In these photos from writer and influencer Melissa Sonico, her children, Johanna and Harrison, are pictured with Crate and Kids’ Babyletto Tip Toe bunk bed and several pieces of bedding from the brand.
NORTHBROOK, Ill. — The teams at Crate and Barrel and its children’s brand, Crate and Kids, were already well into the final stages of preparation for the release of fall collections when the world started shutting down for COVID-19.
At Crate and Barrel, the retailer was preparing for the roll-out of three design-forward products stories, which included the brand’s first whole-home modern collection, Trove by Crate and Barrel.
“Launching our fall collection with rich storytelling and beautiful photography as originally intended required us to rethink our approach when COVID-19 hit,” explained Suzy Cirulis, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Crate and Barrel.
The same was true at Crate and Kids, where Vice President Alicia Waters and Merchandising Manager Stephanie Lesh said the brand was preparing 382 SKUs for its “most kid-forward and kid-inspired collection yet.” To keep things moving smoothly, the team had to refocus its digital efforts and reconsider traditional photography and marketing processes.
“From a photography standpoint, our photography studios were closed, so we sort of had to embrace new ways of shooting all these products that we’ve never thought about before,” said Waters. “We really relied on our photographers. Some of them had families (that they included in the shot), and some shot just the product for us, and we weren’t even on the set for the pictures.”
To meet deadlines, Crate and Barrel gave its content partners similar freedom, sending them product and instructions and letting them shoot it in their own homes instead of at sets built in the retailer’s studio. CGI technology was also utilized wherever applicable for brands.
Content created by influencers, in addition to imagery shot by traditional photographers, were key to Crate and Kids’ content creation efforts for these launches, too, as the brand sent its partners pieces and had them shoot photography in their homes with their own children.
To account for an increased need for content, the company also “tripled” its influencer partnerships. Crate and Kids has now worked with a total of 21 different people and families, relying on lifestyle, design and writing influencers such as Melissa Sonico and Sarah Michelle Lawrence who collectively hold just under 100,000 followers on Instagram alone at press time.
Cirulis and Waters agree that both brands have had to realign their marketing and digital strategies and goals throughout the launch of their respective fall collections, putting emphasis on new types of content, new content themes and more.
“While our product stories haven’t changed, the context for which our customers experience our product has,” said Cirulis. “For example, showing our tabletop in the setting of a family dinner vs. a large gathering. Or, showing multi-functional room settings where people are living and working.”
In addition to changes to its content approach, Crate and Barrel has taken a digital-first approach to meet the needs of its customers, more of whom are shopping with online, Cirulis said, by investing in digital media, developing more video to improve engagement and enhancing virtual design services.
In person, Lesh said the normal timing for floor sets was pushed back for Crate and Kids, and the brand, already shopped online primarily, has seen an uptick in those numbers, so it is taking similar steps to emphasize the e-commerce experience and curbside-pickup options in its marketing.
A focus on particular products and “quarantine projects” have also been a big focus for Crate and Kids, as the company focuses on consumer interests in creating new and improved spaces for kids to live, learn and play — on account of school and camp closings — all at home.
“Sometimes change really brings innovation,” said Waters. “We actually really love the shots and photography, and really just the stories behind the shots that we’re getting.
“I think in some ways that’s a really positive thing that’s going to take us further than we might have gotten doing it the same old way, and (it) might be something we continue after this.”