Unless you regularly shop for or with a child or a tween, you probably aren’t aware of 77Kids. It’s a children’s line extension of the American Eagle apparel brand, akin to GapKids, P.S. from Aéropostale, and Abercrombie Kids. And to the nondiscerning—read: adult—eye, its offering is remarkably similar to those of the above-cited brands.
The in-store 77Kids experience, however, is surprisingly different from those of the other stores—or at least our recent experience in the Danbury, CT, store was.
For starters, my 11-year-old daughter was handed a scratch-off promotion card as soon as we entered. Is there a kid alive who doesn’t like scratch-off cards? Several seconds of furious scratching revealed that we’d “won” 15% off our day’s purchase. Probably all the cards were good for a 15% discount, and of course 77Kids could simply have advertised a 15%-off sale, but there’s no element of fun in that. The cards were a great way to engage the kids, which is especially important when it’s the parent rather than the offspring who initiated the shopping trip.
Then there were the dressing rooms. My daughter loves shopping but hates trying things on. (I think it stems from when she got stuck in a loo while we were visiting Clovelly in England, and she had to climb up and over the divider to get out… but that’s a story for another time.) The doors in the 77Kids dressing rooms, however, had nifty little porthole windows that charmed her so much (and reassured her that were she to get stuck, help was easily at hand), she agreed to try on before she bought. This may seem like a little difference to you, but when you’re shopping with youngsters, little things are often pretty big deals.
When we reached the register to pay for our purchases, the cashier chatted with my daughter, complimenting her choice of swimsuit and asking if she wanted to become a member of 77Kids' loyalty club, before writing her name in bouncy script on the outside of the bag just below the store logo, giving her a couple of branded stickers and a temporary tattoo, and then escorting her to a candy counter on the other side of the store and allowing her to select a few goodies.
As we made our way through the rest of the mall, my daughter put the bag holding an earlier purchase from another store within the 77Kids bag “because it’s prettier, and has my name on it,” adding, “You know, this bag is pretty good advertising for them.” Yes, my daughter was well aware that she was being marketed too (she’s her mother’s daughter!), but because she’d received something that she considered of value, she didn’t mind. And the logoed stickers, which are now part of a collection on her bedroom mirror, serve as a continuing reminder of the brand.
While ringing us up, the cashier asked if we’d like to receive emails from 77Kids. I said yes and gave her my email address. Here’s where the fabulous brand experience begins to flag. Because 10 days have passed since our visit, and I've yet to receive an email.
A welcome email—or better yet, a welcome email series—is a relatively simple way to make someone who has opted in feel, yes, welcome. It's also an easy way to reinforce the goodwill that had led the person to opt in to begin with. By failing to continue our burgeoning relationship, 77Kids squandered all the effort it had gone to during our fabulous in-store visit.
It's as if 77Kids were a somewhat geeky boy your pushy aunt Helen fixed you up with. Despite misgivings, you went out with him and had a wonderful time. At the end of the night, he asked for your number, and you gladly gave it to him. He promised to call... but never did. If you ever do run into him again, you're hardly likely to give him more than a cursory nod. (Unless you decide to give him a hell of a lot more, such as a very loud and obscenity-laden piece of your mind.) And that's assuming you even remember him and haven't since been swept off your feet by another brand—oops, boy.
Along similar lines, 77Kids also failed to use the positive in-store experience to promote its Facebook page or Twitter feed. If a sticker mentioning the Facebook page had been included in the bag with our purchase, I’m certain my daughter would have logged on and “liked” it as soon as she got home.
I'm willing to bet that 77Kids' retail marketing team works independently from its online marketing team. And as a parent, I’m somewhat relieved that its cross-channeling marketing efforts were so weak. But if I were an American Eagle shareholder, “relieved” isn't the sentiment I’d be feeling.