February’s – ‘The Future Issue’ – Download Now

Elisa Bruno, General Manager of Level Shoes expands on what it takes to drive the future of luxury and how embracing new tech platforms supports the business.

What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?

I feel like my morning routine sets the tone for the whole day – working with Level Shoes, which is always fast-paced with the many brands we work with on a daily basis, I know I need to be on top of my game! I like to start my mornings by giving myself a few moments of peace and reflection, which I don’t get to do much often during the day; a 15-minute meditation session, especially now with the Dubai winter weather, is just the peace I need before the craziness of the day begins and when I find myself having the most creative reflection. Once I’ve awoken myself mentally, I always try to squeeze in a little exercise, even if it is as simple as a jog around the block to get my body moving for the day.

What is at the core of Level Shoes, the DNA of the brand?

Product curation, innovation, authenticity and the people. Level Shoes strives to constantly innovate and stimulate the customer experience through services and an unprecedented product offering. The store display is constantly changing and adapting and aims to inspire the customer to dream. Social media platforms allow the brand to express authenticity in a luxurious way, authenticity connects with the soul of consumers and luxury connects with the emotions. That being said our values are heavily embedded in all aspects of the business such as respect, excellence and leading with an entrepreneurial spirit these are three core areas we aspire to inspire people with. Our people, the employees of Level Shoes are intrinsic to the success of the brand. I am extremely proud to be part of such a diverse and talented team. We have formed a community within the brand with shared values, vision and a true passion for what we do. The team is creating and imagining the future. This futuristic nature and inclusivity are some of the keys to our success.

You’re direct to the consumer. How do you approach new client acquisition and retention alike?

We are constantly introducing new brands with an abundance of diverse and contemporary styles and we are constantly thinking ahead, predicting trends, markets, etc. We always keep up to date with current trends and most importantly we listen to our consumers! The consumers drive the business, and we will always listen. We recently heard the demand of the KSA market and we opened our first KSA space in Riyadh Park Mall. Understanding customer behavior is also crucial, we do this through CRM management and monitoring data and trends. This gives us the ability to observe the culture of the consumer and what intrigues and engages them in particular content or products. Social media, social commerce and marketing are also imperative to new client acquisition and retention. Social media platforms, our app and our eCommerce site allow us to reach global consumers, creating brand awareness on a worldwide scale. We offer a unique and intrinsic customer experience. Level Shoes is becoming more than just a store, it is a lifestyle destination offering a concierge team and several in-store services such as the personalization hub, shoe care, shoe repairs, pampering, grooming and F&B. In result encouraging longer visits and a diverse shopping experience that has something for everyone. We are well known for hosting pop-ups, store activations and creating Insta moments for occasions across the globe, such as – for example – our Lunar Wall that celebrates Chinese New Year which is situated in the Women’s area of the store. These activations and pop-ups always create that extra buzz in the store and encourage new consumers and new ways of engagement. We have also launched on several Chinese social media platforms, creating content in a whole new language and in a result reaching a whole new audience and source of interaction and engagement.

Level Shoes Entrance

Why did you decide to retail in such a way from the outset and retail what have been the challenges and successes in scaling this globally?

Retail is a growing business that has lots of challenges and I am always up for a challenge. There are many opportunities that demand different approaches, what works today may not work tomorrow – having effective leadership to drive a business and maintain agility is key. Some of the challenges would be keeping up with the market. your market research never stops business conditions changes constantly, and this acquires continued research and growth. Level Shoes has grown a lot since its launch and has built a global footwear destination that curates’ brands from all around the world which resulted in getting the global recognition it deserves. The most important thing that will drive our brand even further is our unique mix of global talent with local knowledge the success of level shoes comes from acting local but thinking global.

How important to commerce is content?

Content is everything, it is crucial that the content reflects the brand personality, values and spirit. Level Shoes has very curated and specific content that is designed to deliberately engage the consumers. Our tone of voice allows us to communicate brands in fresh ways that entice and intrigue consumers to want to know more. As a result influences fashion decisions and purchasing culture. It builds connection, and emotional connection makes people feel that the brand listens to their needs and in turn engages them further. It additionally increases revenue through trust and loyalty, driving retention of customers.
All creative content is driven by the buy. We shoot content that supports our depth areas, our hero investment pieces, and top spend brands. The buy informs both the subject matter of the content and inspires the creative brief itself. The creative team is also data-driven. We can only create relevant creative content for our audience with a data-driven approach. Data about who our customer is, how they respond to content, shopping habits, brand and product preferences.

How do the commercial and creative sides of the business work together and do you feel particularly drawn to one side of the business?

Collaboration between the commercial and creative teams is key to the success of our business. We need information from trade to know what to push via content, trade needs content to give visibility and support to the product. We could not exist successfully without one another. The business goals and ambitions are at the heart of our creative content. If the business wishes to become more diverse, we present this creatively. If the business wishes to expand internationally, we give our creative content an international appeal. The business goals and ambitions give strategy to our creative content. The content is the face and voice of the company, the commercial is the brain and heart. Each side needs the other in order to communicate with our customers.

