NPS Blog

How Bonobos designed a tailored shopping experience

I used to think Internet stores were just about the last place I’d go if I wanted to buy a pair of pants. It’s hard enough to find a pair of jeans or other casual pants that flatter my slightly-less-than-perfect bottom. And it’s just plain impossible to gauge how a pair will fit from an online photo of a handsome young model that is probably Photoshopped or at least styled to an extreme. If you want a pair of pants to fit right, you need to try them on, touch the fabric and maybe get a little help from a tailor.

That’s why it’s so shocking that Bonobos has been successful. When Bain alums Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly started the e-commerce company, they wanted pants that fit better. They found American-cut pants too boxy and European cuts too tight. They also found the men’s shopping experience to be lacking. So, they did exactly the opposite of what I would have expected: they founded Bonobos with the explicit promise that their pants would fit better—a claim that seems almost impossible to verify over the Internet, and very unlikely to be compelling. Yet, somehow, they succeeded.

Andy Dunn of Bonobos

“We saw what Zappos had done, delivering a great service experience selling other brands, and we said, ‘Wouldn’t this be even more powerful if we could do it building our own?’” Andy says. Bonobos launched its website in 2007, offering pants with its signature curved waistband.

While I thought they were crazy at the time, they’ve proved me wrong. Bonobos is a fast-growing online menswear retailer with 320 employees and 20 physical stores. When Andy joined me recently on the Net Promoter System Podcast, we spoke about the company’s approach to customer service and what makes it different.

Bonobos has done everything it can to keep service at the core of its mission. Its customer service “ninjas,” the online team members who interact directly with customers, are based at the company’s headquarters in New York. The company looks for positive, empathetic people for these critical roles, and many ninjas go on to more senior positions.

Andy says Bonobos is “obsessed” with the Net Promoter Score. The company uses Net Promoter to measure its online customer experience as well as each store’s performance every week. Bonobos categorizes feedback whenever a customer mentions a specific product, allowing it to improve its T-shirt line, for example.

The company combines customers’ Net Promoter feedback with their order history to create a powerful system that helps salespeople provide a more tailored experience, both online and at its offline “Guideshops.”

“What we’re spiritually trying to do is have a guy feel like we know him and we care about him more than any clothing brand has ever done so in the history of humankind,” Andy says.

It might sound grandiose, but this maniacal focus on service has allowed Bonobos to diversify beyond pants. Andy says that tops and other products now account for the majority of the company’s online sales. Moreover, they’ve developed such a great reputation for good products and service, they were able to team up with department store chain Nordstrom for additional distribution. Finally, their Guideshops seem to be a real hit, offering an even more personal shopping experience to Bonobos brand loyalists.

Andy’s story about the Bonobos journey offers dozens of great ideas for Net Promoter practitioners. You can listen to our conversation on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

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