Personalization and positivity are top of mind for CEOs

NRF 2022: Leaders from WW International, Stitch Fix and Old Navy on meeting consumers’ changing needs

So rich was the insight during the Power Hour keynote at NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show that it couldn’t be contained in 60 minutes. The January 18 talk, “Power Hour: Leadership lessons on ruling retail with CEOs from WW International, Stitch Fix and Old Navy,” covered rebranding, purpose, discovery, shared values, size inclusivity, body positivity and sustainability over three separate 30-minute interviews.

Lauren Thomas, CNBC retail reporter, kicked things off with Mindy Grossman, president and CEO, WW International Inc. Grossman took the helm of WW, formerly Weight Watchers, in 2017. It has since taken a more holistic approach to overall habit change and wellness, rather than focusing just on weight loss.

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Watch NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show sessions on demand.

“I felt that this was an opportunity to transform a legacy business that had already been transforming lives for so many years, but now modernize it, bring it forward, and create both a financial and a human return on equity,” said Grossman, who has also held leadership positions at Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike and HSN. The last four years, she said, have been the most interesting of her career.

The pandemic has caused many to reassess their lives; health has risen in priority. But most don’t want to make sacrifices. The rebranded WW allows people to live the life they want to live and get healthy at the same time.

The new PersonalPoints, for example, is completely individualized, based on a person’s likes, lifestyles, behaviors and health and wellness goals. It offers challenges, community, diverse rewards that include helping feed underserved populations, on-demand content, coaching and positive psychology; consumers add points through healthy behaviors like activity and hydration.    

Today, Grossman said, a company’s competition isn’t only vertical. It’s also the “latest, greatest experience” that the customer had. If it was personalized and seamless, everything will compare to that.

Continuing on the personalization theme, Thomas welcomed Stitch Fix CEO Elizabeth Spaulding by video.

Spaulding, six months into her role, spoke about the new Stitch Fix Freestyle, allowing consumers to shop recommendations in their own personalized store. Consumers can now purchase items directly from Stitch Fix without first ordering a curated “fix.” “We are embarking on this mission of really becoming the global destination for personalized shopping, styling and inspiration,” she said.

Stitch Fix, celebrated for its successful marriage of data science and creative human judgment, has the advantage of understanding consumer preference – and knowing what they’re asking for, she said. More than half of the fixes sent have come with a client request. In addition, the company receives feedback on 85 percent of the items it ships. It helps reduce waste in the apparel supply chain by sharing information on fit, and has helped more than 30 national brand partners move into size inclusivity, allowing them to fine-tune their products as they expand their lines. It continues to add brands – including its own – and to ease processes. Consumers can now, for example, see a Fix preview to accept or reject items before they’re mailed.    

Old Navy President and CEO Nancy Green rounded out the keynote, also by video. She explored the company’s efforts in inclusivity – especially size inclusivity – noting that more than ever, customers want to connect with brands that mirror their values.

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Take a look at other upcoming NRF retail events happening this year.

The company partnered with a scientist to better understand body shape and size. It reinvented its fit process and size standards. But customers also wanted a fully inclusive shopping experience.

“They didn’t want to have to go to a different area in the store, and not be able to experience the same level of diversity of product and style, and they wanted it all at one price, because, you know, the industry typically charges up for extended sizes,” she said. “And so, we experimented with that, and found that the answer was all styles across all ranges of sizes, all at one price, and that resonated really powerfully.”

The experience has extended to online. The overall “BODEQUALITY” effort has also included training for associates so they know how to present items and talk about fit, ensuring anyone who walks through the doors feels welcome.

It’s all still early stages, she said, and the coming year will allow continued growth. The good news? Constant readjustment is certainly familiar.

“To me, what we’re facing right now is not new,” Green said. “We know how to manage through disruption.”

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