Hilary O'Haire

Recent Posts

A Lesson in Loyalty: Will J. Crew Get a Clue?

Posted by Hilary O'Haire

Wed, Aug 05, 2015

loyalty, branding, retailIf you follow news in the fashion world, you may have read about recent setbacks at preppy retailer J. Crew. Following another disappointing quarter of earnings, the company announced corporate lay-offs and changes at the helm of their women’s clothing design strategy. Although J.Crew has been quick to take action, its poor performance goes beyond declining sales and disappointed customers. Even customers most loyal to the brand are shouting their frustrations in the social media streets (see: “Dear J.Crew, What Happened to Us? We Used to Be So Close”).How could the direction of a company—known for its devout customer base—take such a dramatic turn? Although off-the-mark designing is partially to blame, many are frustrated with the poor construction and quality of the clothing. As a loyal customer, I have relied on J.Crew for items that are basic closet staples and distinctly on trend. Like others, however, I have been disenchanted by their new lines—my $40 t-shirt is stretched out after one wear and a hole has appeared near the seams. This is not the outcome one would expect when paying that much for a basic t-shirt. Sarah Halzack summed up the issue well in her Washington Post article on the topic—“J.Crew is learning the hard way that in an era when e-commerce has presented women with ever-greater shopping choices, customer loyalty is hard to win and incredibly easy to lose.”

That’s a point J. Crew and other retailers need to take seriously. It’s certainly true for me. Receiving poorly crafted items from a higher price brand such as J.Crew creates a sharp disconnect. After experiencing this, I’m more likely to purchase from one of many cheaper brands (e.g., H&M or ASOS). Most shoppers that I know feel the same way. In facing this challenge, J.Crew needs to re-examine its core strengths. What positive attributes drove customers to advocate the brand in the first place? Is it quality (as in my experience) or is it design? Is it something else? Although the world of fashion is very forward-thinking (fashion-forward!), the case of J.Crew is a good reminder for brands to consistently monitor and deliver on the core aspects that first led to success.  

Hilary O’Haire is a Project Manager on the FIH/RT team. Having worked for J.Crew back in college, she is particularly hopeful the brand will make a comeback!  

Topics: Brand Health & Positioning, Customer Experience & Loyalty, Retail

In-N-Out Serves up a Side of Innovation

Posted by Hilary O'Haire

Wed, Aug 20, 2014

innovation, innovative, In-N-Out BurgerI've just returned from a week-long vacation to California, and I'm still feeling the joy (and guilt) from satisfying my ultimate indulgence: In-N-Out Burger. Since I’m an East Coaster without frequent access to their locations, my trip would not have been complete without going at least once. I have another confession: I ate there three times in ten days. I may have overdone it, but my love of the brand is predictable. In-N-Out Burger is the one chain Millennials will return to time and time again—we just can’t seem to get enough of it. This is not new nor surprising news. As a Millennial myself, I am enamored by the restaurant, which offers a simple four item menu, fast service, and garden-fresh ingredients.A report by Technomic states, “In-N-Out Burger is the chain most likely to be revisited. Millennials place greater emphasis on the concept's brand image, agreeing more strongly than other generations that In-N-Out Burger supports local community activities, offers new and exciting products and is an innovative brand.” To me, the most interesting finding is that In-N-Out’s brand is seen as innovative. This begs the question: how can they be innovative if they only offer four items? Devout fans may point to the success of their “not-so-secret menu,” which is listed only on their website and boasts creative burger combinations, as a reason. However, I’d like to think In-N-Out serves as a gentle reminder: innovation doesn't always mean complexity. Although customers may continue to eat up crazier menu choices, the actual menu at each location remains clear and unchanging: burgers, french fries, shakes, and beverages.

Although it's impossible to avoid complexity at all phases, the root of innovation or product development should remain simple. When beginning to think about innovation—perhaps a new product or new process to improve your business—let this be a helpful reminder to have a focused core set of objectives in mind. Using In-N-Out’s magic number four, take a step back and ask yourself: What are the (up to) four innovation objectives that I need to guarantee success? Your success will be defined by multiple outcomes, from stakeholder support to the ultimate goal of application or use. However, keeping clear and consistent objectives will ground your innovation through execution and management. The end result of these objectives may be unknown, but who knows?—you may find yourself concocting your own “not-so-secret menu” of innovative ideas.

Hilary O’Haire is Senior Associate at CMB. If you find yourself at In-N-Out Burger in the near future, she recommends not-so-secretly ordering your meal ‘Protein Style.’  

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Topics: Growth & Innovation, Generational Research

Show Me on Your Phone Where it Hurts: mHealth is Here

Posted by Hilary O'Haire

Tue, Apr 09, 2013

I don’t want to brag, but my smartphone is in really good shape.

Like millions of other people, I have multiple fitness and health-related mobile apps, and they’re constantly alerting, pushing—begging me to login, add my stats, and track my diet and exercise. And while I’ll confess there are times these apps get more of my attention, they are awesome tools for getting and staying in shape.

Of course, they’re not a brand new phenomenon, and in a 2011 Consumer Pulse study: Consumer Perspectives on Health and Wellness, we found 7 in 10 smartphone users interacted at least weekly with mobile fitness and diet apps. With smartphone ownership growing, the number of people using these tools has only increased, and companies are responding by bringing new and exciting additions to the mobile health (“mHealth”) app marketplace. In fact, over the next 5 years, the mHealth market is expected to grow annually by 23 percent.

glucodockThere’s much more to mobile health than tracking calories and reps, and what’s truly exciting is mobile’s capacity to revolutionize how we understand and manage our health.  As Mark Curtis notes in “Your phone will know you are sick before you do,” new mobile technology—like “body hacking” will put more of our own health data literally at our fingertips. Body hacks include tools like GlucoDock, a plug in for the iPhone, allowing diabetics to track their blood sugar easily on the go; or the simple but elegant pill bottle cap that connects to a patient’s phone and alerts them when it’s time to take their meds.  Besides being extremely clever, these mobile technologies also change how we interact with those involved with our care—hospitals/providers, insurers, and pharmacies. These tools have the potential to give patients an unprecedented level of control and involvement in their own care. What was once hidden in a doctor’s files is now available to be examined by patients themselves.

Way back in 2011, we asked consumers how much they expected to communicate with their healthcare provider, insurance company, and pharmacy in the next few years. Of those who used mobile apps to perform health and wellness activities, over one-third expected their digital communication with each to increase. Well, these “next few years,” are here. Health apps are no longer restricted to physical betterment through diet and fitness; they’re helping us take control of our own health maintenance—from identifying ailments to tracking provider-patient interactions. What’s next? Look into your crystal ball, what do you wish your phone could do to make and keep you healthier?

Hilary O’Haire is an Associate Researcher at CMB. Although she enjoys working out and her RunKeeper app, a love for good food keeps her determined to eat at every Boston restaurant ever featured on a Food Network show.

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Topics: Technology, Healthcare Research, Mobile