January 26, 2022

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Ariel Kaye of Parachute on Stores as Relationship Centers

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We may be living at the height of the ecommerce era, but there’s something so satisfying about the sensory in-store experience.

This is especially true when buying items like bedding and home goods, where texture, color, and quality can best be assessed in person with your eyes and hands.

For Parachute founder Ariel Kaye, retail stores are a critical piece of the puzzle. That commitment isn’t likely to change for the brand anytime soon.

Use stores to foster education

Retail as a key strategy is something that Kaye is immensely excited about.

“I’ve always been bullish on retail specifically for our brand,” she says.

I can speak to the experience that a customer can get when they’re able to touch and feel our product. It’s just so special and can be really valuable for the customer as they’re making their decision around our products and getting inspired and educated on the brand.

The key word here is educate. That education is a vital two-way street.

“I view our stores as relationship centers. They’re a place for us to get to know our customer, for our customer to get to know us,” Kaye says.

Parachute’s stores are designed to feel like a home, so that products are showcased in their most authentic setting.

Pre-COVID, Parachute stores regularly hosted events, workshops, and speaker series that furthered their goal of brand education and awareness. It’s only a matter of time before those events return.

Embrace how your customers shop

Like any good relationship, Parachute’s goal is to give customers the freedom to do what’s best for them.

That means that they are not always buying products at the register.

“We went from being a brand that wants to be where our customers are, with physical locations, and now we want to be a brand that can be how our customers shop. What we’re seeing is there’s going to be a continued change in preferences in the way that people like to shop and be out in the world,” Kaye says.

In other words, some people are going to be comfortable spending lots of time in a physical store, while others prefer to make most or all of their purchases online.

This means making it supremely easy to do things like buy online and conveniently pick up in-store.

“We’re always putting the consumer first and trying to think about how we can create a better customer experience. And this just feels like a pretty easy way for us to be thoughtful and mindful about preferences around shopping.”

Is it worth still having retail stores when customers are shopping this way? For Parachute, the answer is a clear yes.

“We do see a tremendous impact on our ecommerce business in the areas where we have our stores,” Kaye says.

This natural halo effect is both a big perk and a green light for Parachute to continue full steam ahead on a hybrid retail + DTC strategy.

Maintain an exclusive experience

When she founded Parachute, Kaye was stalwart in her decision to keep a direct relationship with her customers, no third-party sellers allowed.

It didn’t matter to her whether those sales happened via online DTC purchases or in person, as long as Parachute could provide their signature quality experience every time.

This meant staying away from Amazon and ignoring overtures from major wholesalers.

Recently Kaye made an exception when Parachute collaborated with Madewell and Crate & Barrel on exclusive items.

What changed? Kaye approached the partnerships in a thoughtful way that kept Parachute’s customer experience intact.

“Madewell was more of a collaboration. We together created a capsule of products that showcased what we were known for at Parachute. We merged our two expertise in our style and aesthetic to create this capsule that was sold both at Parachute and Madewell.”

With Crate & Barrel, Kaye worked to create an “in-shop destination” within the Crate & Barrel environment that replicated the experience of Parachute’s own stores.

“They were an opportunity for us to reach a larger audience and to connect with customers that maybe hadn’t learned about the brand,” Kaye says. “They were very specific. We were still able to really allow our customer and their customer to learn about Parachute in a very Parachute way.”

Engage in constant conversation

Relationships thrive on communication. That’s exactly why the Parachute team is laser-focused on listening to their customers.

Retail provides the perfect environment to collect constant, raw customer feedback.

“Our store associates and our customer experience and stylists are always getting so much feedback which then goes directly to our product and merchandising teams. We’re able to aggregate that information and help us make design choices,” Kaye says.

“It feels like we’re just in this constant conversation with our customer and allows them to also feel like they’re being listened to, which is a really special experience.”

What do your customers like? What do they want more of?

The best brands seek guidance from their customers every step of the way.

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