Episode 159
May 29, 2020

"People Aren't Buying Into A Story, They're Buying Into A Community"

Just in time for the summer, Melanie Travis, CEO & founder of Andie joins the show to reflect on how Andie has needed to be light on their feet and completely change how they interact with their customers... and how this transparent strategy has completely changed Andie as a brand for the better.

this episode sponsored by

Brian chats with Melanie Travis, founder of Andie Swim. How has COVID affected Andie and similar direct to consumer brands? How might we shift our approach from product-centered advertising to building a direct brand-to-consumer relationship? 

MELANIE AND THE CREATION OF ANDIE SWIM

Melanie tells her history and experiences building up to creating Andie. Melanie’s experiences with brand storytelling and customer acquisition lead her to testing the waters for Andie with advertisements to feel out the market with her first 400 swimsuits, growing Andie into what it is today.

ANDIE DURING COVID-19

Swim season is approaching but COVID initially had revenue falling off for Andie. They responded by cutting back on ads and converting to a day-by-day strategy with employees working remotely to find ways to resonate with customers in the current climate.

  • Consumer demand roared back given that consumers shop 100% digitally during COVID.
  • It’s been proposed that direct to consumer brands were disappearing, but there was a 180 shift into eCommerce during COVID.

LEARNING TRANSPARENCY

  • Andie backed out of diversifying into a physical retail experience and started incorporating less traditional marketing strategies - more community-centric working with transparent storytelling in order to resonate with consumers.
  • To directly establish one-on-one relationships with its customers, Andie used less social marketing and shifted to more email and SMS.
  • Andie launched a niche product during COVID - a maternity line of swimsuits - in which they kept promotional materials more personal by having close friends and family of employees participate in the photos for the launch.
  • By doing so, the brand identity of Andie shifted to being more transparent, more community-driven, and more personal - which will stick around post-COVID.

COMMUNITY BUILDING AND BRAND-TO-CONSUMER RELATIONSHIPS

  • Brands can have their employees perform duties outside of their traditional job roles to cultivate a more creative community of ideas in the workplace. 
  • SMS and email are great ways to have one-on-one conversations with your consumers in order to build trust, transparency, and a closer brand-to-consumer bond.
  • Especially in the time of COVID-19, brands can transform their identity from community-centered physical retail experiences into a digital community bound through mutual connection - making brands less focused on selling products and more focused on building a community.


BRANDS MENTIONED:

Andie Swim

Radically Personal Podcast


Brian: [00:00:01] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge, next generation, and COVID related commerce. I'm your host, Brian. I have a super exciting guest here with me today on the show, the founder of Andie Swim, Melanie Travis. Welcome, Melanie.


Melanie: [00:00:17] Hi, Brian. Thanks so much for having me.

Brian: [00:00:20] It's great to have you. I got to meet you back at eTail West in February in Palm Springs. I so enjoyed my conversation with you there. I couldn't wait to get you on the show and introduce you to our listeners. So thank you so much for joining us. Tell me a little bit about Andie Swim. How did you get started? What's your background? How did you get into it? Just give me the story.

Melanie: [00:00:50] Yeah, sure. So, Andy Swim is a global eCommerce when we're brand for women. We launched in April 2017. So we actually just celebrated our third birthday. So we're fairly young, but we've had great growth over the years. Before I get into that, my background real quick, so you know who you're speaking with. My background is really sort of entrenched in the venture backed DTC world of New York City. I started my career at Foursquare and then I moved over to work at Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform. After Kickstarter. I went to Bark, which is best known for Bark Box, the monthly box of toys and treats.

Brian: [00:01:31] Yes.

Melanie: [00:01:31] Yep, yep. Fellow dog parent. I'm sure you get the joy that they bring.

Brian: [00:01:37] Yes. Oh yes.

