Being a part of a purpose-driven company is important to me, because being purpose-driven aligns with my personal values. These values also play out in the way I shop. I’ve been a fan of TOMS since they started out in 2006. It’s a business built on doing good, and giving back, and it’s no surprise, TOMS continue to gain in popularity for that very reason.
When I heard that they were opening a store in the Mall of America, I was excited, but also puzzled. Why would an online brand open a store-front in 2017? And how would they bring that doing good/giving back promise to life in a retail setting? While I was excited for the store to open, finding out when it would be open, was a bit of a challenge. I finally found info on the grand opening weekend events on the Mall of America’s website. Nothing on TOMS, and no emails from them, which felt like a missed opportunity on the brand’s part.
I chose to attend the local-blogger hosted event. TOMS did it up right – it felt like a party in the store: a DJ, cupcakes and treats, balloons and plenty of staff to answer questions. The one missing item: the bloggers. Each promoted the event only once on their Instagram feeds, a few days before the event. At the store, they were engaging with some people, but not everyone. They seemed to be waiting to be sought out, rather than proactively engaging with customers.
The shining star in my shopping experience: The TOMS staff. Each was knowledgeable and passionate about their role. Each TOMS employee I interacted with wanted to share with me about TOMS and all the giving they do on behalf of their supporters (customers) when a purchase is made. One employee I spoke with said one of the reason to TOMS has store-fronts is so that they can engage with their supporters (customers). Question #1 – answered. Authenticity in your staff is key. Not only do they need to know the message, they need to believe and feel that message too. This translates to consumers and builds trust between them and the brand.
TOMS has the “doing good” strategy down – it is very apparent in all of its in-store messaging. TOMS continues to up its game by adding new products and new ways of giving (Question #2, answered). Where TOMS has an opportunity for growth is in marketing, building that emotional connection between consumer and brand. Many ideas come to mind: share specific stories of giving (there was some of this in-store, but I haven’t seen much online), create a hashtag, get customers’ contact info after they’ve made a purchase in-store, let consumers know where their donated pair of shoes went, incentivize consumers to interact and follow TOMS on social media, etc. We might call this Doing Good 2.0. Solely doing good no longer sets you apart – to rise above the competition brands need to fully engage and empower their consumers on an emotional level.
Overall my experience was great – the cherry on top was my actual purchase: awesome shoes and comfy socks. TOMS will continue to have a loyal advocate in me, as long as they continue to build on their foundation of being purpose-driven. One for One, it’s that simple.