommerce strategy is also one of our biggest advantages.

Natori has a very large product catalog with beautiful apparel and accessories, which is wonderful for our customers, but managing our online catalog can be challenging when you consider all of the creative assets, photography, and content it takes to make it compelling—especially with a small team.

Our challenge—and our opportunity—has been to leverage all of the great talents of our team to create a luxury destination that our customers love to visit.

Now that we’ve moved over to BigCommerce, we’re set up for success and have many more marketing, digital experience, and design capabilities.

We’re able to leverage things like video, visual merchandising strategies, and artificial intelligence to engage and convert shoppers.

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Artificial Intelligence Increases Conversions, Revenue, and ROI

One of the things that has been really exciting and successful for Natori is using artificial intelligence for our direct response on social media.

For about a year now we’ve been using a fully autonomous artificial intelligence marketing platform known as Albert.

We put the majority of our creative assets into Albert and it determines what content will perform best based on the audiences the system is developing.

Albert optimizes the highest performing ads in real-time to serve up the right content for the right audience at the right time.

AI platforms get smarter over time as they accumulate more data, so Albert is constantly learning about our audience and getting even more intelligent all the time.

Our creative teams have traditionally approached creative from a standpoint of “artful,” but now they’re learning how to achieve artful and performance simultaneously.

Rather than sacrifice the Natori aesthetic, our work with Albert is more of an exercise in working with content differently to meet the demand of performance campaigns.

We’re adopting a performance mentality and learning to think beyond initial awareness of our campaigns.

One of the best-performing campaigns we’ve managed thus far was the launch of our sports bra collection earlier this year.

We gave Albert 18 different images, one 15-second video, and six options of copy to test. The system determined which social channels and ad formats would work best for the assets, as well as how much ad spend we should allocate for each platform.

We saw a 500% return on ad spend over the course of the campaign and built relationships with many new customers.

Overall, our experience with Albert has been extremely illuminating and profitable, having improved our 2017 holiday-related conversions by 84% and increased social media revenue by 76% in the first six months of using the artificial intelligence platform.

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What’s Next for Natori

Expanding internationally is a major initiative for Natori over the next couple of years.

While not all of our content will be localized, the currencies and taxes will be calculated based on the country. Natori has a lot of brand recognition in countries outside the U.S., so we’re excited about our international presence helping our brand continue to expand.

Personalization is another area of focus for Natori moving forward.

We feel very connected with our customers and want to have intimate and relevant conversations with them.

Of course, one of the challenges of personalization is that you’ll put off customers, so we’re being very strategic about our approach to personalizing content for them.

As a Natori customer who’s previously purchased a bra, for instance, wouldn’t you want to know sister sizes for bras or know that it’s been six months and it’s time to replenish your bra? Or be the first to know about the ready-to-wear collection that you had already shopped?

We see the power in personalization and plan to take advantage of it in the near future.

Final Thoughts

As you build and implement your own ecommerce strategy, I encourage you to allocate a portion of your time and budget to something that’s new and innovative.

Whether it’s virtual reality, artificial intelligence, or any of the other exciting new things happening in digital commerce, taking advantage of them can really help drive your business forward. Though they may not be on your radar, it’s important to step outside of the day-to-day and try something new.

Above all, always be your customer’s best advocate.

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