Melanie: [00:01:38] Had a great time at all three of those companies, learned a lot about, you know, raising capital, building communities, getting experiences that are digital into the sort of physical world, whether through products or experiences or creative projects. Just really learned a lot and decided, you know, along the way, I'd really like to build a business myself. I think I kind of understand the fundamentals involved. And so for the last year or so that I was at Bark, I was also sort of nights and weekends thinking about a category that would make sense. And swimwear is something that for women listening can certainly relate. It's a really frustrating item to shop for. Wearing a swimsuit is the most naked a woman will ever be in public. So it's a garment that is probably the most psychologically fraught in the shopping experience. And it's an industry largely dominated by men. And I just felt like... And then oh, a couple of important things on the eCom side... The swimsuit is lightweight. It's high margin. It's easy to ship. And as you said before, it's a very visual thing. When you're running a swimsuit, you're having fun. You're at the beach or at the pool. Obviously, this has repercussions during COVID time, which we can get to later. But overall, I felt that the swim category had a lot of tailwinds going for it that were, you know, that were good. And so at the end of 2016, I left Bark and embarked on this journey to try to build a digitally native swimwear brand and three years and some months later, here we are. We've raised about ten million dollars. We do double digit millions in revenue, though I don't disclose actual revenue numbers. We have 14 employees. So I would say so far, so good.

Brian: [00:03:31] Wow, that's incredible. What a story. And I think it's incredible that the industry you're jumping into you and sort of disrupting, the direct to consumer swimwear world, is... I think you're right. Like, there's a lot of opportunity there. Talk to me a little bit more about the strategy that you employed to launch the brand.

Melanie: [00:03:53] Yes. So when we first launched... You know, my background at all the companies that I've worked for has been in brand storytelling and customer acquisition. So I'm very familiar with the sort of digital ad landscape and what that looks like. And so when I first launched Andie, we bootstrapped it at the very beginning because ultimately the entrepreneur is going to be the biggest investor, maybe not in cash, but certainly in terms of like our putting our life into it. And so I wanted to make sure that it could have legs and that it was something that could scale digitally. So very early I ran lead generation ads on Facebook. I ran different types of ads across Facebook and Instagram. Low budget. But just to see what click through rates, engagement... Just some very sort of elementary metrics would look like to know if this was something that could have legs. So a little bit of ad spend and then PR was also a core strategy at launch, because when you're launching a fashion brand, you need to legitimize yourself. Otherwise, no one will, people want to make sure that... They want to understand who they're buying from.

Brian: [00:05:00] Right.

Melanie: [00:05:01] So a little bit of PR, a little bit of digital ad spend. And that was basically it. I mean, I made 400 swimsuits to start, and I didn't know if it would take three weeks or three years to sell those 400 swimsuits.

Brian: [00:05:13] Nice. That's a great, like, sort of like scrappy approach. And I think that that's been actually the story of a lot of founders these days. Taking a risk and not knowing what's going to happen and just kind of sort of stepping into it and seeing if there was a market for it. What a really smart approach. Now, you mentioned something, and obviously we're in an unprecedented time, and you're in a highly social industry, like going to the beach is a social event. It's an event you want to do with other people, typically. It's fun. It's a summer event. So we're coming right into swimwear season right now. How have you been adjusting to COVID? What have you seen so far? How are you personally handling it too?

Melanie: [00:06:11] Yeah. So, you know, we're sitting at, what, like nine weeks or so since this whole thing began? And it has changed rapidly week over week. At the beginning.... So let's call the beginning mid-March, at least that was the beginning for Andie. Very quickly, revenue fell off a cliff. You know, demand just went basically completely south. And I think that's due to a lot of initial panic. Right? People are entering lockdown around the country. This is an unprecedented event. If anyone's buying anything, it's toilet paper and hand sanitizer. It's certainly not a swimsuit for their summer. So initially it was such a shock. And I personally panicked a lot. I thought, oh, my God, here we are. We've been building this company over three years. It's this unbelievable success story. And now it's all about to be taken away from us. So, yeah, I was depressed. I was anxious. I was worried. But also, that didn't mean inaction. It meant time to put on the crisis hat and try to figure this out and see if there's a way to get through it. And so we did things... I mean, the whole company went remote, obviously, and we started daily Zoom calls in the morning where every day we would look at what happened the previous day and what could we do today to do better, whether that means sending more emails and text messages or changing up all of our messaging or going through the backlog archive of our images and finding images that might resonate more at a time like this. Just shifting everything day by day. And I've been in marketing for years at DTC companies, and I've never done marketing like this before. Where all of our fully baked plans flew out the window, and we literally were taking it day by day. And that started to work. We started to see that by really thinking fast on our feet and being scrappy and humble, we started to see real positive change. We cut a lot of our marketing spend, and we started to see revenue creep back in our CPAs creep down in a good way. And so decided to keep going with this day by day strategy for now. And I would say around mid April, so about a month into it, we started to see consumer demand come back in a really big way. I think once women had been sort of sheltered in place for about a month, even though they were still in lockdown, people got more comfortable with the situation. And I think they started realizing, like, OK, this is not going to last forever and started maybe it's therapy shopping. We all know that shopping, you know, makes you feel good. And so we started seeing consumer demand come back. We mixed in some promotional activity. I speak with a lot of CEOs, and we all kind of agree that we're basically living in an extended Black Friday period right now where consumers are just expecting promotions. Everyone's doing it. And also I believe there will not be any long term adverse effects to discounting right now.

