Gwen Bennett, SVP Ecommerce & Marketing at Destination Maternity, on Innovation in Retail

Destination Maternity is one of the world’s leading maternity clothing brands. With two subsidiaries, Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in the Pod, Destination Maternity makes maternity clothing for every woman going through this special time of her life with both high-end and affordable options. Gwen Bennett began her time at Destination Maternity in 2015 as the Vice President of Ecommerce and she is now the Senior Vice President of Ecommerce and Marketing as of October 2017. She is a passionate ecommerce and marketing professional who ensures that Destination Maternity maintains its high performance in the hyper competitive evolving retail space.

Bennett’s introduction to the world of ecommerce is an interesting story. Bennett received her Bachelor of Science in Economics from Purdue University however, she always had an interest in Computer Science. When Bennett began working at a privately held company in 1999, she remembers that the chairman of the board called a group of employees together and said, “I really think this internet thing is going to take off and we could sell products from the internet. Would anybody like to try that?” Bennett remembers raising her hand and offering to take on this new challenge. By the year 2000, her and one other employee had established a website which eventually grew to be around 10% of the company’s revenue. Bennett expressed that, “it was really fun and exciting to try things and see what would work to keep building on to the success.”

Gwen Bennett, SVP Ecommerce & Marketing at Destination Maternity

When speaking to Bennett, we had a couple questions regarding the ecommerce world. Our first question was: how does a brand differentiate online when the user experience is so similar among all ecommerce websites? She told us that, “it’s really about the branding and the journeys that we create.” What’s distinct and extraordinary about working in the maternity world is that they are able to help women through this time of major change. Destination Maternity is an expert in maternity clothing and therefore, they are able to teach women about what they should be wearing at every stage of their pregnancy. This strengthens the bond between the consumer and the retailer as they are able to share this moment together. Bennett indicated that at Destination Maternity, “we show her how much comfort she can have and that she can look great and feel better.”

Our next question was: in-store shopping is all about the customer experience, what are some ways for retailers to deliver that amazing customer experience on their ecommerce website? Bennett explained, “that is the real challenge right now. It’s moving away from being strictly transactional where you know what you want and buy it to more of a discover and then learn and then buy.” She illustrated that now a customer spends much more time browsing on web pages before making decisions. One method of increasing website users that she believes is effective is the use of blogs. This way, people gain more exposure to your products and it brings the consumer closer to the brand.

In-terms of marketing, Bennett believes that the marketing world is changing through the use of social media. She says that many people now look for products through Instagram and, “influencers have really changed a lot of that marketing”. Influencer marketing is the use of famous people to promote products. Using influencers to market can expand your audience but it is also an efficient marketing method because familiar household faces are supporting your company, which can build a trust between you and your customers.

We also asked Bennett how important she thinks it is for retailers to stay on top of the latest digital trends. Her response was, “I think it is very important. We have to always be out there researching, looking for what’s changing and what’s working.” With hundreds of ecommerce solutions on the market, Bennett indicated that, “we have to make sure that everyone understands our strategy, that we are focused on it and that we don’t let the next shiny object advert us before we are ready.” She stays informed by going to conferences, reading news on the latest trends and she reads a variety of tech blogs. Once something catches her attention, she turns to her executive team and they look into integrating the solution together.

Our final question was: how do you think technologies like AR and VR will impact retail over the next 5 years? Bennett explained to us that our world is so consumed with technology which has been helpful for us in many ways, but it also consumes much of our time in our day-to-day life. “I think we are going to be surprised by some of the changes that take place. There are going to be a lot of amazing things that are going to take that shopping experience and help to open up time. All this technology can suck the time out which leaves less time for shopping and the discovery of things. Anything you can do to help customers with that like AR and VR will be welcomed by time-starved consumers.”

Gwen Bennett recognizes how fast technology is developing. Less than 20 years ago, Bennett helped launch a company’s ecommerce platform when the internet was only beginning to take off. And, she acknowledges that, “Online retail will continue to be a rapidly evolving space”.

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