Want People in Your Stores? Create a Connection, Not Just a Product

A closer look at the Kendra Scott business architecture that supports corporate philanthropy

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Retail is staring in the face of a massive transition. Before the pandemic, retail was already locked in competition with online sales, forcing brands to navigate a nimble balancing act. But when stores shut down, either temporarily or permanently, during 2020 and 2021, online shopping emerged as the de facto victor. And now here we are, almost three years later, in the throes of an unpredictable holiday season, trying to woo customers back into our brick and mortar.

Maybe it’s a hangover from the pandemic or frustration from the tightrope of online versus in store—probably a combination of both—but retail shopping, especially for luxury items, seems to exude intimidation, exclusion and impatience these days.

So how do retailers get the consumer experience back on track?

Be bigger than what you’re selling

Too often, companies laud their product or even their brand identity as their North Star. Products change, brands evolve. We choose to operate differently based on our founder Kendra Scott’s business architecture built in a way that supports corporate philanthropy.

The Kendra Scott Foundation was established to empower women and youth in the areas of health and wellness, education and entrepreneurship. Inspired by her late stepfather’s encouragement to “do good” and deeply impacted by her close friend passing from metastatic breast cancer, our founder strives to change the world in meaningful ways for women and children.

As a working mother, Scott herself knew the ways that women needed dedicated support to thrive in the professional world, which contributed to the brand’s ongoing commitment to female entrepreneurship initiatives, including the founding of the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (KS WELI) at The University of Texas at Austin. Having seen the strain families endure when facing pediatric emergencies, we launched the Kendra Cares program, bringing mobile jewelry-making units to pediatric hospitals, giving kids and their caretakers the chance to create something beautiful, at no cost and without having to leave their care facility. To honor Scott’s friend and address a disease that largely impacts women, we developed a partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Fund, funding thousands of hours of research through grant partnership and hosting dozens of retreats for families facing a terminal illness through the Inheritance of Hope organization.

People can buy jewelry anywhere. Over 78% of Americans say that a company needs to do more than just make money and we’ve seen that bears true most especially for Gen Z audiences, who are willing to pay a premium for brand products that support causes they align with.

Companies need to insist on being a part of something bigger with causes that feel both personal and authentic, to create a kind of brand loyalty that is unmatched. Our average in-store conversion rate is around 30%, with higher-performing stores performing above 40%. Taking an even closer look, we saw in 2022 that over 65% of our fiscal year revenue was from repeat customers.

I want to clarify that’s certainly not the goal here. We do good where we can, and we put that value to work. Our customer has shown us, time and time again, that our efforts don’t go unnoticed.

Remember who you work for

You have to keep your customers happy. They’re your boss.

Years ago, we received negative feedback about one of our best-selling styles and immediately put that feedback to work. Our product design team and material vendors improved the longevity of this piece without increasing the price point because while the criticism alluded to somewhat unrealistic durability expectations for this style, we needed the customers to have a good experience.

In turn, this style continues to be a best-seller for the brand and, as a result, it’s gone on to earn over 17,000 five-star reviews and become the number one best seller for women’s jewelry on Amazon. We listened, we learned and we made it better.

It’s easy for companies to either assume their customers are in the wrong and go on to ardently defend their product or go so far as to make an ardent forward-facing statement without engaging in the legwork to truly improve. Neither is going to cut it. You must listen and trust your customer and when you do, you’ll be surprised how that connection drives affinity.

Looking specifically at our net promoter score (NPS), we know our customer appreciates how we show up for them, as our score has continued to steadily rise over the years, currently sitting at 77, putting us roughly 42% over the industry average and making us part of the top quartile of consumer brands in the market.

When we as a company say that we put the customer first, that’s not a hollow statement to be trotted out at board meetings and quarterly town halls. We know they’re our boss. We act accordingly, by putting our customers front and center.

All the nice displays, white glove treatment or beautiful products in the world can’t inspire a customer to buy, especially in a market where there’s always a cheaper, faster and more readily available option. Offer your product, but tie it to connection, purpose and impact. At the end of the day, that’s what keeps a company innovating, whether you’re doing business in-store, online or both.