Lucas Koren of FMRU Clothing: How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More
An Interview With Orlando Zayas
Value Added — Perks — Your web design may be nice, and your user flow might be seamlessly easy to use but if you don’t give your consumer the little convenient perks that the regular shopper has become accustomed to, you will lose them. These include things such as free shipping, free returns, customs fees included in price, 3–8 days delivery etc. Our company, FMRU, takes this a step further offering all of the above & also providing users with our size recommendation tool so they are confident the size they buy will fit when it arrives.
As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucas Koren. The Founder & CEO of FMRU Clothing. Lucas grew up and lives in Toronto, Canada where he runs his luxury e-commerce company that uses advanced technology to offer a truly unique online clothes shopping experience. The company has thousands of consumers that have trusted FMRU Clothing to supply their luxury good needs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Hey thanks for having me, I’m happy to be here. I come from a Finance background but quickly realized through my first couple of jobs in the industry that my high energy, confident & personable nature made me different from my fellow colleagues in Finance/ Accounting. Though finance and quantitative skills came naturally to me; I found myself more interested in exploring business development and growth. In 2016, I started a clothing company to see what starting a business was all about while in my second year of University. I determined that a) clothes are a staple in day to day life & b) clothing was one of the best ways for people to show their personality. Focusing on school, I shut down the clothing company with future ambitions to come back to the fashion industry in some way. With more research of the industry I discovered that clothes shopping online was very inefficient, as people didn’t know what sizes to buy (sizes differ for every brand) and every companies solution to this issue was “Free Returns”. I can’t name one person that wants to go through the hassle of returning a product, nobody has time for that and so I set out to create a solution for a better online clothes shopping experience. At the end of 2018, FMRU Clothing was launched, FMRU is a luxury fashion marketplace designed to make you feel as confident shopping online, as you do when shopping in person. Our site features very user-friendly body sizing tech that measure the body precisely in under a minute, which we then use to deliver a perfect size recommendation in real time for each product.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
One of the biggest lessons I learned is that though a patent is still necessary to operate the business, in my experience it is not as crucial/ vital at an early stage of development, especially at the start. My intentions were to gain leverage when raising money, talking to investors and dealing with competitors but after spending nearly $20K on a north American patent and not being asked to see it once…I can assure you it’s unnecessary, at least when starting out. However, I do still believe down the road it will be a useful asset.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Of course, I’ve had a very supportive group around me from day one which goes a long way in itself. There’s two people that come to mind. First is my father, the CFO of Canada’s largest private trucking company; being able to pick his brain on a daily basis is something I have never taken for granted. He has also put me in touch with some amazing people allowing me to get answers to my most pressing questions from industry leaders. Second is my aunt Caroline, who I am very close with. She is absolutely brilliant, always willing to lend a hand; she supported me in this venture when no one else did and even supported me (and the company) financially when we were just getting started. A real-life Angel.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
First one that comes to mind is ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight (Nike Founder). He highlights his humble start where every month he would struggle to pay the bills, even working a full-time job as an accountant to keep Nike afloat in the early days. His commitment resonates with me, especially during tougher days early on. The fact that arguably the most famous clothing brand in the world (Nike) almost failed many times but survived because of Phil & Co.’s persistence is enough to get anyone motivated!
With regards to podcasts, a great one is “How I Built This” a podcast that is solely based on successful entrepreneurs and how they started their companies. The people featured range from the founders of TRX, Swell Bottles, Ben & Jerry’s, Whole Foods, etc. which gives an amazing range of business lessons.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company differentiates itself by being the very first luxury marketplace to use size recommendation technology to give our users an experience they trust & value. We sell the products people are going to buy anyways, just with the added value that the products they buy will fit. (Eliminating over 50% of the returns needed)
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Most things will not go how you would like; being fluid, calm and ready to pivot is very important. Rather than be discouraged when things go south, you’ve got to carry on as quickly as possible, persevere and you will start to see success.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
As a online retailer ourselves, we are always studying the companies that are succeeding. Trying to understand what they are doing differently to retain their consumers & grow, especially in times that the average company is struggling. What these companies have in common is consistently providing superior customer service and experience. Take Lululemon for example, not only do their products have incredible quality, a lifetime value guarantee (after purchase you can return an older item that’s been ripped or torn for a newer one at no cost) but they also have a beautiful site design that is easy for consumers to use, customer support and have a positive mission to promote healthy living. People buy into a brand because of how it makes them feel, this done effectively is how a brand succeeds; match that with a consumer focus & amazing product and you have a winning formula.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Competition will always be there, and right now is the lowest number of competitors you will ever have. It is so important to figuring out what makes your company great, what makes your company different and how your brand makes people feel. A good example of this is Yeti, a multi-billion-dollar company, selling coolers & water bottles at very high prices. If you go on Amazon or Alibaba (products from China) you can find thousands of water bottles & coolers of very high quality that sell for much less than Yeti. Yeti however continues to succeed because they make their consumers feel like part of a club, giving Yeti stickers with purchase, allowing customers to register their purchase for a gift. People will buy into a brand that focuses on them — the consumer and that shouldn’t be undervalued.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
A common mistake I notice is an unwillingness to pivot. Once a business starts to succeed, you’ll notice some leaders sitting back and getting comfortable. Focusing only on scaling a working formula works in the short term but isn’t sustainable. A “If it works, don’t fix it” mentality will destroy a company fast because as it stops building its efficiencies, the customer experience starts to diminish. Which as we discussed earlier, is how the successful companies retain their valuable consumers
This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?
