Wait, Michaels is Doubling Down on Opening New Stores? A Deep-Dive With Their CMO, Mandy Rassi

December 13, 2023

We recently sat down with Mandy Rassi, the CMO of Michaels—you know, the craft store that your mom took you to every week growing up. She mentioned that they’re doubling down on opening new stores and getting super in-the-weeds about balancing their physical retail strategy with their digital e-commerce strategy. Here’s what she had to say. But first, be sure to check out the full episode here covering this topic and so much more:

How Physical Stores and E-Commerce Work Together

At the heart of Michaels' strategy is a 360-degree view of retail as a whole, where physical stores and online platforms work together to complement each other.

This approach is not about having multiple channels; it's about ensuring these channels are seamlessly interconnected, offering a cohesive brand experience to the customer whether they’re browsing Michaels.com at home in their pajamas, or standing in the middle of an aisle touching different yarns.

Mandy recognizes that today's consumers expect a blend of convenience, variety, and experiential value, regardless of if they’re shopping IRL or online. By aligning their brick-and-mortar stores with their online presence, they’re not only meeting these expectations but also creating a competitive advantage in the craft retail market.

Physical Stores as Experiential Hubs

Today, many retailers are scaling back on physical locations. Michaels isn’t.

This move is rooted in the understanding that certain product categories, especially those requiring sensory engagement like arts and crafts, benefit significantly from in-person experiences.

Their stores serve as experiential hubs where customers can engage with products firsthand, seek expert advice, and find inspiration. Many folks actually consider Michaels their “happy place”. Maybe your store should become someone’s happy place.

This aspect of IRL interaction and personal connection cannot be replicated online and is central to building customer loyalty and brand affinity. So what are they doing about the digital side of things?

The Digital Side

The majority of online stores are overly transactional. Michaels goes beyond that.

The aim is to mirror the sensory and inspirational experience of in-store shopping. Their online platform is designed to cater to a broad spectrum of crafters, from beginners to professionals.

It's not just about providing an extensive product range; it’s about offering a curated experience that includes tutorials, project ideas, and expert tips. This approach helps in creating a digital community around crafting, driving deeper engagement and repeat visits to the website.

Of Course We Have To Mention Data

By leveraging customer data, Michaels can personalize shopping experiences, both online and offline. This involves sophisticated inventory management, tailored product recommendations, and targeted marketing campaigns. Sprinkle a little AI on there and we’re looking at something pretty interesting.

By analyzing purchasing patterns, customer feedback, and market trends, Michaels ensures its product offerings in stores and online are aligned with customer preferences in various markets. This data-driven approach is crucial for optimizing inventory, reducing waste, and ensuring that both physical and digital shelves are stocked with products that resonate with their customer base.

But How Are They Marketing?

The goal is to seamlessly blend IRL and digital channels. Their marketing strategies are designed to reflect the brand’s creative essence, employing a mix of storytelling, community engagement, and experiential events. This includes leveraging social for storytelling, UGC to foster community engagement, and traditional ads to drive traffic to both their physical stores and e-commerce site.

Looking Ahead

So, what’s the point? The key takeaway is the importance of creating a seamless and integrated customer experience across all channels. This involves not only the strategic alignment of physical and digital operations but also a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences. If you want to survive and thrive as retail continues to evolve, the ability to adapt and innovate in response to changing consumer behaviors will be crucial.

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