Breaking down the Bonobos marketing breakdown | Part 1

loyalty loop Oct 30, 2019

350 million dollars — not exactly small change, right? 

That’s how much Walmart paid for the Bonobos menswear brand two years ago. So I imagine they’re not exactly super pumped about the fact that the brand is struggling. Like really struggling. At the point where they’re having to lay off dozens and dozens of employees and may even have to sell the brand.

But why isn’t it working out for them? After all, they’re working with a great product. Their clothes are stylish, well-made, they feel great, they use great fabrics…

Well, folks, you’ve probably guessed what I’m going to say this but here goes anyway: it’s all about the customer experience. And when it comes to Bonobos, the customer experience is broken.

Over-worked buttons, “Queer Eye”, and Bonobos

Time to back up a bit. I was watching videos of my recent speeches at events around the world and realized that I’m outgrowing my suits. Those suit jacket buttons are having to work way too hard! I needed a wardrobe refresh. So that right there was my moment of inspiration. My trigger question? Where am I going to go to refresh my look?

A few days later my wife and I were just sitting around, watching an episode of "Queer Eye" and Tan took one of the makeover subjects to a Bonobos store. And right in the middle of that episode, I looked at my wife Elizabeth and I said, "You know what, I think Bonobos is my look." She agreed, and all of a sudden Bonobos was my prime brand. All I had to do was find a store. 

Now, Bonobos doesn’t run a traditional store; they run what they call Guideshops, which is basically a store where they have one size of everything for you to try on and you are helped along the way by a consultant or guide who can advise you on what might work for your new look. Then anything you actually purchase is shipped directly to you so you don’t have to leave with a bunch of bags.

So I decided to make an appointment with my nearest Guideshop, which is in Miami, about an hour away. And this is what I was promised:

“Every Bonobos Guideshop location is outfitted with a team of knowledgeable, stylish, and witty Guides that will give you as much attention as you want, or don't want, to make sure you leave feeling like your best dressed self. Give us an hour and we’ll style you a brand new wardrobe”

(Spoilers: we might just come back to this description later! Look out for parts 2 and 3…)

Sounds awesome, right? Exactly what I needed. So I decided to book the 60-minute guideshop experience even though it’s going to require a minimum of a 3-hour commitment by the time you take into account the 1-hour drive each way. I go ahead and fill out the form; I execute my moment of commitment.

Next up: my crucial concern 

“Your 60-minute Guideshop appointment for Friday October 4th, 2019 at 2:00pm at Coconut Grove, Miami, has been confirmed. We’re looking forward to helping you shop.”

So there we have the confirmation email and I’m looking forward to the appointment in 5 days time — but I’m apprehensive too. My crucial concern has popped up and I’m starting to wonder if the appointment going to be worth the effort, because for me, a 3-hour shopping commitment is a pretty big deal!

And that’s where things start to go wrong for Bonobos.

Because over the next few days they do nothing to silence my crucial concern. I hear nothing from them and by day four I’m thinking of canceling my appointment. My initial excitement has gone!

How could Bonobos have kept me hooked?

Loyalty Loop driver no.1: addressing the crucial concern

Any time you’re asking a customer to make a commitment, you have to ask yourself, what’s my customer’s biggest post-commitment concern — and how can I address it?

So in the confirmation email Bonobos could have said, “It’s going to be a wonderful experience and if you’re worried about it, here’s what a few other people have said about their 60-minute appointment…”

That’s the first Loyalty Loop driver and, for sure, it would’ve gone some way to addressing my crucial concern.

Loyalty Loop driver no.2: Maximize the honeymoon phase

I’m excited about the Guideshop thing, but I have no idea what to expect. So in the 24 hours or so after I first booked Bonobos could have capitalized on my initial enthusiasm by just asking me a couple of questions to help shape the experience. For example, they could have asked, what celebrity's style do you like? Just name three. Or they could've asked what kind of stuff am I looking for? Am I looking for casual, suits, golf stuff, whatever.

Whenever you’re asking someone for a time commitment, you need to make the best use of their enthusiasm by asking for critical information that's going make the appointment more effective, efficient, and fun for them at that exact moment.

You need to show them that you’re going to value their time.

Loyalty Loop driver no.3: Scaling camaraderie

To start scaling camaraderie, Bonobos could have assigned me a specific guide. Look, they already know who’s working on Friday when I’m going to be making that drive over to see them. They could have assigned me that person and told me a little bit about them, so that we could start building that relationship and forming trust and respect. And if I start to get to know the person who’s going to be expecting me, I’m less likely to want to let them down by canceling or changing the appointment.

So start thinking about what you could do to increase the mutual trust and respect your attendees have for you before the meeting has even started.

Time for another spoiler: I don’t cancel. And as you’ve probably guessed, my lacklustre experience with Bonobos goes from “meh” to worse.

So don’t forget to look out for next week’s episode when we’re going to look at even more Bonobos pitfalls you want to avoid when you’re creating your customer experience. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it!

In the meantime, take a look at your own post-commitment encounters. Are you addressing the crucial concern? Are you maximizing the honeymoon phase? And are you scaling camaraderie to build mutual trust and respect even before the meeting occurs? Drop me a comment and let me know.


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