Gift Cards, Loyalty and China Expansion with Elisabeth de Gramont, Frank And Oak (episode 457)

Elisabeth de Gramont is the Head of Impact at Canadian fashion brand Frank And Oak. A bricks and clicks B Corp retailer founded in 2012 that now has 15 stores in Canada and does the other 50% of its sales via its Shopify site. Elisabeth is also the Chief Brand Officer at Unified Commerce Group.

Elisabeth de Gramont Frank And Oak on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Dive in:

[05:01] The brand’s focus on sustainability and timeless pieces.
[09:15] Using innovative materials for sustainable fashion.
[17:18] Need someone on the ground in China.
[22:45] Identify loyal customers and reward their loyalty.
[24:23] Encourage team to share weekly recommendations for inspiration.
[29:54] Insights from Elizabeth on sustainable brand evolution, transparency, and China expansion.

Elisabeth’s eCommerce Journey

Elisabeth’s background in brand strategy and consumer insight led her to a unique path in eCommerce. She first worked in China, specializing in helping international brands adapt to local markets.

She got involved with Frank and Oak through Unified Commerce Group, which acquired the brand in 2020. Her role mostly covers the expansion of the brand into various channels, including physical stores and wholesale partnerships.

About Frank And Oak

Frank and Oak is based in Montreal. It was founded by two individuals who aimed to provide an affordable alternative to expensive suits and fast fashion. They started with men’s wear and later added women’s wear to their offerings. Sustainability is a key focus for the brand, using materials and designing products intended for long-term use.

They started as a subscription box service, providing customers with a monthly selection of clothing items they could keep or return. Over time, they shifted towards offering timeless pieces that stay in style, prioritizing both durability and sustainability.

Sustainable Evolution and Transparency

Frank and Oak focuses on sustainability in fashion by choosing eco-friendly materials and innovative blends like crushed oyster shells and recycled plastic bottles.

This focus started with reducing the carbon footprint of their fabrics. They’re also now working on greater transparency in their supply chain to understand the full life cycle of their products.

As they positioned themselves as a sustainable brand, they realized customers expect more in various areas, so they’re taking steps to address social and climate issues. Sustainability is a step-by-step journey for them, evolving as they learn and adapt.

Educating Customers on Sustainability

The Frank And Oak team aims to educate customers and change their purchasing behaviors toward sustainability. They achieve this by crafting high-quality products with a strong sustainable focus.

Their strategy includes communicating innovations like recyclable denim and eliminating metal rivets. These make sustainability more concrete and understandable for customers. They also use product shoots as a way to share the story of their garments and supply chain.

These approaches have contributed to consistent growth since their takeover in 2020. For Elisabeth, this reflects the alignment of brand purpose and product quality.

On the Chinese Front

Elisabeth says there are challenges to entering the Chinese eCommerce market. Her tips for those who wish to expand to China are:

  • Have a trusted local partner who can establish your brand on an Alibaba-type platform and handle different aspects of the business.
  • Learn to adapt to eCommerce platforms like Alibaba because Chinese customers mainly shop on these platforms; they rarely visit brand websites.
  • Stay informed about the rapidly changing market dynamics and rules.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Take care of your loyal customers. Last Christmas, Frank And Oak sent their top customers multiple gift cards – one for themselves and three to share with friends. Elisabeth believes this personal approach turns loyal customers into brand advocates.

Tool Top Tip

  • Look outside your industry for inspiration and fresh perspectives. Every week at Frank And Oak, team members share wins and challenges via email. But aside from this, they also recommend things outside their industry where others can find inspiration and create engaging topics for discussion.

Carbon Top Tip

  • Form partnerships with like-minded fulfillment providers. In the case of Frank And Oak, they’ve partnered with a 3PL in Toronto that uses electric vehicles for deliveries in major cities and is working towards carbon neutrality.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • Serving 160k Customers Custom Fit Fashion with Jess Fleischer, Son of a Tailor
  • From Studio to Wholesale: the Journey of a Sustainable Textile Brand with Helen Round (episode 439)
  • Fashion and the Circular Economy with Zoe Rowswell, co-founder of Tern Eco (episode 435)

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