Using Data to Drive Community at lululemon

By BrainStation June 6, 2019

Meet Max Smillie, a recent alum of BrainStation’s Data Analytics Certificate Course. Shortly after finishing the course, Max was promoted to Regional Community Lead for lululemon. BrainStation sat down with Max to hear about his experience in the course, the role of data in retail, and how he plans to use data in his new role.

lululemon community lead
Photos: Jen Ng @jn.creative

BrainStation: You just started as the Regional Community Lead at lululemon, can you tell us about your role and what it entails?

Smillie: At lululemon, we’re making a concerted push to be a brand that’s best in the world at events. With that goal, there are lots of large scale events happening, and so my role as the Regional Community Lead is to take on those big, head office-driven activations.

What was your motivation behind taking the BrainStation Data Analytics Certificate Course?

The direction that we’re going is to be a brand that ties metrics and KPIs back to community events. The head office is pushing us to be more data-driven, to show results for events that are being created.

I could see that there was a bit of a gap in training, so my thought was that I would get ahead of the curve and take some time to study data, how it’s collected, how it can be displayed, and how data sets can be manipulated. This has been a great course to take and I think it definitely helped push me into the role I’m in now.

Can you tell us about your experience at BrainStation?

The highlight was definitely the people. I met some new people, the instructors are really down-to-earth, and it felt like a family. The people who are in the classes are all working to better themselves and are real go-getters, I think that’s what makes the class so special.

Have you been implementing the skills you learned in the course into your new role?

I had a call with all the store managers and shared with them how we should be collecting data for all of our events. We do have tools to collect data, but I walked them all through how to do that so that we can start creating data sets for every event we do, and we can then store them and create year-over-year data that will give us some good insights.

What are some ways that lululemon is incorporating digital elements into its community and marketing initiatives?

One of our focuses is getting more people out to events and involved with lululemon who don’t already own the product. In the past, we haven’t been tracking enough data on how our events are growing – and so it’s something that our stores are currently focused on.

To gather data, we’re embedding questions in the registration process for events, and a year from now we’ll ask how those questions need to change in order for us to evolve. What’s really exciting is that we could be one of the first regions to bring to head office that we tracked all new customers that events brought in throughout the year.

What are some challenges that you’ve faced in the retail space that you believe data can help with?

At lululemon, our store reporting is incredibly high-level, we keep track of almost every metric – how many people walk into our stores, the conversions that we get. I’m well versed in data and working as a manager at lululemon you get a lot of education on data.

The next challenge will be to determine how the community team can catch up to the in-store level of metrics and tracking, and how we set ourselves apart from other brands through data.

Where do you see digital trends going in the years ahead and how do you think the retail industry will have to adapt? 

What I hope happens is that our POS system gets to a point where it can actually measure data. For an event, you don’t get massive data outputs, but for a POS system that’s tracking purchases, you would get really complex data sets. For example, we don’t collect postal codes at point-of-purchase, but it would create a lot of great avenues. It could indicate where in the city we aren’t present, or what neighborhood a new store would be successful.

For my final presentation in the data analytics course, I actually used lululemon in-store data and tracked it based on area codes – the class loved it.

The Future of Retail

Data is being used to change many industries, from the non-profit sector to the retail space. If you’re interested in learning more, BrainStation is diving into how retail is changing alongside technology in the upcoming Future of Retail panel discussions in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver.