The year 2020 has already been unlike any other. As a society, we’ve experienced fear, hardship, and uncertainty as the world as we knew it was turned on its head. However, adversity breeds kindness, compassion, and innovation as well. As many people across our nation are figuring out what the “New Normal” looks like for them, businesses are also looking to the future, and how they can continue to provide the best service possible.
One of these companies is French Toast, a student uniform company who has been able to navigate the pandemic while giving back to their customers.
We sat down with Beth Grad, VP of Digital and eCommerce, to discuss how French Toast was able to successfully navigate COVID-19 and hear their plans as we enter their peak buying season: back-to-school.
Can you give us some background on French Toast and your relationship with Radial?
Beth: French Toast is part of the LT Apparel Group and has been around since 1985. We started as a uniform company in urban communities, providing uniforms for schools and the underserved. It has evolved over the years and is online and in mass-market stores like Costco but has stuck to its roots of providing school uniforms in underserved communities. Our online store provides a central hub for parents and schools to purchase whatever they need for their dress code and allows us to provide personalized services, like embroidery, heat transfer of logos and spirit wear.
Our online store ships directly to store, your home, or the school. We have relationships with different dropship partners thanks to Radial who has been our partner for 20 years and handles all our personalization, fulfillment, and customer care. The business has changed so much that we’ve really relied on you guys as a strategic partner to help us go to market, and you really understand the complexities and customizations that need to happen in order to keep and gain customers.
For us, you’re the last to touch our product before it reaches the customer’s hand, and the first person to talk to our customer if there’s a problem, and so when I think about Radial and how we work together, you are an extension of our business. I think of you as part of our business even though you’re your own company, and for our company, it’s a great partnership.
Can you talk about the biggest challenges you have faced thus far?
Beth: With stores closing and schools closing, we’ve faced a significant amount of uncertainty. We were challenged with our products being overseas, and how to save costs while being mindful of the hardships our customers were enduring. We were also challenged with how to inspire people to buy a non-essential item during a time when only essential items were being purchased. To do that, we pivoted our focus to align with our values. We’re a very customer-focused company so we started focusing on what’s important to the customer now. Even if you’re stuck at home, you still want to feel comfortable, so we started promoting the texture of the shirts and how they make the kids feel confident and comfortable.
We’re also currently facing a challenge of trying to predict when schools will open to help us better forecast our peak. This has proven very difficult since there’s been no answer from the government or the states in terms of when kids can expect to be back in school. However, we’ve been working with Radial every single day to look at the forecasts and adjust accordingly. It’s been a great collaborative effort on both sides as we navigate the information that changes every day. We’re launching our Health, Love and Peace of Mind campaigns soon, and Radial has been instrumental in the process. With these promotional campaigns, we’re hoping to drive in a big percentage of August traffic into July and also generate new business opportunities as a result of that, so we’re really excited and we’re expecting to see the volume starts to peak.
What do you see is the biggest impact to your customers and how are you trying to support them?
Beth: The biggest impact is the way parents have had to adjust to be the teacher, parent, employee, spouse, and more. One of our values is: if it’s good for the customer, it’s good for us. So, with schools closed, we asked ourselves, how can we make their lives easier? Knowing everyone was stuck at home and that our mission is to help every kid shine no matter what the situation, we put together this Digital Resources Hub that provides free online learning resources, content, and COVID-19 resources and information. Our customers and everyone are still worried about catching COVID-19, so to help protect their health, and as part of our Health campaign, we’re providing free face masks with each order. This way the kids can go back to school in a safe way.
Each face mask is a different size to ensure it’s the correct fit for each kid. If you look at a 17-year old’s face, it is much larger than a 6-year old’s, so we knew we had to make sure they were getting the right size. We struggled with how to make this happen since we originally didn’t have the capabilities on our eCommerce site to provide the different sizes, but Radial helped us figure it out. They handled all the logistics, processing, shipping and engineering.
Another impact is the economic impact. With parents being furloughed and some even losing their jobs, we wanted to provide peace of mind that their kids would still be able to go to school and have the uniforms they needed. So, as part of our Peace of Mind campaign, we’re covering 50% of the cost of uniforms for families this back-to-school season.
Have you seen an impact to Customer Care?
Beth: Yes, we’ve adopted a more customized and personalized approach for our customers. Radial has helped us visualize and take advantage of those opportunities that fit with our company brand. We’ve updated our policies and really examined our communications to better serve our customers. We looked at our scripts, chats, messaging and updated it all to really reflect our values.
What are you most excited about for French Toast?
Beth: I’m most excited about this program that we’re rolling out: The Health, Love and Peace of Mind campaign. I haven’t seen anything like it out there. Companies have never done an offer like this ever before, and I think the fact that we’re able to bring this to our customers and show that we’re here to help support is great. Having Radial’s support to help us bring this program to light and being able to serve the community in this way is so exciting.
Beth Grad is Vice President, eCommerce for LT Apparel’s French Toast Brand. She is responsible for driving the direct business inclusive of direct-to-consumer (FrenchToast.com), direct-to-school (Schoolbox) and the dropship business. She has 20+ years’ experience launching and growing digital business and products for media, entertainment, publishing, retail, and healthcare companies.