Change agents Sharon Leite, CEO, and Andy Laudato, COO, of the Vitamin Shoppe offer an inside look at how the 750-store retailer transformed its business model and reinvented its stores.
When Sharon Leite was brought in as CEO of Vitamin Shoppe in July 2018 she found a retailer known as a place “for other people’s brands” and stores that were “mystifying” to the average consumer.
Later that year, Andy Laudato was brought in as CTO and was recently appointed COO. Laudato was charged with creating strategic initiatives to support the corporate turnaround program Leite was setting in motion.
Both Leite and Laudato were featured speakers at the recent RetailROI Super Saturday event, which raises funds for orphans and vulnerable children. Super Saturday is part of the busy week of events clustered around the annual NRF Big Show and here are major takeaways from the joint Leite and Laudato presentation.
Vitamin Shoppe Guiding Principles
Leite made it clear the Vitamin Shoppe’s transformation is built on a solid foundation, a mission to serve shoppers by “helping customers be their best selves, however they define it.” Also, by making it clear the Vitamin Shoppe does not just sell other people’s products but is “a brand itself.”
Leite and Laudato are carrying out these directives in the following ways:
- Focusing on three Brand Pillars: 1. Quality: exceed industry standards for quality and establish a seal that lets customers know they can be confident in the products they buy, 2. Innovation: constantly develop new and proprietary products; and 3. Expertise: offer encouragement and inspiring solutions with unsurpassed knowledge and expertise.
- For the expertise mission, Vitamin Shoppe encourages associates to create a relationship with each customer to deliver personalized assistance and guidance on the customer journey to wellness.
- New Store Guiding Principles include: seamlessly integrating services, easy to shop, wayfinding tools, smaller footprint, reduced size of POS to maximize space for product, use technology to enhance the customer experience, and deliver quick and efficient checkout.
The following new store technology initiatives, which were aimed at carrying out the three pillars described above and "demystifying" the in-store experience, include comments about deployment learnings so far:
- Video Wall: Four connected video screens intended to bring the brand to life in a bold vibrant way. Key learnings are that the video screens are easy to deploy but difficult to scale. "Cost and content are the biggest limiters," according to Laudato.
- Traffic Counters/Heat Mapping: New stores use 12 cameras to better understand customer behavior and gather invaluable data for visual merchandising. Conversion is a critical metric and is measured in every store. Analysis of heat mapping indicates customers shop with intent.
- Mobile POS: Tablets are used in stores for quick and efficient checkout. Discovered for mobile POS to be effective — tablets must support a suspend/resume function to enable complex transactions. Also, “a website is not a POS and a POS is not a website,” according to Laudato.
- Clientelling App called V-BOOK: Product knowledge is essential to ensure store associates can deliver the expertise shoppers expect. In addition, the tool supports customer lookup, loyalty program, and such store functions as BOPIS fulfillment. Laudato warns not to underestimate the importance of “security, identity and printing.” Also, he is “a strong believer in decoupling store management from the core POS." Additionally, he notes, "in a small store, a serverless implementation is ideal.”
- Free-Sample Vending Machine: Allows customers to try products for free in exchange for providing their e-mail addresses.
- Digital Product Guide: Customers like to use the bar-code scanning kiosk that offers product knowledge for scanned products. However, feedback indicates the kiosk needs deeper content.
At this point in the presentation the fire alarm began warning Super Saturday attendees to evacuate the building. Clearly, Leite and Laudato were on fire while explaining the depth and breadth of the Vitamin Shoppe makeover and they are not expected to cool down any time soon.