Brian: [00:09:16] Right.

Melanie: [00:09:17] Frankly, everyone's doing it. So sort of mid April, we started to see things come back, but obviously, coupled with promotional activity where you take a hit on your margins. But then again, a lot of brands pulled out of advertising on social media. So we were seeing, you know, CPMs and CPCs go down. So it wasn't all margin dilutive. And then now we're mid-May. So we're about a month after that. And I would say over the last two weeks, consumer demand has come truly roaring back.

Brian: [00:09:49] Wow.

Melanie: [00:09:49] The country is heating up. There's not much people can do. But if you have a backyard... You don't even need a pool. If you have a backyard, a roof, a window sill you can throw on a swimsuit and sunbathe. And I think people are craving that. And frankly, we're at pre COVID levels at this point.

Brian: [00:10:05] Wow.

Melanie: [00:10:05] And I'm unbelievably shocked to say it, as I say it. Two months ago, literally two months ago when this began, I thought it was the end of Andie. And now we're, in some ways, doing better than we've ever done, which is shocking. Apparel in general is obviously way down during COVID, but I think, and the last point I'll make on this is that we all know what's happening now is speeding up eCommerce penetration, which for apparel was about 30% pre COVID. And now I think it's like rapidly increasing. But swimwear, interestingly enough, has always lagged behind apparel in eCommerce penetration rates. About 11% of swimwear purchases were made online. So almost 90% were done in-store. So even if there is some amount of softer demand for swim, when you go from 11% online to 100% of the remaining demand online, for brands like Andie, you're just gonna be up.

Brian: [00:11:03] Yeah, actually, that's one of the things I wanted to ask you. Obviously, you made a pretty specific decision to go direct to consumer with Andie. And so you've largely focused on... You're 100% online?

Melanie: [00:11:20] We are 100% online. Yes. And I'm very thankful for that right now.

Brian: [00:11:24] Yeah. It's so funny, going to COVID, there was like a huge backlash against... I feel like there was like this... With the news about Outdoor Voices and just I think a lot of media kind of found an opportunity to sort of criticize direct to consumer brands and DNVBs, digital native vertical brands. And I feel like even going into COVID, I saw some articles out there that were like, oh, this is the end of the DTC era, blah, blah, blah.

Melanie: [00:11:59] Yeah.

Brian: [00:12:00] How do you feel being a digitally native brand helped you in this period? Or didn't help you? It sounds like it did help you, but how do you feel like your strategy has played out during this period?

Melanie: [00:12:12] Yeah, I think what you said is exactly right. A lot of people were sort of pooh poohing eCom and DTC brands pre COVID, and now suddenly we're like the sexy ones again and everyone wants exposure to eCom if they didn't before. And so I think there's been just a full 180 shift in, at least in investor and broader community perception of eCom because we're thriving. I mean, all of our retail friends, competitors, you know, whatever, who are not DTC or who are not maybe much in eCommerce, if it was a small percent of their business, they're are all... Their doors are closed. And those of us that are fully eCom we're open 24/7, we haven't had a single bit of disruption. And I think, you know, what this has shown us more than ever before is you just really never know what's around the corner. And being online has tremendous, tremendous advantages that were probably discounted pre COVID. So in terms of my personal sort of strategy and thinking around it, I've been really keen to diversify our revenue. And in fact, we were going to open our first store in Chicago.

Brian: [00:13:27] Wow.

Melanie: [00:13:27] We were in the middle of finishing the lease. We were gonna take over the store on April 1st.

Brian: [00:13:32] And my gosh.

