Running Live While Living The Island Life

Emma Reeve

The motto of Seattle-based retailer Tommy Bahama is “Live the island life.” The brand’s values are “relax and just have fun,” according to CEO Doug Wood.

“We’re a happy brand,” he says. “Take us to your favorite vacation location or to your backyard. Whatever makes you relax, we’re your brand of choice.”

But like any smart retailer, Tommy Bahama doesn’t take a laid-back approach to competing in the marketplace. The company strives to continually improve its ability to innovate, optimize channels, deliver a superior experience, and connect with customers.

To achieve those goals, it relies on a constant stream of data that allows the company to run live – while enabling the company’s customers to live the island life.

Island innovations

Now in its 25th year, Tommy Bahama designs and sells men’s and women’s clothing as well as a complete home collection, from dinnerware to beach chairs. It also operates 17 branded restaurants. It has 4,000 employees and over 160 stores in North America, Japan, and Australia.

To remain competitive, the company constantly re-evaluates how it does business. For instance, until 2008 the company’s business was 75% wholesale and 25% direct-to-consumer. But growing e-commerce sales revealed customer demand to develop a direct relationship with the brand. Today, the company is 75% direct-to-consumer and 25% wholesale.

The company has innovated to cement those customer relationships. On the Hawaiian island of Maui, in addition to a popular restaurant, the company has also deployed a food truck that serves the entire island – and delivers the Tommy Bahama message to a broader audience.

In Florida, the company has augmented its store at Coconut Point by adding its new Marlin Bar concept. Sales have significantly exceeded expectations in both the bar and the store, and additional locations are being evaluated.

And in New York, the company created the Cabana Room, an upscale shopping experience for women’s swimwear and cover-ups. This store-within-a-store combines swimsuit specialists with digital screens that display its entire swimwear line to help customers buy the perfect swimsuit with confidence.

Of course, Tommy Bahama faces the same challenge as all retailers: fewer people shopping in stores and connecting with the brand in person. Yet Wood feels confident the company can maintain strong customer relationships across channels.

“I can make those experiences fantastic, and I’m going to have a relationship with that guest. … Whether it’s online, stores, restaurants, wholesale … you have to set up an environment so that the guest is going to interact with you any way they want to.”

Live data for a live business

To continue innovating and connecting with customers, Tommy Bahama depends on live data. That data needs to flow in from the field, and it needs to be shared seamlessly among management of its retail, wholesale, digital, and restaurant channels.

“To have the connection between what’s going on with physical stores, what happens on the website, what happens with the restaurants, you have to have a very tight-knit executive team,” Wood believes. “We have to get a lot of information out, and we have to take a lot of information back in.”

The retailer maintains a dialogue with customers and gains new customer insights with the help of cloud-based commerce solutions. “This technology … is the foundation for our digital efforts,” Wood says. “It gives us stability, gives us the ability to keep adding scale, and allows us to keep innovating.”

Going forward, Tommy Bahama plans to leverage capabilities in the commerce solution to personalize its interactions with customers. For example, the company will be able to fine-tune promotional emails based on the customer’s location and the exact items they’ve already purchased.

“That’s where personalization really comes in,” Wood explains. “The great thing about the technology is that there are so many ways that you can keep expanding what you’re offering to your guest.”

Learn more about how Tommy Bahama is driving a corporate culture of innovation. Watch our replays of exclusive interviews with Doug, conducted during SAP Retail Executive Forum.


Emma Reeve

About Emma Reeve

Emma Reeve has 20 years of experience creating world-class marketing initiatives that focus on customer and audience experience for technology, finance and pharmaceutical industries. She is currently the Global VP of Storytelling for SAP driving customer experience through storytelling. Prior to SAP, she has led strategic audience engagement on both the corporate and agency side from interactive storytelling; brand communications; digital creative and gaming; advertising; sponsorships and partnerships; branded events; interactive media; e-commerce; and social media strategy. While integrating storytelling as a key tenant professionally, Reeve has also used it as a tool is raising awareness philanthropically. She tells personal stories of women in Rwanda and their path towards hope through skills training, education and community support, while inciting a movement that encourages people to get involved in being part of the change in the world. Reeve communicates strongly her passion that storytelling can engage anyone to empathize, take action, make decisions and more - but at its core it is at the center of making change.