A conversation with New Balance: Building a consumer-obsessed culture
January 24, 2022
Data-driven, surging e-commerce, the digital age – it’s nearly impossible to avoid these headlines in retail today. It’s even harder to make sense of it all and understand where to start.
After nearly two years since our last in-person gathering, we were thrilled to take the stage at PI Apparel’s Supply Chain and Product Development Conference in New York to explore these very issues.
New Balance Director of Consumer Insights and Analytics Charles Wilson joined Maker/Sights CEO Dan Leahy to discuss the consumer-obsessed culture that has fueled the iconic brand’s resurgence as a global leader in footwear.
During their conversation, Dan and Charles discussed many of the questions you may be asking: Where do I start? What does consumer obsession actually look like? Why should design, product, and merchant teams even use data? And who’s responsible at my brand for making this all happen?
Here’s what they had to say:
1. Adapting to the new retail norms
The pandemic has disrupted norms across the retail industry. Store closures gave way to surging e-commerce sales as consumers became more comfortable shopping online. Yet for many brands, the transition to digital hasn’t been an entirely smooth one. Many teams, especially those in product creation and merchandising, are used to holding and evaluating physical prototypes and samples. New Balance saw these disruptions as an opportunity to be closer to the consumer.
2. Finding common ground with data
Data has traditionally been siloed at brands. Some teams handle products, others handle data and consumer insights. To prevent the weaponization of data and preserve creativity in product design, these barriers often still exist today. New Balance reframed the role of data to unify and align their teams around a common goal.
3. Gaining traction with Design, Product, and Merchandising
Product creation and merchandising teams factor in endless considerations when adopting a new product or choosing the right colorway. It can be overwhelming enough to deal with the usual considerations, let alone incorporate new consumer information from insights teams. For New Balance, successfully integrating data into product creation hinged on building trust.
4. Building a culture around the consumer
Brands must begin to orient their product decisions around consumers to stay competitive in ecommerce and direct-to-consumer environments. For most, the biggest challenge is getting started. Who should be leading consumer-obsessed decision making within your brand? How can you set your brand up for success? And how long will it take?
New Balance’s successful journey to consumer-obsession is full of helpful tips and strategies. If you’d like to catch the full conversation between Dan and Charles, click here.
Modernizing Your Product Creation Process? Master Change Management First.
Great leaders are charged with a certain measure of fearlessness. Your job is to keep the organization moving forward despite doubts and insecurities. There is, however, one phrase that leaders should be wary of: “We’ve always done it this way.”