Stance understood from the beginning that it wasn’t about selling socks.
Instead, the buzzy accessory retailer set out to tap into the need for humans to express themselves in original ways, like donning socks featuring Marvel superheroes, favorite baseball teams, hometown NBA franchises, floral and fanciful scenes — all rendered beautifully, like pieces of contemporary art.
So, it set out almost a decade ago to build an experience, a sense of community, that lead to fandom, while reinforcing that with a communicative style that lets customers know that the retailer gets them.
For that tenacious focus on customer experience, Signifyd honored Stance with its FLOW Award for customer experience. Stance Executive Vice President of Direct to Consumer Paul Zaengle accepted the award at FLOW Los Angeles, an evening of networking and sharing retail wisdom attended by a few dozen retail professionals who understood what it takes to keep up with consumers in the digital age.
“I really love the brand that I’m a part of,” Zaengle said before thanking the entire Stance team. “Our mission is celebrating human originality and it comes through in our products, the designs and the quality and innovation and all that we put into it.”
In 2009, socks seemed an unlikely area for disruption. But Stance’s founders understood the human spirit and what consumers were looking for.
“Stance has taken some everyday apparel items and turned them into a personal statement,” said Indy Guha, who as Signifyd’s vice president of growth marketing, presented the award. “What sets them apart starts with a great product. But it’s the level of Stance’s commitment to its customers that puts them in rare retail company. They have built a community and given it a place to gather, digitally and in person. When you look at Stance, you’re looking at the future of retail.”
The award came during an evening at Perch, a rooftop bar with restaurant in downtown Los Angeles, where leading southern California retailers shared challenges, strategies, war stories, dinner and drinks. Guha led a conversation with Boardriders’ Vice President of Ecommerce Anthony Milano, who provided attendees with practical tactics and strategies to build successful ecommerce operations. (More on that in a coming post.)
The Stance story, of course, didn’t end with socks. In terms of products, the retailer has expanded into men’s and women’s underwear and T-shirts. As an enterprise creating community, Stance struck deals with the NBA, Major League Baseball, Rihanna and a broad roster of influencers that share its vision. The retailer has enlisted skateboarders, authors, models, musicians, designers and professional athletes who help promote and design its products and work under the label “Punks and Poets.”
The company thrives on innovation. Engineers work in its SHRED Lab, SHRED being an abbreviation for “Sock, Hosiery, Research, Engineering, Development” — and a popular skiing and skateboarding term. The result? Stance is constantly developing innovative materials that are every bit as impressive as the bold patterns adorning the socks and underwear sold by Stance.
Stance also pioneered in its stores the first-ever, self-checkout system that does not require an app. The system is another way Stance eliminates friction in the buyer’s journey by allowing customers to skip the line and check out on their smartphones. The self-checkout is available in all 15 of Stance’s standalone stores, including its newest at New York’s Hudson Yards, currently the hottest retail property on the planet.
Stance, whose products are also available at retailers like Nordstrom, Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI and Bloomingdales, among others, maintains a focus on customer experience throughout all its channels.
“We’re very proud of our design, quality and innovation, and our guests love it,” Zaengle said. “We also strive to make that come alive in our stores and in our online experience.”
All of which is so much more than selling socks.
Photo by Signifyd