#smwf: New Look’s closed community policy aims to encourage engagement

Amid a wealth of discussion on online community building at the second day of the Social Media World Forum (#smwf) in London today, it was particularly interesting to hear of the strategy being run by UK high street retailer New Look.

Oliver Lucas, head of consumer insight and CRM, explained how despite being a mass market store, New Look operates a “closed community”, called myLook (launched 2009), whereby fans have to apply to be a member.

Doing so, he said, enables the company to get the most from its ‘fans’. Creating this barrier to entry makes consumers feel like there’s something special behind those doors, therefore they become more eager to be there and more willing to actively participate when they are, he explained.

Accordingly, the official spiel on the myLook intro site reads: “At New Look we believe that fashion should be enjoyed by everyone and to help us ensure that everything we do is designed for you, we are inviting those who think they have a real passion for fashion to apply to be a member of this very special community of likeminded people.”

It continues: “Inside you will be able to share your views, suggest improvements, connect directly with New Look and the community and tell us what’s right and wrong in the world of fashion and have a genuine visible effect on the high street.”

That latter part,the “geniune visible effect”, Lucas also picked up on, saying the idea of maintaining a closed community is to make those involved feel more empowered. “If there’s 150,000 members, could I really make a difference?” he asked. Opting for a smaller number instead, he said, encourages engagement.

Participants are selected based on two criteria – whether they fit into the segmentation the retailer is trying to fulfill, and whether they respond to the (open) questions on application in a manner that suggests they will bring something valuable, interesting or even frequent to the equation. One word responses to the questionnaire won’t quite cut the mustard here then.

“So are they the right type of customer and how likely are they to contribute is what we consider,” Lucas explained. Roughly one in every four gets in.

We’re not trying to be exclusive, just very specific in our purpose,” he added – (you get a polite email of decline if you don’t match up).

He went on to express that despite these entry requirements, the intention of the ‘club’ is to make people feel comfortable. “Fashion can feel quite exclusive and therefore intimidating,” he said. “New Look is not about that and therefore our community is not either.”

Unfortunately, they don’t allow in journalists…