Jenny Fleiss: Be Opportunistic Culture Carriers During a Crisis

Jenny Fleiss, entrepreneur and intrapreneur — and founder of two scaled digitally native businesses from scratch (Rent The Runway and Jetblack)
Jenny Fleiss, entrepreneur and intrapreneur — and founder of two scaled digitally native businesses from scratch (Rent The Runway and Jetblack)

Jenny Fleiss — entrepreneur and intrapreneur, and founder of Rent The Runway and Jetblack — gave Virtual REACH 2020 attendees personal insights into innovating her ventures as the COVID-19 economy threw a curveball into consumer spending and commerce this past year.

After gaining success and engagement through social media engagement and experiential marketing years ago, Rent The Runway quickly turned into a unique, convenient digital subscription service that lets women rent out, experiment with, and return designer fashion dresses and all types of accessories at their leisure.

During her “Innovation in the New Frontier” speech, Fleiss noted how cash is king during economic crises, but so is nimbleness, open communication, and adaptability. The company had to close four stores when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the economy.

“We changed the structure of our subscription service and pivoted after COVID-19 arrived, and this helped us retain our ‘sticky’ consumer base,” Fleiss said. “It was about being open with customers and employees — both. We were open and honest about why we had to pivot to have cash-on-hand to continue serving them.”

She said the more retail “prongs,” communication and engagement that any organization has (physical and digital), the better engagement it will have with customers in any season — good and bad times, but especially the difficult periods. Digital orders, fortunately, have sustained the company during the past eight months, and Fleiss said she’s as optimistic as ever about the opportunity for credit unions and businesses in general to innovate going forward.

“Make sure you constantly have ongoing conversations with your customers,” Fleiss said. “Focus groups, surveys, and conversations about what they like, how they are enjoying their experience, and constant A-B testing on their spending habits and ‘why’ is key.”

Over the years, women consumers who are both online subscribers and store entrants have seen “how real women look and feel by picking up and dropping off their designer dresses at the store,” she said. “Consumers are shopping to be smarter and have a more effortless, delightful experience. It’s about efficiency, personalization, and the experiential factor.”

Fleiss ended by encouraging credit union leaders to “never waste a crisis,” in the words of mid-20th Century British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Learn to increase your organization’s flexibility; give your team permission to take risks; and don’t be afraid of forced innovation and scrappiness.

“We’ve learned to be opportunistic, and to be culture carriers,” she said. “Take care of your team and enjoy your surroundings — and reflect that with everyone you work with and touch during difficult times such as what we are experiencing during COVID-19.”

You can watch Jenny Fleiss’s session and also catch the entire conference in real-time or on-demand! Click here to experience this exclusive virtual conference on Oct. 26, 28 and 29, and Nov. 4 and 5. REACH 2020 is one of the credit union industry’s premier annual events, drawing leaders and system partners from across California, Nevada and the United States.

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