As we delve deeper into the digital era, the retail industry is experiencing a seismic shift. Currently leading the charge in this transformative evolution is video commerce, a revolutionary medium that is completely redefining the way consumers engage with and purchase from brands. Despite its clear benefits and growing influence, many find the task of deciphering this innovative technology exceedingly complex, especially when differentiation among the vast array of available platforms comes into play.
Recently, we had the distinct opportunity to sit down for a conversation with Ken Natori, the president of the trailblazing fashion brand Natori. With a unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, Natori has managed not only to navigate but also to adapt and thrive in the midst of the ever-changing retail landscape. During our discussion, Ken shared enlightening insights into Natori’s transformative journey, specifically shedding light on the critical role video commerce has played in their adaptive strategy.
But their evolution has not stopped there. Natori has harnessed the power of platforms like Firework to significantly simplify their content creation process, enabling them to offer a more interactive and engaging brand experience. Through this, they have forged much deeper, more meaningful connections with their customers, highlighting the invaluable role technology now plays in the retail experience. Ken’s insights offer a compelling look at the present and future of retail as we continue to navigate the bold frontier of the digital era.
The Evolution of Natori: Adapting to a New Retail Landscape
Founded 46 years ago, Natori initially strove as a purely wholesale business partnering with renowned department stores such as Saks, Neiman Marcus, Nordstroms, and Bloomingdale’s. The business model, however, in 2008 underwent a significant shift, pivoting towards digital commerce.
Ken underscores this seismic shift, stating, “We launched Natori.com as an e-commerce site in 2008, and it’s been an incredible journey seeing the business transform from a wholesale-only to omnichannel.”
Navigating the move to include a direct-to-consumer model wasn’t easy.” We launched it quietly, not wanting to make a big initial splash, and the business quickly gained traction.”. We worked closely with the stores, and we were very transparent with them,” said Ken. “We certainly never competed with them on price, which I think helped and was the thing they were the most concerned about at the end of the day. It was additive to everybody because it gave customers a better understanding of our brand and drove more visibility. This actually helped our brand’s performance in-store with our retailer partners.”
This transformative milestone has seen Natori evolve into a formidable omnichannel operation. What’s more impressive about this evolution is that it meant for Natori more than just selling products. It instigated a paradigm shift in the company to prioritize relationships over transactions. Ken characteristically iterated the company’s vision, explaining, “What we’ve really been trying to do over the last couple of years is to have customers come to Natori.com, not just to execute a transaction. We want them to come to Natori.com because they get value from it.”
This progressive approach has established a deeper, more meaningful relationship with its customers—propelling Natori as a pioneer in today’s retail landscape.
Engaging Customers: Content Creation and Storytelling
Natori’s evolution into a lifestyle brand speaks volumes about its innovative approach to engaging customers. This comprehensive transformation goes beyond mere product diversification; it’s deeply rooted in creating a bond with its consumers. This bond is fostered not just through its products but through a variety of mediums, which include its website, social media, and, notably, the rising phenomenon of live streaming.
Over time, Natori has developed a keen understanding of its customers’ changing preferences. Recognizing that in today’s digital age, customers desire more than just products, Natori has strived to form a deeper connection based on understanding and trust. As Ken puts it, For customers today, it’s not just about product… anybody can make a product. What differentiates us and what makes people, our fans, loyal to us is they feel a connection with our product and with the story and the people behind the product.”
In their endeavor to foster this emotional connection, Natori has been making significant strides in content creation and storytelling. Platforms like Firework have played a quintessential role in helping Natori craft a narrative that resonates with its clients. Firework’s live streaming capabilities have not only simplified the content creation process for Natori but also energized the way they interact with their customers in real-time.
By leveraging such platforms, Natori is able to effectively showcase its wide-ranging product categories while enhancing engagement. It allows them to highlight the story behind each product and weave an enchanting brand narrative while also facilitating customer interaction.
Looking Ahead: Natori and the Future of Video Commerce
As Natori navigates into the future, a significant part of its strategy involves broadening its product range, going beyond its core categories of sleepwear and intimates. Natori’s vision is to evolve from simply being an apparel brand to a comprehensive lifestyle brand, providing a holistic East Meets West experience across multiple product categories. This evolution is seen as an integral part of allowing the company to forge stronger, more personal connections with their customers.
A pivotal role in this transformation will be played by live streaming. Natori envisages live streaming as an invaluable tool for both engagement and content creation, allowing them to connect with customers, tell their stories, and showcase their extensive range of products. With a commitment to increasing the frequency of live streams and experimenting with innovative content formats, live streaming is pegged as a cornerstone of Natori’s digital growth strategy.
Ken Natori offers a piece of advice to brands contemplating the use of live streaming: prioritize it. While acknowledging the initial apprehensions surrounding live streaming, he emphasizes the potential benefits. According to him, engaging with viewers through live streams results in longer dwell times on the site, higher engagement levels, and conversion rates that are more than double the average. “The customers who watch the live streams are engaging and staying on the website substantially longer than all other customers and they are converting more than 2X or average customers,” explains Ken. “Just getting it set up and making that commitment is probably the biggest starting step. It will be a substantial part of the future, so it’s time to get started.”
Video commerce, Ken Natori believes, is not just a transient trend but the future of retail. Natori’s evolution as a brand provides an illustrative example of how embracing this future can lead to growth, improve customer engagement, and enable effective brand storytelling. More so, Ken goes on to posit a subsequent reality where retail brands can even function as media companies.
In the era of experiences, storytelling becomes paramount, with a brand’s ability to offer enriching, experiential content determining its success. Therefore, in aligning with this prediction, Natori seeks to merge retail and media, creating a unique fusion that enhances its brand proposition even more. Firework has been instrumental in helping Natori reach its lofty goals.
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