Melanie: [00:13:33] Yeah, thankfully, we were able to get out of it. But if we had done that, that would have been a disaster for us. And so my vision or plan had been to be in physical retail to make that a growing part of the business over the next few years. And now I would say, at least for the short to medium term, there will be no such diversification. I mean, I don't think this is going to be true forever and always, but definitely feeling thankful that we hadn't diversified earlier and that we were able to do this.

Brian: [00:14:09] Yeah, totally. I think that's good. Good point. And also, I think it's interesting because everyone has to shop online right now, I feel like there's a lot more product discovery going on online as well. It's like, OK, now I have to go find, you know, whatever it is online. And so you start to go look, and you may... I feel like there's more opportunity for people to sort of naturally bump into Andie Swim. Talk to me a little bit about your marketing strategy right now. Are you increasing spend or are you decreasing spend? I think you mentioned you changed your messaging. How has this affected your general marketing strategies?

Melanie: [00:14:55] Yeah. I would spend... So in the beginning, we obviously decreased spend. But now we're back. But we have diversified the channels that we're in and the way that we message about it. We used to lean into what I would call sort of chest pumping marketing messages like, "This is the greatest swimsuit in the world. It sold out 15 times. We have a 10,000 person waitlist for it." Things like that. And now it's much more community centric messaging and things like, "We're in this together." We're much more transparent. We talk about the team more than we ever did. So instead of just highlighting a single product, we talk about like, look, I'm out there more. I'm Melanie. I founded this company because I've always struggled to find a swimsuit, and this is my team. And we work out of a little office in the heart of the garment district. And we're being much more transparent in the way that we're marketing Andie. And that is what's resonating. We are finding that that's what's resonating most with consumers these days. And so that's what we're doing. And, you know, we used to be much heavier in paid social and things like Facebook and Instagram. Now we're doing more email. We're doing more SMS marketing. We just got a TikTok account. We're starting to message. So things like that.

Brian: [00:16:18] Coming up with an Andie dance? No, I'm just kidding.

Melanie: [00:16:24] Well, I'm sure we'll get into this. But for product launches, we launched some new colors back at the end of March or early April. And our creative director was like, let's all learn a viral TikTok dance...

Brian: [00:16:36] That's amazing.

Melanie: [00:16:38] Together, we literally all learned a Tik Tok dance, and then she spliced it together. And there's this incredible video floating around of everyone on my team, yeah, doing a dance.

Brian: [00:16:46] Yes. That's the best. Oh, I love that my question was in jest and then that turned out to be like real.

Melanie: [00:16:54] Yeah. {laughter}

Brian: [00:16:54] That's amazing. I love that so much. Talk to me a little bit about the product launch, too. I saw you just launched the maternity line, which is amazing, by the way. I have kids. My wife... It was something that, you know, was really hard to find, a good maternity swimwear piece. And so I think she would have been really appreciative of this back when we were having kids. Talk to me a little bit about launching a product during COVID, especially something as like unique and as important as a maternity line.

Melanie: [00:17:34] Yeah. So we have been working on this maternity line for a very long time. You know, we've looked at our demographics, studied our customers, listened to their feedback. And what we have been hearing loud and clear and also seeing in the data is that moms are a huge percent of our customer base, young moms and expecting moms. And so it was natural that we would go into maternity. And so we did a lot of fit studies with women in different stages of their pregnancy and to land on what really would make the most sense. What were they looking for? What were they not finding elsewhere? And that's how we determined what the line consists of. We are rolling it out slowly. So I think we have two styles that we've launched in maternity right now. And the feedback as we just launched,  the feedback has been really strong already. So I'm really excited about that. And I think in general, you know, for launching a product in COVID... It's different. It's different. You know, typically this time of year when we're getting our spring launches ready, I would be in the Bahamas or in Mexico or some tropical destination with a group of models and photographers and digital assistants and all of that. And we obviously couldn't do that this time. And so our creative director sent the suits to everyone on the team. We also launched some new styles in non maternity. So she sent them to everyone on the team. And then we all have friends or family that are pregnant. And when you have a group of 14, you know, late 20, early 30 somethings working, you tend to have, you know, a number of pregnant friends among the group. And so we sent the styles to our friends and we all just shot on iPhones in our homes, the entire line.

Brian: [00:19:19] What? Wow.

