Beauty companies have embraced virtual try-ons so women can get the same experience of seeing what a product will look like from home
Amping up mobile push messaging — customers are the most connected via mobile right now and several retailers have embraced SMS and push notifications to reach them and provide updates on their retail store closures.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ranu Coleman, a seasoned marketing and communications leader with deep experience in the retail/fashion space. Ranu Coleman serves as the CMO direct-to-consumer bridal and bridesmaid dress company Azazie and their sister company and new fast-fashion e-tail brand Blush Mark. These digitally native fashion brands focus on high-quality, size inclusive (0–30 & XS-3X) and affordable styles — marrying innovative technology with online shopping. She joined Azazie in February 2018, and since, has been leading the marketing team in implementing brand strategy, driving awareness of Azazie’s product offerings and engaging consumers with the brand to bring them into one of their most successful years yet.
Prior to her work with Azazie, Coleman was a senior program manager consultant, store designer for Sephora, where she led the rollout of a new urban location prototype, Sephora Studio. She has held various marketing managerial positions at apparel brands, where she has negotiated and shepherded strategic partnerships with national brands including Nicole Miller, Skinnygirl by Bethany Frankel, Playboy, XOXO and Laura Ashley.
Coleman began her career as a brand manager for Earthbound LLC and received her bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Irvine and professional designation program-visual communications degree from Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). Ranu Coleman is married with two children and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always had a passion for the retail and fashion industry and decided to go to fashion school at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in LA after getting my bachelor’s degree at UC Irvine. It was hands down, one of the best decisions I’ve made. From there, I had an internship with Kenneth Cole in Fashion Marketing and never looked back.
Marketing felt like such a natural transition because it involves writing and strategic thinking, two things I loved that came naturally to me. After years of working in retail (both B2C + B2B) I worked my way up and am now the Head of Marketing for Azazie, a direct to consumer bridal and bridesmaid apparel company and Blush Mark, an online fashion retailer catering to the Gen Z market.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Working in the retail and fashion industry, you meet a lot of different people with strong personalities and I learned quickly how to have a positive relationship with those people and get them to engage and listen to your point of view. I had some instances in meetings with celebrity clients where we would receive very harsh criticism of our work or ideas, and it made me develop a thick skin quickly in order to stay positive and thrive in the industry.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
I spent a summer in between jobs working for a very high-profile banker in NYC, my background was in marketing and retail, so I wasn’t as well versed with all of the high players in the industry. One day, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, called to speak to my boss for a very important meeting and I not only put him on hold but proceeded to tell him he would need to call him back because he was busy. Let’s say that didn’t go over well — it was a very Devil Wears Prada moment! Learning lesson is always do your research on the high-profile people in the industry you are working in, you never know when your paths will cross!
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We continue to focus on projects that enhance the customer experience. Our goal is to continue to build a multi-channel model that creates a better customer experience, more value in our product, better design while always being affordable for both Azazie and Blush Mark.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Life is about the choices we make. Your time should be spent on the things that you are passionate about and that truly make you happy. “Burn out” happens when we try to do it all — I have never been afraid of hard work and having a full plate but I also prioritize what’s the most important and don’t sweat the small stuff.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My husband has played a key role in allowing me to strive for what I want professionally, I often have to take late night calls with colleagues who are overseas, work late and travel for my job and I never hesitate to do those things as I know I have his support. Without that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As a female leader, women’s issues and education are both things that are very important to me. Every year, I support a nonprofit that helps provide tuition, books, and supplies that one girl — who may otherwise not be able to afford it — needs to attend school for a year. Girls deserve equal opportunities for education, autonomy, and independence which is not valued globally. If I have the power to do my part in a small way, I will.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
- Online virtual shopping experiences on different social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram
- Virtual Appointments — Have 1:1 appointment with stylists through Zoom or Skype to still keep personalized experience
- Shop online and pick up curbside
- Beauty companies have embraced virtual try-ons so women can get the same experience of seeing what a product will look like from home
- Amping up mobile push messaging — customers are the most connected via mobile right now and several retailers have embraced SMS and push notifications to reach them and provide updates on their retail store closures.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
As a digitally native brand, we have always kept in account convenience for our customers, it’s one of the core pillars of our business along with creating different technologies and programs that help consumers shop from home.
Retail stores will continue to exist because it’s one of the few social options available. Malls and outdoor retail parks will do better because they are able to do social distancing with wide, open spaces
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
The Importance of pivoting — It’s very important to be as agile as possible right now when it comes to your business. At Azazie, pivoting came in the form of rethinking how to engage with customers and shifting to make sure that more of the most sought-after merchandise was available. We incentivized brides to do a Zoom party and pop the champagne and try on their dresses — trying to figure out ways that they can still have that bridal experience online. Blush Mark was originally supposed to be a special occasion wear brand but because of the pandemic, we shifted gears quickly and debuted a ready-to-wear, casual fast-fashion brand with an emphasis on loungewear and more casual pieces.
With people at home, being present and active on social media is more important than ever. Share stories, personal experiences and make your marketing as personal and targeted as possible. Work with influencers who resonate with your brand to help it grow. At Blush Mark, we work with 100’s of micro-influencers on TikTok that help elevate our brand — video is especially important as people want to feel connected emotionally to your brand.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Consumers are radically changing their lives in response to the new normal in retail. As more and more shoppers move online at accelerated rates, perhaps permanently, it is more important than ever for retailers to develop emotional intimacy with each one of their customers and create a shopping experience that’s uniquely personal to each shopper’s interests and tastes. Authenticity is important and creating that connection is more important than ever.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Promoting the importance of wellness and being active. Given that most people are now working from home and sedentary for hours straight, it’s more important than ever to promote an active and healthy lifestyle. Get up and walk around every 20 minutes, play outside with your kids, whatever works for you — take every opportunity you have to be active and take care of your body and mind.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!