A dedication to customers – through a focus on constant innovation and staff – has been a winning formula for online sportswear retailer Stylerunner.

This saw the business win the Customer Centricity Excellence Award at last year’s Retailer Awards.

“It was an honour to see the team celebrated for their dedication to our customers,” Stylerunner founder & CEO Julie Stevanja told Inside Retail. “The Retailer Awards is an incredible event to be a part of, and was a highlight of Stylerunner’s year.”

Achieving cut-through from its launch in 2012, Stylerunner has made it a mission to do things differently as well as value add. “When we first started we definitely revolutionised the way sportswear was sold. It came in a beautiful branded box with tissue paper – I don’t think sportswear has ever been sold that way before,” Stevanja said.

Stylerunner has an in-house content team and every week a new photo shoot utilising high fashion photography styles the products together in attractive ways, with a lot of time spent choosing appropriate athletic models: “We really go to a lot of effort to deliver an experience which is very beautiful and engaging from the moment you start browsing to the moment you receive your parcel in the mail,” she said.

“We essentially want a consumer to re-imagine the sportswear retail experience; sportswear is something we’re very passionate about but we generally think that customers want an experience that may be a bit theatrical but certainly interesting and engaging and that takes constant re-imagination so that’s definitely a focus for us.”

In the past year, this has resulted in two exciting initiatives. The launch of a concept store and an online magazine.

The concept pop-up store opened in September in Sydney’s Paddington – initially for eight weeks. “We actually ended up extending that for another two months because it was really successful, and we had some really great classes that were held there,” Stevanja advised.

A variety of classes were offered each week, including yoga, boxing and “Retro Sweat”, an ‘80s aerobic inspired workout. Sustaining the goal of customer engagement, “Whenever we do something we want it to be fun – and a little surprising,” she observed. “Whether we re-think what our online store looks like, or how we sell that product or which models we use… think different and surprise our customer.”

And with a huge following on social media interest – of over half a million – the August launch of online magazine RADAR was a clever way of addressing burgeoning customer interest, with new articles published daily.

“We thought we actually want to take them from that journey to a longer form content conversation and share all the things we’re passionate about.”

A crucial contribution is staff involvement – and transformation and new ideas are actively promoted. “It’s part of our culture. We have really built it into our values and the staff are really encouraged to come up with new ideas – it’s something that we celebrate,” Stevanja emphasised.

A peer recognition system wherein staff anonymously nominate people in the team that they’ve seen live up to Stylerunner values and innovation sees a $2000 travel voucher awarded every year.

Thus the Retailer Awards are seen as an invaluable way of recognising staff achievements in contributing to business growth. “It takes an incredible team working together to deliver fantastic results…I think it definitely lends credibility and trust to consumers that you’ve been recognised at that level,” she observed.

The awards’ importance also extends to within the industry – as it’s useful in attracting talent. “Recognition that you’re a really successful company achieving great things is a fantastic way to attract and recruit new talent.”