The Power of Digital Engagement: A Case Study on Rent the Runway


With multiple weddings looming this past summer, I turned to online fashion tool, Rent the Runway, as a solution to finding multiple event-appropriate dresses. The model of Rent the Runway is simple and flawless: you browse their selection of thousands of designer dresses and accessories and find one in your size and budget to rent. When it’s time for your event, they ship you the dress (along with a free backup size) and provide a paid return package for easy drop off once it’s been worn. With prices as low as $30 per rental, it’s a budget-friendly option women are flocking to.

I ordered my dress about three months in advance and naturally, completely forgot about it. About a week before the wedding, I received an email from one of their stylists, Reylisa, alerting me that the dress I’d reserved was damaged beyond repair. She told me to pick out any dress (regardless of rental price) and she’d overnight it to me for the wedding. I replied with three dresses, one of which was way beyond my budget, but let her know any of them would work. Reylisa responded and let me know that because I was so understanding about the problem and had made her day easier that she was going to overnight all three dresses, free of charge.

I was elated! Here I was, not even remembering I’d ordered this dress in the first place and now I had THREE to choose from? In true millennial form, I immediately took to Twitter to reach out to Rent the Runway. I let my followers know how great their customer service was and how pleased I was to be using them. Even though they have nearly 45k followers, they took the time to reach out and let me know how much they appreciated my tweet.

I realized then how much online engagement had played a role in my experience with Rent the Runway and how important small things like this can make such a large impact on consumer brands. From start to finish of my interaction with Rent the Runway, someone was with me the entire time, checking in with me along the path of purchase. Digital interaction, such as responding to tweets, engaging on Facebook or responding to comments on Instagram goes a long way with consumers. We all like to feel like we’re connected to the brands we’re buying from.

I’m not the only one who thinks they’ve got it right. Rent the Runway has received media coverage for years commending their social media presence.

rtrw owners

Their model is built around organic interaction with shoppers who are encouraged to upload photos of themselves to the site, along with reviews of dresses and experiences with the company. The company founders, Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman, both young entrepreneurs, understand their social media impact and engage regularly in live “style chats” with Twitter followers to provide advice and tips.

At the core of their digital marketing approach, the company believes that a brand endorsement from a friend is going to be more powerful than that of a stranger or direct email. Platforms like Facebook and Pinterest allow for users to see the community of users and visuals that enhance the brand’s image. Their reach is massive, but their digital marketing efforts are commendably organic.

What can other companies learn from Rent the Runway?

  1. Engagement is key. Be it online or in person, reaching out to your customers and having them be a part of the brand journey from start to finish establishes trust.
  2. Personalization and communication need to be clear when crafting messages to consumers. No one wants a computer-generated response, but if you do have to have one, be sure to have an individual rep follow up within 24 hours.
  3. Be a part of the community discussion. If someone says they like the product you provide, reach out to them and let them know that you value their support. It only takes a minute and can go a long way with retention.

There’s no one right way for everyone to approach digital engagement, but there are ways to encourage your customers to organically champion your brand. Know your audience, find appropriate channels and start interacting. If you’re as smart as Rent the Runway, you’ll build a dedicated base in no time.

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