Building a community came naturally for casual men’s shorts and apparel brand Chubbies, as it’s the approach the company has taken from the very beginning. The brand which started as weekend of fun among friends has built its mission on creating an open dialogue with customers.
“It’s really important to treat the customer like friends,” said Rainer Castillo, founder of Chubbies, in a presentation at eTail West. “We bring customers to the forefront.”
The brand, which was initially online only, now has nine physical stores. Castillo said most brands that are digitally native are afraid of fully embracing retail. Before opening any stores, the company sent out an email survey to customers asking their feedback about where they should be built.
Feedback from customers is so important for Chubbies that everybody in the company has access to feedback loops focused on one-on-one customer conversations, Castillo said. Chubbies associates also respond to post-purchase surveys, seeing it as a way to surface ideas and do things differently as a brand. Castillo said having fluid conversations with customers help build trust and loyalty.
“We have a customer committee making sure the customer voice is in the conversation,” he said.
Going from a pure-play company to a hybrid physical and digital brand introduced some operational complexities, not the least of which was distribution across channels. “We’re learning on the fly,” said Castillo. “We have some stuff to figure out to make sure it’s seamless (to the customer).”
Castillo said Chubbies also tries to make interactions fun for the customer, often offering “surprise and delight” gifts with a purchase, as well as special promotions on major shopping days.
For example, Cyber Monday became “Thighber Monday” where for 12 hours customers received a special gift with each purchase.
Chubbies also connects with brand ambassadors by scouting local universities. It has active conversations on Facebook groups and creates photo challenge campaigns.
“It was never a sales mechanism – it’s about content for the customer and it’s about the community,” said Castillo. “We want to own your weekend, building content and merchandising for weekend fun.”