How Do You Build a Massive, Multi-Million Dollar Empire with Socks?
Jennifer Able, Stance’s Director of Ecommerce Operations and Technology, has been with the company for 3 years, and has played a key role in Stance’s fast growth. “Our team was four people when I got here, and now we have more than 20 focused on ecommerce and our digital brand presence,” says Able. “It’s been a very exciting ride.”
Able attributes this growth to brand awareness. “Everything changed when we got the NBA deal,” she says. “Then we launched our first Star Wars collaboration on Cyber Monday 2015, and that drove an unbelievable amount of people to the site.”
Advocacy doesn’t adequately describe a Stance customer. Fandom is a little closer. But the word you’re looking for is love. Stance offers its customers a daily opportunity to express their love for teams, artists, heroes, and stories they adore. Like a tattoo you can change every time you do your laundry.
Personal. Portable. Comfortable.
The company’s brand ambassadors include icons such as Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Rihanna, and others known collectively as “Punks and Poets”. Beyond Star Wars, Sanrio, and Disney, Stance is the official on-field sock of the MLB, and is officially licensed by numerous NFL and college teams across the country.
In recent years, Stance has expanded from socks to underwear for men and a broader offering of intimates for women. “Basically, we’re designing anything you put against your skin as a base layer,” explains Able.
For a company driven to lead in base layer garments, the story of Stance’s success has a lot to do with its inner workings. The company’s core culture is built on Freedom and Accountability. Five core values drive the decisions employees need to make everyday, and every new recruit is interviewed by at least two members of the senior leadership team.
At Stance, The Right Fit Is Everything
This tightly knit working relationship has allowed a small and nimble team to pull off some amazing feats. “We have lots of great ideas, and Stance does a fantastic job staying true to who we are while figuring out how to continue growing.” says Able.
One such accomplishment was the complete overhaul of their digital infrastructure in the four months leading up to the holiday season in 2016. To scale its operations, Stance had to rip-and-replace key components from the outside-in, including a major upgrade to the customer experience. While this labor of love would intimidate most online retailers, Able recalls being pregnant at the time and how she relied heavily on her team when she was out on maternity leave.
With renewed capabilities the business has also pivoted from being solely a wholesale to a full-fledged retailer.
“We understand that our direct to consumer business can create a strong brand, build loyalty among consumers, and support all of our retail partner who also sell Stance product”, she says. As such, the company has put a big focus on creating a strong direct to consumer presence and team. Stance has even opened six brick-and-mortar stores, and is planning on doubling that number in 2018.
Guaranteed Fraud Protection
One area Stance initially overlooked during their rapid growth was online fraud. With an exceptionally low return rate – just 3% in an industry with an average of 14% returns – it wasn’t paying much attention to chargebacks until one customer’s name kept popping up. “We realized this guy had ordered repeatedly and then filed for hundreds of dollars in chargebacks,” says Able. “We had some people taking advantage of us and realized that we needed to think more seriously about fraud.”
With the infrastructure change Able mandated the inclusion of a fraud-prevention program that didn’t require additional in-house resources. Signifyd was recommended to Stance and Guaranteed Fraud Protection was rolled out with the new ecommerce platform just in time for the holiday season.
“Our fraud rates have continued to go down,” explains Able. “Our Signifyd experience has been painless. They’re very easy to work with.” Return rates have stayed low and approval rates have stayed high. While fraud losses have been eliminated, Stance has been able to continually accept more orders by keeping Signifyd’s protection in place.
Keep Your Feet On The Ground
Looking ahead, Able has some earnest advice for entrepreneurs just starting out. Focus on your customers.
“If you focus on your customers, then your product is going to be there to meet and exceed their needs,” she says. “Without that focus, I don’t know how you can be successful.”
Able attributes much of Stance’s continued success to this foundational principle and the company’s ability to stay true to its culture. “It’s one of the things I love most about this brand, and it’s something I’ve sought since I worked at Zappos back in the early years,” says Able.
Stance is making sure its culture stays solid as it expands into new categories and international markets. It has been selling wholesale globally for some time, but it is now opening ecommerce sites for European and South American markets as well.