Q&A: Roots Canada on the Employee-Customer Emotional Connection

Canadian consumers may not be that much different from any other consumer, but at Roots Canada, the brand is capitalizing on what they know is true about their Canadian brand loyalists and bringing those concepts to new initiatives that will help the brand expand internationally.

James Connell, the brand’s ECommerce and Marketing VP, is working to ensure Roots is using methods like personalization and retargeting, and really personal customer service to keep Roots’ customers happy, no matter where they’re shopping the brand.

The eTail Blog: Based on what you might know about other global retail trends, what’s different about the Canadian online shopper?

James Connell

James Connell: It has been our experience that Canadians will consume more online content than our international audience, but will more likely go to a store to transact. The expectations that Canadians have for excellent customer service are also higher than our international audiences. Historically, because Canadians have had to shop on non-Canadian online retail sites to find the selection they are looking for, they have a high level of sophistication when it comes to the online shopping experience. They expect domestic retailers to meet or exceed those international standards.

eTail Blog: How important is it to the Canadian consumer to have an emotional connection with the brands they shop? If important, how are you working to make customers feel that connection?

James: I wouldn’t say it is more important to a Canadian or an international consumer to have a strong emotional connection to the brands they shop, but as a merchant it is a tremendous advantage to have that connection. At Roots, we have the privilege of being identifiably Canadian for almost 40 years, which brings along with it a sense of patriotic pride. But we also do our best to provide excellent products that are good value and provide an excellent customer experience while doing so. By serving our customers in all these methods with a strong emotional connection, we hope that consumers will be focused more on the product and its features than primarily the price of that product.

eTail Blog: On the same topic, how are you using personalized messaging at Roots to better build experiences with your customers?

James: We use personalized product recommendations on the highest ranked entry pages and a variety of other locations throughout the browse cycle on roots.com. Additionally, we leverage the same information into our email marketing programs so we are able to automatically trigger a variety of emails based on customer browse and purchase behavior. As we become more successful at these projects we’ve seen success extending these types of personalization efforts out to our retargeting programs.

eTail Blog: What kinds of interactive marketing are you implementing at Roots? Are you doing anything with banners, reward programs, sweepstakes and online chat with customer service representatives?

James: We’re executing all of the initiatives you’ve mentioned and then some. As a result of the success of our online initiatives, we now are migrating more and more of these programs into our store channels to address the needs of our customers across their behaviors online, in-store, on the phone and via smartphone.

eTail Blog: How are you working to make Roots an educational source as well as a retail outlet for your customers?

James: We are continually expanding our site content to include more information about our company, our products and our initiatives. This information is shared both internally as well as with our customers on our main site, our blogs and social media channels. A consumer, after spending an hour reviewing our videos on YouTube or our wall on Facebook, could have a very solid sense of what our company’s beliefs are, the products we sell and what Roots stands for. In each of those touch points there is messaging about the products featured and very often links to purchase those products online so a consumer could easily be a few clicks away from a purchase.

eTail Blog: How do you change the mentality within your organization to support your personalization goals?

James: Roots is very community focused so there was never a need to drastically shift how we approach our customers. That being said, internally in our ecommerce department it is hard to have a one-on-one connection with our customers because we never see them. As a result, we employ a variety of tactics to connect everyone on staff directly with our customers.

For example, every staff member on the roots.com team was responsible for contacting a list of customers to thank them for their business over the prior quarter and ask what we could do to provide better service in the year ahead. We also send out written notes to thank customers for their first purchase so we all get a little closer to the people who are behind the average KPI’s that we look at every day.

eTail Blog: What are your top 3 marketing priorities for 2012? How are you working to get those priorities implemented?

James: 1. We’re looking to take what we have learned from our digital marketing practices and use that information to market the same way to our in-store customers. We are integrating the data from the two programs to become more intelligent about how and when we communicate with all of our customers, whether they are online or in a store. We have started to align our POS systems and educate our staff members to execute this strategy in the near future.

2. We also see an enormous opportunity for revenue growth outside Canada, so we have taken the brand to new locations by participating in events like Aspen Fashion Week, where we had not been present in the past.

3. Lastly, we intend to extend our social media strategy to the local level and build communities around each individual store and get more involvement from local staff, which we feel will bring a level of service and connection that we could never provide at a global level.