Can you tell us more about the key changes you’ve implemented since you arrived at the helm of the brand?

It’s been only a year and if I look back I can see so many achievements. I have focused on the team first, growing our national talents, appointing more female leaders, currently 67 percent of our leadership team with an even gender split across the workforce), increasing our team diversity and inclusion (we have now 48 distinct nationalities and growing). I have also promoted new social media in Arabic and Chinese to engage with global luxury shoppers. Authenticity in everything we do, when it‘s about my leadership or the way we communicate across different channels. In 2021 we have conquered Tik Tok, with totally spontaneous videos filmed by our junior teams achieving more than 5 million views for some and this is thanks to our communication style of authenticity.

How have you approached new platforms such as TikTok which are in nature less polished?

TikTok has allowed us to embraced authenticity and gives the brand a true personality and distinctiveness that other social platforms don’t offer. It truly allows us to build a community via shared creative content. We incorporate fun and lighthearted content which mirrors the TikTok nature of being entertaining yet interesting. This has benefited us greatly and has allowed us to fully emerge ourselves in the current trends and in a result reach an entirely new audience globally. TikTok in nature is for a younger generation – one of the most diverse generations yet, with high levels of education, digital nativism, social and cultural awareness and a high propensity to be expressive. TikTok is the channel to engage with Gen Z, who have a lot of influence over what people buy at the moment. It is our space to get our brand voice and values out to younger customers and their families, to give them the Level Shoes experience.

Level Shoes General Manager

What has been the largest challenge to date since you joined and how did you overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge to date is something we can all resonate with, which was trying to bring the brand back to its potential after the effect many retail stores have faced post-COVID-19 lockdown. Our commerce was doing exceptionally well, as there was a spike in online shopping while everyone was based at home; but damage control had to be done for our retail store which had obviously suffered from a massive lack of footfall during the same time.

Have you had any mentors along the way and if so, what has been the best advice they have imparted to you?

I would have to say Angela Ahrendts, the ex-CEO of Burberry. She is an extremely inspiring woman and leader. I would like to believe I can inspire people in the same way she did for me. She taught me a lot, personally and professionally, especially about the power of authenticity and listening to your instinct.

Which brands consistently drive sales season after season?

For women’s; Amina Muaddi, Aquazzura and Chloé! “Aminas” is truly becoming the new staple stiletto to have in your closet and the signature heel is a true statement of the brand! Aquazzura is the shoe that everyone needs and wants – we recently hosted a pop-up for their 10-year milestone, and it enchanted the customers into the ethos of the brand. Chloé is a timeless brand that offers such a diverse array of footwear and accessories and does well season after season – we are currently hosting a Chloé pop-up in-store. For men, Magnanni is seasonless and consistently performs season after season despite the trend. And so, Burberry. Amiri, off-white, Adidas and Nike are also always popular – men look for hyped sneakers and know where to find them!

The last year was a time that saw brands change strategy. Have you had to pivot as a business?

We have definitely had to pivot! The world is constantly changing (especially these days with covid). We have focused more on driving Ecommerce and encouraging to purchase online, we have our app which makes purchasing fast and easy to the consumer. We have kept up to date with contemporary payment solutions, offering payment installment and payment through social channels, we are the first luxury retailer offering 90 minutes delivery within Dubai to online shoppers. We have a very naturally high footfall in The Dubai Mall store – being at the heart of the store it is no surprise, and this is excellent. However, we wanted to encourage and offer alternative shopping solutions, allowing our shoe lovers to buy where they like and the way they like.

What effect do you see social media having on the growth of the brand?

Social media elevates the brand and allows us to express ourselves in a whole new way. It allows creativity and possibilities to sore and reaches a whole new height. It is not only crucial to keeping up to date with fashion trends, it’s critical to keep up to date with social trends – these go hand in hand when growing our followers and engagement. Gen Z and millennials are the dominant driving force of TikTok and Instagram, Social media content acts as an extension of the website in terms of giving additional space to both displays and sell items online. It also gives the opportunity to gain feedback from potential and loyal customers to enhance a brand. It gives us more space to present our tone of voice to potential and loyal customers and a result cement the brand. Opportunity for an easier journey into international growth as you have already been communicating with the international audience due to the nature of social media. It allows us to collaborate with content creators to grow the audience and emphasize brand values. It is important to pick the correct people to collaborate with to ensure that they share the same values as your brand.

This is The Future Issue- what do you think is the future of the luxury industry and how do you see the brand being part of that?

The future of luxury will probably look like a social arena of immersive experiences. We will see emerging trends come to life, this includes in-store robotic fulfillment, contactless checkout, live selling and much more! ƒWe will see increased investment into the three fundamental retail pillars which are convenience, personalization and digital connection. As a result impacting store operations, supply chains, shopper marketing and merchandising moving forward.

February’s – ‘The Future Issue’ – Download Now

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Images: Supplied