In the early days of fashion company Everlane, CEO Michael Preysman said he would never bring the company into physical stores. According to The Washington Post, he even said he would shut down the company before going brick-and-mortar. Today, Everlane has not one but two physical retail stores. Its second opened in San Francisco last weekend. Given this expansion, and the line of people I observed outside the San Francisco store all weekend, it doesn't seem like the company is experiencing much backlash against its updated strategy.
Leaders are not always as successful as Preysman when it comes to publicly changing their strategy. Here are three things he and the company did to maintain the trust of their customers during this time of transformation.
1. They maintained the company's strong core values.
Everlane was founded on a concept of radical transparency in retail. Everlane differentiated itself by being open with consumers about the costs of manufacturing, where money was going, and how the company kept its prices lower than traditional designer clothing. Now with a physical store, none of this changes. The company is not acting at odds with the strong brand and values it has established over the years. Instead, the company is leveraging its brand to expand its footprint.
Big changes in a company's plan are better received when they align with its established North Star.
2. They demonstrated their ability to innovate.
Deciding to open physical stores shows Everlane's ability to evolve with the industry. Over the past several years, previously online-only stores like Warby Parker and Amazon have established a physical retail presence. This is a direct result of technological growth and consumers' changing behaviors. Preysman has recognized that a lot has changed in retail since the company's start. While he could have chosen to stick to his word around the company's online-only strategy, Preysman instead adapted to a changing industry.
In our rapidly changing economy, it's always possible that new and unexpected factors may call for a company to change its strategy. When done in the right way, this change demonstrates an innovative mindset rather than a fickle one.
3. They stayed connected to their loyal customers.
Through its online offering, Everlane learned that customers want to be able to touch and feel products before purchasing. Everlane took this learning and spent two years experimenting on different types of stores with real customers before landing on its current New York City and San Francisco store formats. Through this approach, Everlane was able to bring its customers along on its transformational journey. The physical stores represent less a change of course for the company and more a deep investment in meeting customer needs.
When a change in strategy is rooted in what a company has learned from its customers, it communicates the company's investment in doing best by its customers. This makes changes in strategy not only accepted but appreciated.
While long-term vision is important to a company's success, it's also important to be able to adapt and evolve. The key is to do so in a way that stays close to core values, an innovation mindset, and established customer needs.