Melanie: [00:19:19] And actually it was interesting because our creative director would face time every person while we were shooting. And she would be on FaceTime and one person would have an iPhone shooting, and then she would be on FaceTime looking into that iPhone so she could see the framing and she would say, you know, "Tilt up," or "A little to the left," or, "Oh, you're facing the sun. You need to face away." And she literally remotely directed the entire shoot for all of the new products, maternity and non maternity. So it was really something. We just launched all of that yesterday. So it's brand new.

Brian: [00:19:57] Congrats.

Melanie: [00:19:57] Thank you. I would say it's too soon to say how consumers are reacting. Their initial response has been like awesome. People are super happy to see the team. We'll see how that converts to sales or not. But it was definitely a unique way of launching product.

Brian: [00:20:12] This just, to me, like it opens up a whole new world for content generation and product development, because if you can direct a photo shoot over the Internet, over Zoom, or whatever platform you're using... This changes the game. I've never seen something at this level. So let's say things get back to normal, and we are all able to get back to doing product launches and shoots and creating content in person, are you going to leverage some of the things you've learned from launching this product now and like maybe even employ some of these strategies in the future?

Melanie: [00:21:05] Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I think we're learning a lot right now about community and about what happens when you can't do status quo. And I think there's a lot of lessons we're gonna take from this into the future about being more transparent, more inclusive, more community driven. And I think that that's definitely a silver lining. We're learning all those things which, you know, not only is it less expensive, but I think it could be better for the brand overall. So absolutely. I mean, I don't know that we'll do FaceTime remote shoot forever and always, but to know that that's open to us... And it's also, as the founder and CEO, it's been really heartwarming and touching to see all of the employees of the company step up with enthusiasm to do this. Putting on a swimsuit to be photographed to go on the website and in Facebook ads, that's not necessarily what people were signing up for when they came to work at Andie. You know, we all wanted to make great swimwear that fits really well to serve women. But that's not the same thing as taking a selfie in a swimsuit and putting it on the front page of a web site that gets hundreds of thousands of visitors. And no one batted an eye. Everyone was happy to hop in and really did their best. And it's been really also remarkable to see the creativity of each individual. Even though our creative director was directing the shoot, each person brings their own personal flair to it. And that's also been like just so wonderful to see. So there's a lot of sort of personal warmth and love around this.

Brian: [00:22:46] You actually just blew my mind because one of the things that we've talked about on the show before is leveraging your team in ways that you haven't before by allowing them to take part in things that engage their talents in different ways than maybe they're sort of traditional job role. And we've talked about this at a broader retail level, like employing store associates to do more of the merchandizing and giving them freedom and investing in tools that allow them to have more time to spend time with customers and employ their knowledge in greater ways and employ their creativity and talents and sort of leverage, well and help them grow, I should say, into those things, as well.

Melanie: [00:23:40] Yeah.

Brian: [00:23:40] This idea of cross training and helping employees be successful with the things that they enjoy... I feel like there's a lot of opportunity for that right now. And I know that you in particular, and I heard your episode with Joseph Ansanelli on the Radically Personal podcast, which was incredible.

Melanie: [00:24:06] Thank you.

Brian: [00:24:06] You have a really big focus on customer service. Talk to me a little bit about how you've been able to engage your customers further. You started to get into that and we kind of went down another path of conversation. But talk to me a little bit about what you've been doing to further engage your customers and how your team has been able to use all this amazing stuff that they're doing and like talk to their customers even more.

Melanie: [00:24:35] Yeah. So we've done a number of things. I mentioned as SMS is a channel that we have been exploring more since COVID. And that's been a huge channel for engaging with our customers. We used to send just sort of product focused messaging on there, like, "Hey, we just launched this great new style. You should check it out." And now we do things like, you know, "Our marketing team put together a playlist, your best summer playlist. Here it is." And it's just a link to Spotify to listen to music,

Brian: [00:25:07] Nice.

Melanie: [00:25:07] Yeah. And no sort of like actionable, you know, shopping item. And we sent a message recently, actually. I think early April in sort of the depths of everyone's despair. And we were like, "Hey, look, we have a team of fit experts in-house. They love talking about swim, but also literally anything. Hit reply. And we're not robots. We are actually on the other end of these text messages." And we sent that out. And typically, you know, pre COVID, when we sent product focused marketing messages, we would get, I don't know, maybe 30 or so responses to our texts.

