Many people sometimes have a tough time figuring out what exactly digital transformation is and why it’s so important. I want to tell you a real-life story of how a once-respected brand, lululemon, has failed the digital transformation journey and, as a result, may fail in a new retail landscape.
The story starts innocently enough with my desire to get my wife a lululemon gift card for her birthday. She has gotten her vaccines and is returning to the gym, so I figured it was a great time to get new workout clothes. I purchased a gift card on March 15 to be delivered via email a few weeks later on her birthday. It was a simple digital transaction that for any company that has its digital transformation act together would be a no-brainer. Well, this is where lulu turns off the tracks and turns into a digital lemon.
On the day of my wife’s birthday, I had planned that she would wake up and see how thoughtful I was in getting her the gift card. She didn’t say anything about the card, though, so I finally asked if she received the gift card. She didn’t know what I was talking about. I had her check her spam folder, nothing. Nope, no gift card.
Thus began a day that would see me reach out and communicate with the lulu team no fewer than six times. It seems that lulu uses a third party for digital gift cards. Each time I reached out to a lululemon “educator” (that is what they call them, and did I get an education), I was told a different story:
- A simple apology and card being emailed, give it an hour.
- Sorry, it must be that email address, do you have another email address? Give it an hour.
- Hmm, seems our third-party gift card provider is having problems today.
- We located your card, it was sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org could I check that email? (I would love to, but that isn’t an email address I have.)
- Well, we have no control over when the third party sends emails.
- Digital gift cards are non-refundable, even if you didn’t receive it. Sorry, can’t help you.
- You have blocked our emails from your computer.
At this point I realized that lululemon, while maybe making great workout gear, is analog to the core. A simple digital transaction like this had them tied in knots, wasted hours of my time and so turned off my wife that she is looking elsewhere for her new workout gear.
This past year has taught us that retailers that can’t hop on the digital transformation train are heading for the precipice. It seems as though lululemon may have already gone over the deep end. The company better hope the malls fill up quickly because in a digital world, lulu is truly a lemon.