PALM DESERT, CA: Away, the direct-to-consumer luggage company, is applying its innovative ethos to everything from digital retail to physical stores and a branded magazine as it seeks to engage consumers and build relationships.

Jen Rubio, the co-founder and chief brand officer of Away, discussed its success formula at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) 2018 Annual Leadership Meeting.

In disrupting what is often a low-interest category, the company has relied on consumer insights to make sure its products generate more passion than is typically the case for luggage.

“We’ve never designed a product without the input of, initially, 1,000 people – now tens of thousands of people – giving us feedback on what that product should look like and what features it should have,” she said. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: Away didn’t change the retail-travel category; it reinvented it.)

As a digital-first brand, Away has also placed a heavy emphasis on data ever since it was founded in 2015, creating a virtuous circle of consumer understanding.

“One of the things that everyone at Away, whether they’re on the creative team or on the analytics team, knows is to look at the data and synthesize something actual out of it,” said Rubio. “Data is a big part of our culture.”

This model gives the brand an advantage over many legacy players, too, as it can build closer connections with customers, rather than relying on third parties to sell their products in varying environments.

“They’re missing the inherent layer, and the fundamental value, of a direct-to-consumer brand, which is that relationship,” said Rubio.

Despite its online origins, Away already has experimented with brick-and-mortar stores in Austin, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco – albeit with added A/B testing to decide its product selection and a clear community focus.

“We stay true to the core of what we are – a direct-to-consumer brand,” Rubio said. “We’ve done events, workshops, and classes – product-focused activations in the space.”

A crossover online/in-store offering is Here, a glossy magazine with stories edited and designed to appeal to the young, travel-smart Away consumer – and is included in every suitcase.

“We became a publisher. We have emails coming in [offering] six- and seven-figure deals for advertising in a magazine that literally we just started a few quarters ago,” said Rubio.

Sourced from WARC