We’re excited to have Miki Berardelli keynote this year’s GrowCommerce. Miki is a retail industry veteran who built her career at retailers like Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch and Chicos. Now, she’s taking on a new challenge by building a new kid brand from the ground up. This article, which was originally published in Forbes by GrowCommerce’s Veronika Sonsev, shares some of the lessons Miki has learned so far. If this piques your interest, make sure to apply to attend GrowCommerce on July 20th.
Miki Berardelli On Building A Brand From The Ground Up
Players in the market for children’s clothes are suffering from declining prices and seemingly insurmountable competition from discount stores like Walmart. But KIDBOX is innovating on traditional business models to beat the trends.
How are they doing this?
Enter—Miki Berardelli. She’s an industry expert and a marketing heavyweight, with decades of executive experience as Ralph Lauren’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Tory Burch’s Chief Marketing Officer, and Chico’s Chief Marketing Officer and President of Digital Commerce. Yet, she’s no stranger to startup strategy and culture, leading the entrepreneurial teams at each of her prior employers and taking on major initiatives like helping launch Tory Burch’s digital presence. And these days, she sits squarely at the helm of KIDBOX—a children’s apparel e-commerce company based in New York City that curates $98 boxes positioned as high quality, affordable outfits for kids.
What’s innovative about the the company’s approach? It’s borrowing proven growth strategies from other retail categories and applying them to a new category—kids.
— It’s a subscription box like Stitchfix or Le Tote, but for kids clothing.
— It uses a machine learning algorithm to curate the products for each kid—only a handful of companies currently do this.
— It’s the first player in children’s retail to build in a social giving component to their shopping experience tapping into socially conscious consumer market.
— It’s leveraging the popularity of parents sharing kids photos on social to drive both paid and organic growth via social media.
KIDBOX is building its business to scale fast, but without reinventing the wheel. Berardelli shares how her team is incorporating and building upon existing tactics to compete in world of kids e-commerce.
Veronika Sonsev: You’ve spent your career growing established brands, so what’s different about building a brand like KIDBOX from the ground up?
Miki Berardelli: I’ve had the opportunity to work for amazing brands over the years in the most entrepreneurial and high-growth parts of those businesses. I joined Ralph Lauren when the e-commerce business was only a year old. I served as CMO at Tory Burch, which was a newly created position at the time, and was part of the team that grew the business to a billion dollar global brand in less than 10 years. I also oversaw toryburch.com, which was the fastest growing division within the company during those years. So, essentially, I worked in the most “startup” parts of the businesses. From these experiences, I learned how to build new businesses and started to love high growth environments.
At KIDBOX, I’m most excited about the opportunity to build a culture from the ground up. Having been CEO since the beginning, I’m leveraging my past experience to cultivate the startup culture while managing every detail of the business strategy as we scale.
Sonsev: What has been your most effective marketing tactic and why?
Berardelli: We’re all about social—social media and our social mission. Our shopping experience lends itself easily to social media, so we’re using this channel to gain traction fast. Since the content of our subscription boxes are always a surprise to the recipient, we organically tap into the latest “unpacking” video trend on YouTube and Instagram, wherein customers film themselves unwrapping their purchases. We encourage our customers to capture and share the moments their children open their boxes, and we amplify the buzz on Facebook and Instagram by re-sharing their posts.
Facebook is a big part of our social strategy. To reach new customers, we do some Facebook advertising with a focus on targeting strong prospective customers. We also leverage our Refer-a-Friend program through all of our customer touch points, including social, and we’re seeing great results. Finally, Facebook functions as a customer service channel where many consumers now go to resolve any issues or ask questions. What we’ve learned is that the most powerful Facebook marketing is word-of-mouth, and we try to catalyze on this as much as possible.
We also started the company with a social mission at our core, knowing this hasn’t been explored in the kids realm and would help deepen our connection with Millennial consumers. Through our partnership with K.I.D.S. Fashion Delivers, for every KIDBOX kept, we clothe a child in need. This inspires our parent customers to not only start conversations with their children about “giving back,” but also encourages word-of-mouth amplification about our subscription service, helping us acquire customers more cost effectively.
Sonsev: People always learn more from their mistakes than from their successes (at least, according to the age-old adage). What “hard-earned” marketing lessons have you learned? How did you learn those lessons?
Berardelli: I can honestly share that most of the mistakes that I have made along the way were associated with not speaking up when I had a strong feeling that a business decision being made was not in the best interest of the customer. At KIDBOX, we never make a decision without looking at it through the lens of the customer to ensure that it does not conflict with delivering the best customer experience possible. The customer always sits at the head of the table for us, and we listen to her closely through social, customer service and customer research.
Another challenge has been consistently navigating back and forth across the “art” and “science” of marketing throughout my career. The early years of my career were focused on data, direct response and the precise measurement of marketing tactics. The more recent years have been equally focused on brand building and staying true to both a brand’s differentiators and its unique position in the marketplace. I’ve learned the true magic happens when you strike right down the middle.
For example, the “art” at KIDBOX lies partially in our photography. To position the brand accurately and maintain authenticity, we make sure the children we work with have fun and are genuinely excited about the brand. The “science” then comes in with the data we use to drive our marketing communications. We also personalize the messages from our stylists to our customers in a relevant and manageable way using data.
For us, that has been a winning formula — putting the customer first and balancing between art and science in how we communicate with them.
Sonsev: How are you using data in your marketing efforts?
Berardelli: This is all where the “science” of marketing comes into play in a powerful way. Having a subscription business model, we are big believers in the power of data and harnessing it in a way that enhances our customer experience. Our technology team developed proprietary algorithms that hit against our product assortment to serve up the most relevant box of for each child based on how the style profile was completed during our on-boarding process and additional information we collect based from returns. Because we’re a subscription service, our inherent repeat business continually feeds the algorithms with new data that will improve the personalization of our style choices, something that traditional retail models don’t enable.
We are just starting to architect how we are going to approach customer relationship marketing (“CRM”) as we scale the business. We currently utilize customer data to plan our seasonal outreach to customers based on their histories and preferences. Now, we’re in the process of developing our customer insights and customer profiles, so we can leverage the data to better target our marketing efforts at scale.
Sonsev: What’s on the horizon for KidBox that you’re most excited about?
Berardelli: The list of things that excites us is very long. One example is the upcoming launch later this Spring of Baby for KIDBOX, which will make our size offering the most extensive in the children’s style box landscape. We continue to perfect our proprietary algorithms. We are also exploring ways to expand our offering with “moment” boxes between our key seasons and curated shopping experiences that continually enhance our connection with our customer.