LIVELY blends style with comfort in a new category of lingerie they call Leisurée. Michelle Cordeiro Grant, LIVELY's founder and CEO, began selling bras direct-to-consumer in 2016—and it took off.
What started as a booming ecommerce store evolved into a scrappy community fueled by retail pop-ups in partnership with Nordstrom and four brick-and-mortar stores of their own.
But LIVELY isn't only a retailer. "LIVELY, first and foremost, is a community, a brand, and a platform inspiring women to be passionate, purposeful and competent in how they live their lives," Michelle said.
This community-first ethos permeates every decision LIVELY makes—from its shift into brick-and-mortar retail to how they've adapted their brand to a world where people stay home and bras stay in dresser drawers (thanks to COVID-19).
"LIVELY is a community, a brand, and a platform inspiring women to be passionate, purposeful and competent in how they live their lives."
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Building a community-first company
When starting LIVELY, Michelle's goal was to cast a broad net and build as much love for her brand as possible, which made digital-first a natural fit.
But even as LIVELY grew as an online store, she and her co-founders realized that bringing women together to create a strong and vibrant community took more than an online presence—it took face-to-face relationships.
“We felt it was our responsibility to bring people together physically to demonstrate what the word ‘community’ means...which is human interactions, support, networking and unlocking that like-mindedness among a group of humans.”
"We felt it was our responsibility to bring people together physically to demonstrate what the word ‘community’ means."
They began sponsoring events—not to sell bras, but to bring people together. But a funny thing kept happening. People kept asking if they had anything for sale.
Once they started bringing products to these events, LIVELY's sales took off.
Michelle and her team started their own popups—first in the Northeast, then all over the country—which ultimately led to their own freestanding stores and a partnership with retail chain Nordstrom, a retail partner who understood and supported the heart and soul of the LIVELY.
An upside-down approach
Shifting from online to in-person retail may seem upside down to physical retailers who are shifting to selling more online, but for Michelle and LIVELY, it was a natural fit for three main reasons.
LIVELY stores serve as a home base for the brand's 150,000 ambassadors. They use the spaces for community events like DIY classes, entrepreneurial panels, and hip hop dance classes to build relationships that go well beyond bras.
Every in-person event is a chance to learn more about your customers. Michelle outlined several questions that human interactions in-store help her answer, such as:
- How do they want to shop?
- What are they adding to their basket just by talking to them?
- What are you not educating them online that you're learning about physically?
- What do they want to see next?
- What are you not offering them that you should be?
"A store is a billboard," Michelle says. With it costing more and more to get people's eyes on your brand using Facebook, Instagram, and Google, those billboards are becoming more and more valuable.
"A store is a billboard."
Adding physical stores to an online business like LIVELY diversifies the brand’s reach. It gives you "different levers," as Michelle calls it, that you can pull as your business, customers, and the world change.
💡 RECOMMENDED READING: LIVELY syncs their online store with Shopify's POS across all their retail locations. Read more in How LIVELY's Omnichannel Approach Increased Average Order Value by 80%.
Adapting through uncertainty
LIVELY planned to continue building its in-person experiences in 2020, but like other brick-and-mortar retailers, COVID-19 disrupted their plans.
Michelle needed to stop and strategize. She had new questions to answer.
"Our greatest asset was our people—our people in our headquarters, but also our people in our stores. So, while people were not coming into the stores, we had to figure out how to use that asset differently," she said. "When the pandemic first unfolded, the first thing we did was pause, and we made sure everyone was home and safe and comfortable."
LIVELY leaned heavily on its digital foundation while incorporating the lessons learned from their retail stores. They launched virtual styling and shifted in-store associates to the customer service team as proactive and helpful guides.
But they had a new problem: Their hero product became unnecessary overnight as women hung up their bras while they were stuck at home.
LIVELY turned to its community once again, asking: “What do our customers need and what can we deliver?” From there, they shifted focus to being comfortable at home and launched digital #LivingLivelyatHome events to continue building and supporting their community.
"We understand how to shift to the customer mindset and then flex our assets towards it."
Many brick-and-mortar retailers had a thriving local community that nearly vanished when the pandemic forced them to close their doors.
Michelle's advice? Be resilient.
She says that retailers should take a deep breath and think about why your customers love you—and find the common denominator. Once you know that, you can package it in a new way that reaches out to your community and shows that you care about them and want to serve them, even when the world's upside down.
Focus on people. That's what community's all about.
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