I mentioned earlier in the interview — people are buying into the brand as much as they are buying a product. If your story, your image, your message, the way you make the customer feel is positive and you treat them well, they will continue to buy from you instead of your customers. A good product will bring customers in the door, a great customer service & experience will increase conversion and keep them coming back. This is even more important for retail where purchases are based more on emotion rather than necessity.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
It seems so easy; provide a good customer experience and you will be rewarded handsomely. If only things were that simple, I think the disconnect is a result of three reasons. The first being; creators, designers, decision makers not going through their own customer funnel to understand the experience people go through or if they do, they have a bias towards how easy the flow is. Maybe the process is more difficult but since they designed it, they know exactly what to do already. The second is, even though the process isn’t very user friendly or the site lacks a good experience, the cost is not something the business wants to incur at the moment. The third and most common is the business executives just don’t know how to improve the processes of the customer experience.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
After every purchase on our site, we send a personalized thank you email to the consumer. Within the email, we ask about the experience, to leave a review and if they have any feedback to contact me personally. I have had a few people tell me that our sizing technology helped them with their purchase because they usually avoid buying clothes online due to sizing issues.
I had one customer specifically, tell me that the size recommendation was one of the coolest things they had seen when clothes shopping online and that they waited to send me feedback until they got the product and confirmed that it worked. They were truly amazed when it did fit. It’s things like this that give me, as a business owner, confidence that we really are making a difference in the shopping experience for our user.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Since that feedback we made sure to provide more options for using our sizing technology, adding a widget to start the process of body sizing on our product pages so users not willing to create an account can still get size recommendations. I should note that the consumer that gave me their story has actually been a repeat customer every month since the initial purchase.
A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic sretail experience”?
This is a great question. To create a fantastic retail experience, you must first understand that you will never have a perfect experience. Focusing every day on building a better experience one piece at a time is how to ensure a fantastic experience. Our retail business is luxury clothing, so I will relate my answer to that, but it relates to almost all businesses. The different ingredients, in no particular order are; contact support, site speed, easy to navigate, great products, easy checkout, convenient payment options, FAQ section, easy to locate policies, detailed descriptions on products, how it makes them feel, sense of community, social shareability, customer rewards, allowing feedback and taking the time to genuinely understand what your customer wants.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know Your Customers Well — Take the time to truly understand the needs & wants of your consumers. Whether it’s through a survey, interview, requesting feedback & reviews. You need to know what they like & what they don’t about they processes currently in place to make the right adjustments
- A Frictionless Flow — the less friction there is for the customer as they move through your website the better the experience is for them. Easy to navigate, fast site speed, easy checkout, convenient payment options. A friction point is anything that makes the process of purchasing on your site longer, more difficult, causes users to leave or broken pages. A good example of this is at checkout only accepting a specific type of payment option; the user just went through the whole checkout process but when they go to pay they realize you only accept PayPal. Now instead of quickly adding their credit card info they have to create a PayPal account and decide they aren’t interested in the purchase anymore.
- Support — No matter how much information you have on the site, how detailed your FAQ page is, some people still feel more comfortable asking questions and going through issues they have on your site with a real person. Having very accessible and fast responding support is important for making your frustrated consumers happy & salvaging the relationship.
- Value Added — Perks — Your web design may be nice, and your user flow might be seamlessly easy to use but if you don’t give your consumer the little convenient perks that the regular shopper has become accustomed to, you will lose them. These include things such as free shipping, free returns, customs fees included in price, 3–8 days delivery etc. Our company, FMRU, takes this a step further offering all of the above & also providing users with our size recommendation tool so they are confident the size they buy will fit when it arrives.
- Products — The most important thing to ensuring your customer has a good experience interacting with your website or store is product. If you do not have a product that your consumer wants, they will leave dissatisfied every time.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
For me this is an easy one, I would push for a movement in universal personal finance education for our youth. I would even take this a step further and say financial education; credit, mortgages, debt, savings, school loans, etc. be mandatory in high school to give everyone an equal chance and opportunity to understand the fundamentals behind money and personal finances. A lot of people are at risk of being taken advantage of or losing money because of a lack of basic information that they should have been taught early on in life.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can follow me on Instagram either through my personal account: LucasKoren or the business account: FMRUClothing and I write the company business blogs which can be found on https://www.fmruclothing.com/blogs/news
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
About The Interviewer: Orlando Zayas is the CEO of Katapult, an award-winning omnichannel payment platform. Zayas is known for his revenue growth strategies and visionary leadership in the eCommerce and retail space. His future-forward expertise has led companies such as GE Capital, Safe-Guard Products International, and DRB Capital. Zayas is also highly committed to providing educational opportunities to underprivileged communities through his philanthropic endeavors. Zayas’ business insights are regularly featured in publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Retail Insights, and more.