When big box retailer Target announced it would be offering Lilly Pulitzer merchandise months ago, the company knew the collection would draw huge demand. Social media was all abuzz since the collection was announced in January. However with all the advance promotion, buildup and preparation in place, somehow the company failed to meet demand in-store and online, taking a media event that promised delight and turning it into a shopping debacle.
According to The New York Times, “… that which generated brand love also generated brand ire. Since Sunday, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have trembled with the frustration of shut-out shoppers, and pictures surfaced of racks picked clean, bare white hangers scattered like carrion bones on the veld.”
It would seem that the various marketing, forecasting, online retail group and product fulfillment teams never made it to the same meetings. The front end created the awareness while the back end remained in the dark. In today’s world where there is such effort put into making sure there is buzz around products months in advance – planning on the back end needs to mirror that effort and steps need to be put in place to meet the demand driven need. This means a buttoned up omnichannel plan to handle all of it – online and in-store.
If we look at this event as another retail lesson to be learned, one in which existing technology options could have alleviated the backlash Target is facing – then we can see that the company could have used online ordering and Click and Collect systems in advance to queue up orders ahead of the big day (like Amazon.com does) to better estimate/forecast and fulfill orders. Customers could have also been assigned virtual queuing appointments to pick up their coveted merchandise. The result would have been bragging rights on social media how they had their exclusive appointment to get their Lilly Pulitzer products (a la Apple Watch) and ultimately happy and loyal customers.
Retailers must think outside the big box – and start thinking about how their promotional efforts impact their clients when demand can’t be met. Getting excited about products and then not being able to get them as promised is a stress inducing social media rant producing occurrence that is definitely not in keeping with Lilly Pulitzer’s “Palm Beach is a state of mind” mentality.