Interview: Ranu Coleman on the Power of Inclusivity and the Importance of Referrals
The DTC fashion brand marketer explains how affordability and approachability factor into customer loyalty.
Welcome to Direct-to-Conversation, a recurring interview feature from DTC Magazine. These conversations highlight insights, advice, and innovation strategies from leading thinkers in the DTC, eCommerce, and retail space. Our most recent interview was with Krysta Lewis, who is the founder and CEO of Aisling Organics, a beauty and personal care product DTC company, that focuses on clean, plant-based products.
In this Direct-to-Conversation, we catch up with Ranu Coleman, who is the Senior Director Of Brand Marketing at Azazie, the DTC wedding and formalwear maker, and Blush Mark, the DTC women's fashion app and online retailer.
DTC Magazine: Fashion is not known for being the friendliest or most hospitable industry for newcomers. How did you initially get involved with Azazie and Blush Mark?
Ranu Coleman: 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. You will always meet some strong personalities in this industry, however you can always find ways to grow and thrive from these experiences.
I discovered Azazie back in 2017 and everything about the core values of the company appealed to me — size inclusivity, convenience and affordability and being women-centric. I knew this was a company I wanted to be a part of that was truly disrupting the bridal industry. We also recently launched Blush Mark, an online fashion brand catering to the Gen Z market. They are two very different brands, but both hold true to the core values and principles that started with Azazie.
Customers would rather select their vendors based on a peer-to-peer recommendation and online reviews.
DTC: Speaking of a general inclusiveness, it's hard not to notice the considerable effort that has gone into making Azazie and Blush Mark brands that offer a wide range of sizes and prioritizes diversity on their sites. How does this factor into building customer loyalty? Are the results easily quantifiable?
RC: For Azazie specifically, the bridal industry is very referral based. Customers would rather select their vendors based on a peer-to-peer recommendation and online reviews. Providing an experience that is affordable and convenient, offering a breadth of styles and colors, as well as sizes that fit every body type from (0-30) along with free custom sizing, are all reasons consumers come to us. We have developed the customer loyalty because of our excellent customer service reviews — we have an outstanding CX team — and we know that customers feel hesitant about buying something as important as a wedding dress online, but when they see our 5 star reviews and hear the great experience their friends had with Azazie, they establish that comfort level and loyalty with us.
For Blush Mark, in addition to the size inclusivity aspect, we also wanted to be mindful of affordability, without sacrificing quality. We sell tops starting as low as $4, and while we have had customers be very skeptical of our price points, once they receive the clothes they are blown away by the quality! For Blush Mark, being fashionable doesn't have to break the bank and customers love us for that. They want to be able to have a rotating wardrobe without spending a fortune, especially during the pandemic, and that's what we strive to provide and the numbers are apparent in the amount of repeat customers who shop with us.
We wanted to create something that offered affordability and convenience, and we were mindful of what was happening in the world.
DTC: We're obviously in a strange moment right now where the need for apparel has changed. How do you convey the value proposition of your companies in a time in which the relationship we have with our clothing is especially in flux?
RC: It’s interesting because even though there was some risk we took in launching Blush Mark during a pandemic, the majority of all shopping shifted to online, and affordability became top of mind for consumers. As an online-based brand, we wanted to create something that offered affordability and convenience, and we were mindful of what was happening in the world. At the onset of our launch, we focused our offerings to things like "work from home" attire, more loungewear, and zoom ready tops.
For Azazie, people are still getting married probably more now than ever because they want to celebrate their love even if it's in a much smaller way especially during such uncertain times. We created a bridal collection called "Azazie Romance" with bridal gowns starting as low as $199 with styles that are more simple for elopements or micro-weddings. We shifted to cater to the consumers’ needs and changing landscape.
Affordability is more important than ever with 60% of consumers saying they have cut back spending and that is something that is always top of mind...
DTC: What are some of the ways that being a digital-first brand enables you to pivot and adapt to the current uncertainty of the moment?
RC: We actually launched Blush Mark in Spring 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Stemming from our experience with Azazie, our initial launch strategy was to create a special occasion ready-to-wear brand, but we immediately saw the buying behavior shift and quickly pivoted our strategy to create a product assortment consisting of casual, yet fashionable looks. We developed a robust marketing plan and micro-influencer strategy that boosted traffic and sales.
For Azazie, we stayed on top of production when factories were closed (even moving production to different locations in some cases), increased our return window from 30 to 45 days given all of the uncertainty with wedding planning, and also reduced the prices of some of our bridesmaid dresses. Affordability is more important than ever with 60% of consumers saying they have cut back spending and that is something that is always top of mind and a staple of both Azazie and Blush Mark.
Your time should be spent on the things that you are most passionate about that will truly move the needle and take the company forward.
DTC: Your day-to-day involves a lot of hands-on work with two different brands. Without giving away any trade secrets, what are your strategies for balancing all the demands of your time?
RC: 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. Your time should be spent on the things that you are most passionate about that will truly move the needle and take the company forward. It's important to have a strong team that you can rely on to manage several of the initiatives you can't.