Brian: [00:25:44] Yeah.

Melanie: [00:25:45] We got, I think, over eight hundred replies.

Brian: [00:25:48] Oh, my gosh.

Melanie: [00:25:49] From that text with people just saying, like, "Oh my God. So happy to hear there's a human on the other end," to nurses saying, "I'm in between shifts, and this was so nice to receive." They just want to talk to a friendly voice on the other end. To parents saying how hard this time has been managing their kids at home and their jobs and all of that. And so that was, I mean, truly heartwarming. I have sent personal emails to our customers just to talk about what I'm doing as the founder right now that always get, you know, a lot of responses and engagement. So it really goes back to being just super transparent. And we've never had robots on the other end of anything. But now we're actually saying that like, "Yeah, if you reply to this email, I will get it." Or "If you reply to this text, our fit expert will get it." Nothing is, there are no AI bots or anything like that. And that has been.. The reception among our community in those efforts has been just truly remarkable. And we also launched what we call Fit Consultations. So you can schedule a time to speak with one of our fit experts, and you can tell us what you love or don't love about your body, what you like to show off, what you don't like in a swimsuit, what other brands you typically shop and where you love and you don't love. And our fit experts will walk you through the best style and fit that Andie has. And I have to say these Fit Consultations have often morphed into just much bigger life conversations. I think just yesterday, one of my fit experts posted in Slack that she'd gotten off the phone after 50 minutes with a customer. A 50 minute phone call is unheard of.

Brian: [00:27:29] Wow. Wow.

Melanie: [00:27:30] So we're really engaging with our community just so much more than we used to. And, yeah, that's something that I absolutely believe we'll take with us when this is all behind us.

Brian: [00:27:41] That's incredible. I mean, a 50 minute conversation with a customer just to get into the details of their life.

Melanie: [00:27:46] Yeah.

Brian: [00:27:46] That's unprecedented. I feel like this is such a great opportunity to encourage customers and to learn from them. You're also, by having these kinds of conversations, you're able to understand your customers so much better. I feel like this is something we don't want to lose coming out of this.

Melanie: [00:28:12] Absolutely.

Brian: [00:28:12] We can't lose that. And for all the brands that are listening right now, I think this is sort of the epitome of what we should be doing right now is building deeper relationships, one to one relationships. And I think, you know, and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this, but to me one of the things that I think we're gonna see come out of this is that we're going to focus even more on customer experience and service post purchase. Because I think that the opportunity to have an engaged customer is larger than ever now. It's something that we should have all been doing anyway. And now we have the time and the focus to be able to spend and actually get it right and do it better. And so I'd be curious what you think about that, Melanie. Do you think that customer service teams are actually going to be looked at as like almost clienteling sort of team where it's not just about making sure that product has arrived the way that it's supposed to arrive or that fit is right. It's like an ongoing relationship that results in multiple sales for the life of the customer.

Melanie: [00:29:34] Yeah. Yeah. I think that's exactly right. I think what's been really interesting is our fit experts are experts on swim fit, and that's what they're hired to do. But they've really become therapists in a way. And I think that's going to be something that, you know, when we're hiring them, we it's not like we were ignoring their sort of personal connection. Their sort of like Je ne sais quoi... And I really don't know what that word is. I don't know if there is a word, but the way that they relate to other people. And now I think that's just going to be more important than ever, you know, product aside, in just being empathetic and being able to relate to people. I do think that we probably had a bit of a leg up in that in that swim is such a vulnerable item and so it's not like selling like a baggy t shirt that would fit anyone. And because, like I said before, it's that, you know, swim is fraught with these psychological issues around body image and stuff like that. So we already had a remarkably sort of sensitive and trained team of fit experts. And now that's just going to become, you know, all the more important. And I think to your point, yeah, no matter what product you're selling.

Brian: [00:30:42] Retail therapy just took on a whole new meaning. {laughter}

Melanie: [00:30:48] Yeah. {laughter} Touché. Yeah, exactly.

