Voices: A Route Interview Series Feat. McKiernan Flaherty
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Apr 13, 2021
McKiernan Flaherty Let Us Bend His Ear
McKiernan Flaherty is the National Event Producer at Aviator Nation, a 1970s-inspired California lifestyle brand.
He began his career working in channel marketing at RingCentral, then pivoted into ecommerce when the retail landscape shifted. He now works to get a growing number of consumers into the brand’s most coveted luxury loungewear.
As a longtime creative, he’s leveraged his relationships with musicians, sports professionals, artists, and influencers to continuously bring the brand to the forefront. McKiernan’s experience in strategic partnerships landed the Venice brand exclusive collaborations over the years with Gibson, SXSW, Tito’s Vodka, and SoulCycle.
Unfortunately (for Aviator Nation), McKiernan will be departing to pursue his Master of Business Administration in the fall at the University of Colorado–Boulder, but before doing so, he let us steal a couple minutes of his time to pick his brain about his ecommerce experiences.
Q: What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
A: One thing I know now that I wish I knew five years ago is how important it is to have your supply chain completely dialed and running parallel with your ecommerce channel. I really wish that I knew more about our production and fulfillment teams here at Aviator Nation, because it’s really a dam that these three teams—production, fulfillment, and ecommerce—are relearning over the last eight months here.
I wish we were aligned on how these production timelines work so that we could be really adept on marketing and strategizing through our social channels parallel to our ecommerce channel. I’d also love to be working with our fulfillment and have total transparency around what our shipping timelines are going to be, our logistics, and beyond. That’s really been something mission critical to succeed over the last year.
Q: What does the future of ecommerce look like to you?
A: I think the future of ecommerce is going to be an omnichannel retail strategy. That’s going to be really important to stay afloat and to stay relevant. That’s why we’ve worked very hard to make sure that every customer interaction is seamless, whether that’s an interaction happening at our brick-and-mortar locations or an interaction our customers are having on their mobile device and every place between.
While we’ve seen customers turning to our online channels and ecommerce now more than ever before, we’ve also been planning and strategizing what it’s going to look like as customers return to stores over this year. How are we going to be changing our brick-and-mortar experience? How are we going to make it as convenient as possible? We’ll be a lot more accommodating in our experience, including in-store pickup, providing private shopping opportunities and appointments for customers, and even providing a personalized digital shopping consultation.
These are all options to make this experience as personable and easy as it can be for our customers. I think that we’re also going to be seeing a lot more brands moving into virtual reality-integrated tech, especially within the fashion sector. I’ve seen mockups of mirrors where people can see the clothing on them without having to physically try it on. We’re going to see other forms of that virtual reality, for example, being able to see a product within your home.
It’ll be really interwoven into our social channels as well—whether that be Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Lastly, we’re going to be seeing more collaboration. There’ll suddenly be more exciting and unexpected collaborations coming in the fashion world. We saw recently Gucci and The North Face do a very expansive collaboration and they’ve really hit the nail on the head with that. They’ve been able to create something new and they’re driving traffic to specific retail locations and making the experience comprehensive and immersive for their customers. So, I would be on the lookout for new collaborations, such as our own that we just released with Gibson guitars a few weeks ago that you should check out.
Q: What’s your best failure?
A: I think that my best failure would be underestimating the demands and support that we have received as the ecommerce climate has changed. We’ve really been fortunate as an apparel brand that has specialized in loungewear, predominantly luxury loungewear.
Now, more than ever, people are purchasing something that they can wear at home for work, for school, or for whatever else, but they’ve been confined to their house. So, we’ve seen our demand skyrocket, and that really puts us in a position where we have to scale our production, customer service, ecommerce, and fulfillment teams at a really unprecedented rate. These roles are obviously in-demand for a lot of other companies as well, making it a bit of a difficult task to fill these roles quickly and be able to meet the demands on time.
The best way that we went about handling this was being really transparent with our customers. We proactively told them about our delivery delays, when they could expect their product, and that we were going to be entirely transparent about their orders. We built the process so that they knew exactly when they were going to be able to receive their product despite all the complications—whether it was in staffing or shipping logistics.
Q: How have you pivoted during the pandemic?
A: Our strategy has pivoted a lot, focusing on our core collections that have been stable since the beginning of Aviator Nation. We really tapped into our community surrounding brick-and-mortar locations, and I’ve worked to make buying as easy as possible with an omnichannel strategy to get our consumers what they want—whether they’re more comfortable having goods shipped directly to their house, picking it up in-store, or trying it on in-store.
We’ve just been working with our consumers directly and understanding what their needs and expectations are. It’s been the focus of this last year for us. We opened up the doors of communication, as well, through our social media platforms by socializing and engaging our customers in different ways to see what’s important to them. I think that, overall, in the fashion world, something we’re going to be seeing here at Aviator, and potentially across the board, is moving back toward a period of time where there were one or two seasons or one or two collections—a spring/summer collection and a fall/winter collection—versus the prior fast-fashion trend with up to eight different seasons per year.
We’re really going to be scaling that back as we see and are reminded of what our core items are. Those items that are really timeless and practical—something that’s core to our DNA as a product that we need to change and keep on altering.