Lululemon Athletica is definition of a Canadian grassroots retail success story. From humble beginnings in 1998 starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, they went public in 2007 on the NASDAQ and for a period on the TSE, and now in 2017 they have over 10,000 employees and stores in 12 countries (plus lululemon.com) (Crunchbase, 2017; Reuters, 2017).
Lululemon has won a tremendous following of loyal customers and employees. The culture of the company is contagious; the people that work there live and breath it. In turn, this creates an incredibly authentic dialogue between the company and its customer base. Recognizing that lululemon ran for the first 10-12 years on grassroots marketing (and two in-publication ads), the success the company is experiencing is a huge testament to who the brand is – product-wise and culture-wise (Carter, 2013).
Like most companies that have become largely successful, lululemon has had a few missteps (see sheer pant scandal of 2013), multiple wins (see Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award)…and quite a few learnings as a result! For the purpose of this case study, we are going to look at customer engagement with lululemon, and focus on the use of social media for lululemon to engage with customers.
Nina Gardiner, previous Community Relations Manager for lululemon, is quoted as saying: “Making sure we’re really building those relationships (with customers) — that’s what really sets us apart from being just another retail store that’s opening up to sell clothes. Absolutely we sell clothes, but we are building relationships. We are supporting communities.” (Carter, 2013) Lululemon is great at fostering community – it is a strong part of the backbone of the company. Merging this with the social and digital world, Lululemon recognizes the importance of customer engagement. They understands that trends in advertising and brand loyalty shift, and innately utilize some customer management strategies, in brief (Stone and Woodcock, 2013):
- winning customers
- keeping customers
- developing customers, and
- efficiency in customer management.
I mentioned these strategies are innately used, and I mean that because they are so well embedded into how the business operates. For example, take lululemon’s Guest Education Centre, a great example of a customer education centre – a call centre that functions with Educators (aka “sales person”; at lululemon there is a strong focus on product education, rather then pushes on sales to a customer), the same as those you would find in the store. If you do not live by a lululemon store, have a question about your garment care or have an issue with a product … give them a call! Shopping online at lululemon.com and have a question? They have you covered – utilize the live chat, and you have an Educator at your fingertips to help you find the right product. Props to Lululemon for taking the great in-store experience an Educator can facilitate for you, and putting it online or on the phone.
Twitter is another platform that lululemon is recognizably busy on, with over 1 million followers on their @lululemon account. If you want to get a glimpse of how to engage with your customers online … take a look at their feed! This is a digital space that boasts two great areas around strategies for customer engagement, specifically digital and physical engagement and complaint handling. Not only does lululemon use Twitter to share new collections, products or promotional videos, but they really use this space as a conversion area. Lululemon can be seen interacting with customers that leave tweets discussing product rave reviews or questions, general comments on lululemon product integrated in life, as well as reach out to connect with customers who are in need of support for lululemon product issues.
Lessons for Others
“…the real winners will be those who have the strongest conversations with customers online…” (Hansen, 2016).
Lululemon has their customer engagement well dialled. They understand what the game is within the realm of the business they are running; they learn from their mistakes, play big and recognize the importance that came with the grassroots beginning of the company – connecting with the customer and fostering a sense of community, and knowing that will carry brand image and build brand loyalty.
Name of Organization Contact: None at time of posting
Authored by: Joanna Clarke
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Carter, L. (2013). Lululemon expands and finds balance with menswear. Retrieved on May 24, 2017 from http://newsarchive.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news-219239.html.
Crunchbase. (2017). Lululemon | crunchbase. Retrieved on May 24, 2017 from https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/lululemon#/entity.
Hansen, D. (2016). How Lululemon botched its sheer-pants controversy. Retrieved on May 24, 2017 from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/business-education/how-lululemon-botched-its-sheer-pants-controversy/article29914565/.
Reuters. (2017). Lululemon Athletica Inc (LULU.O). Retrieved on May 24, 2017 from http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/companyProfile?symbol=LULU.O.
Lululemon Athletica. (2017). Stock information | lululemon athletica. Retrieved on May 24, 2017 from http://investor.lululemon.com/stockquote.cfm.
Stone, M., & Woodcock, N. (2013). Social intelligence in customer engagement. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 21(5), 394-401.
Note: It should be acknowledged that the author is a previous employee of lululemon and holds some general knowledge of the company.