Brian: [00:30:49] I love that. There's so much just like flooding my mind right now about what this means for how retail is evolving. I mean, in so many ways, I see this as like... Well, retail has... You know, we've been in sort of a four over four times signature, a classic rhythm, for so long. And there were sort of like signs that this this rhythm that we'd been in was unraveling for years, for the past few years. You know, three, four years, ever since the whole like quote unquote, retailpocalypse, things started, there were signs. But they were all sort of those signs were all propped up by the fact that the economy had been exploding for so long.

Melanie: [00:31:46] Yup.

Brian: [00:31:46] And so retail was up overall. But there was like clearly a lot of stuff going on. No one really knew. But we all kind of sat in our four over four standard time signature rhythm for retail because we saw the sales. But now all of that sort of dissonance that had been happening in the background that we couldn't hear has come to a head and our rhythm has been disrupted. And now we're gonna have to jump into like a completely different time signature. And I think the time signature that I hear you saying right now is that we are going to have to put our teams that we have... You nailed it when you said the way that you hire, you were looking for something special in those people that you hired as like your customer service representatives. And now you're putting them as the face of the company. So people aren't just buying into a story now. They're not just buying into a product, but they're buying into a team and a community.

Melanie: [00:32:53] Yeah.

Brian: [00:32:53] And I think that this moment is that new rhythm, whatever, three over four or five over four. Well, that might be a little bit too aggressive. Five over four. {laughter} But, you know, whatever the rhythm is ahead. But it's gonna be one that involves deeper connection to the people at the companies that we buy into. I love that as a takeaway. So Melanie, we're coming pretty close on time here. I wanted to ask you, we're headed into maybe coming out of this a little bit. What are some very tangible recommendations that you have for what you're going to do to continue on in this? And whether we come out of it or not aside, what are you doing next? And what recommendations do you have for our listeners about what they can do to be prepared for what's next?

Melanie: [00:33:59] Great question. I think the first thing I'd say is going back to this is just community centric idea that's been sort of the underlying theme of everything we've talked about, especially if folks aren't going into stores as much. I think some of the best retail stores were those that were experiences where someone, like you were saying, someone could sort of handhold a customer through the buying experience involved with other things than just the purchase of the product. And stores were great ways of bringing community together. I mean, that was all our whole intention with opening a space in Chicago. It wasn't just a store. It was going to be a sort of community gathering point. And if those are lessening, then I think the thing moving into the future is how do you truly do that digitally? And that's what we are spending basically all our time thinking about. That's been the inspiration behind the texts that we've sent, the fit consultations and we do Instagram lives with our community several times a week.

Brian: [00:35:06] Wow.

Melanie: [00:35:06] Just being more present. And I think that that's really something that brand owners should be, whatever stage of the company, really should be thinking about as we go into the future, creating that sense of community in an online way. And then... Yeah, and I think also that goes straight through to the marketing piece. I think marketing, as it was once done before, doesn't make sense. Certainly right now and for the foreseeable future. And that's everything from the messaging to the channels that you're on to the types of images that you use. I think now is the time that basically everything needs to be rethought from the ground up.

Brian: [00:35:52] Yeah. That is such good advice. We're coming into sort of a new abnormal and so rethinking their boundaries you had before, it is essential.

Melanie: [00:36:05] Yeah.

Brian: [00:36:05] This is I think, the theme of this period, and I love that advice. Melanie, thank you so much for your insights and your transparency and just everything you've brought to this conversation. Looking forward to hearing more from you in the future. I think we've got some really exciting stuff ahead that we would love to have you weigh in on. I can't wait to hear more about what happens going into the summer and staying connected with you. Where can people find you and find Andie and get connected?

Melanie: [00:36:39] Yes. So, Andie is at AndieSwim.com. And that's also our Instagram handle. My personal Instagram, which is heavy on dog and Andie content is @melanietravis. And I love engaging with them with budding entrepreneurs, customers, you know, anyone on my own Instagram as well.

Brian: [00:37:04] Awesome. Well, everyone to get out there. Go follow Andie Swim. Follow Melanie Travis. Thank you again, and thank you for listening to this show. We love your feedback. We'd love to have you weigh in on this conversation today. And so please feel free to reach out FutureCommerce.fm or on LinkedIn or Twitter or wherever you can find us. And you can weigh in and join us in this conversation because we want to shape the future with you. Let's make it one we can be proud of. And I think that Melanie is doing that. Thank you for listening.

Melanie: [00:37:39] Thank you.

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