Editorial Roundtable: The Building Blocks Customer-First Companies Rely On
eBay, Away, Parachute, quip, peach, and Salesfloor reveal how their operations have come to rely on a bevy of platforms, insights, and management solutions
PSFK’s Editorial Roundtable series takes its inspiration from the traditional roundtable: bringing together industry insiders to share their insights on emerging and compelling trends in an idea-friendly manner. PSFK guides the discussion and our roundtable helps guide the future.
Last year, PSFK described the 10 pillars propping up the new shopper experience. But we live in a retail reality so rich that it bears multi-stage analysis and review. This year then as we promote our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK is reflecting on a different concern: how do you actually go about making the new shopper experience happen? That is, what nuts and bolts are necessary in the creation of a fully functioning machine that can respond to today’s retail landscape? The things that happen behind the scenes, behind the fitting rooms, behind the window displays.
Beyond understanding what customers want—convenience, personalization, and seamless, omnichannel access—how can you create an organization that wields employee development, optimized operations, and the latest technologies to deliver on those wants? In other words, what does it take to create a customer-first company?
Our Future of Retail 2017 experts include:
Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute – a company rethinking the quality, comfort and design of your bedding—at a sliver of the price.
Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip – an oral care company that has simplified oral health for many a happy mouth.
Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor – a tech platform redefining the role of ‘salespeople’ for the industry’s largest retailers.
Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away – the luggage company who tailors its collection of products for the modern traveler.
Zoher Karu | Vice President, Chief Data Officer at eBay – the multinational online marketplace remains one of the most recognized names in the dot-com space.
Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach – an intimate apparel company using machine learning and in-person and virtual appointments for optimal bra fit.
(Below is the third part of a four-part editorial series).
Improved employee communication, convenient fulfillment options, data-driven customer insights, automated work tasks, simplified supply chains and inventory management—the list goes on when it comes to the building blocks companies must leverage in a customer-first landscape. What tools/services are available to companies as they look to build out, expand upon or optimize their customer-first experience? Any that you personally swear by?
Ariel Kaye | Founder & CEO of Parachute
“We learned quickly that ‘in-house’ doesn’t necessarily mean better. For example, Parachute launched with a custom-built site, but making simple updates was painful—the custom site wasn’t offering us any advantages. So we migrated our website to Shopify, and this platform has enabled us to manage our shopping experience quickly and efficiently. It’s important to build a solid foundation and prioritize operations early.
Now we focus on our brand identity internally and outsource the things others can do better than us. As a small and nimble team, it doesn’t make sense for us to reinvent the wheel. Using third party services when appropriate allows us to focus on creating the best products possible.
There are certain tools that allow us to do our job better, be more efficient with our work and acquire the data that we need. We currently use WordPress for our blog, Newgistics for our 3PL, Google for our analytics, Retention Science for our ESP, Flexport for international freight and Shopify for our e-commerce site.
We’re never going to outsource the things that are intrinsically Parachute—our products and the way we engage with our community. We will always maintain authenticity and keep the aspects of the brand that are truly different from others in house.”
Simon Enever | Founder & CEO of quip
“These will likely be obvious answers but services like Slack, Trello and Dropbox are essentials for us for in-office organization and communication, and extremely cost-efficient. On the fulfillment side, there are a myriad of 3Pls to choose from, but that can be a tough setup and it can be hard to lose control over such an intimate part of your service (the quality of product going out).
I think the most important thing on the consumer side is not which tool you use to execute your projects, but sometimes what you use to understand which projects need to be done in the first place can help. The insights that Facebook Audience data (and to a lesser degree Google Analytics) can bring to a ‘social media-heavy’ brand like ourselves is a mine of data that is almost hard to keep up with, and yet Facebook itself does a great job of automating efficiencies in audiences once you get it up and running and through the early days. On the custom side, finding simple, quick and affordable ways to understand more about your customers such as a ‘thank you page survey’ (where you ask people who just joined your service a little about them or where they found you or where they came from or what they are looking for next for a few examples) can help you deploy your limited resources into the areas that will end up making the biggest difference to your consumers.”
Oscar Sachs | Co-founder & CEO of Salesfloor
“Today, even the most well-known retailers are exploring ways to get more personal with their customers to gain loyalty. In an era where there are an infinite number of options presented to the consumer for instant purchase, retailers need to give customers a reason to choose them. Of course, I think leveraging sales associates online is one of the most important strategies for retailers to optimize their customer-first experience.
Salesfloor’s platform allows retail associates to bring their high level of in-store, personalized customer service online by integrating local associates online to serve customers. Shoppers can browse product selections curated by their local associate and make purchases with them anytime, anywhere. This not only provides a greater customer experience, but it also benefits retail associates by empowering them and giving them the tools they need to sell online and market directly to shoppers so they can maintain customer relationships and loyalty. This way, associates create relationships with shoppers at scale for an enhanced customer experience, increase online conversion rates and drive incremental sales in store.”
Zoher Karu, Vice President, Chief Data Officer at eBay
“At eBay, we believe that a customer-first approach begins by truly understanding our customers. Organizing all of our customer data by individual customer into what we call the ‘Customer DNA’ has been a cornerstone of our efforts to become more customer-centric. Browsing, buying, searching, watching, collecting, call center interactions, and even demographic data have all been linked together to form the foundation for everything from building predictive models and creating customer segments to understanding cross-shop, acquisition, and churn patterns. We can even mine titles and descriptions of items customers interact with on eBay to better understand individual preferences, e.g. do you prefer Star Wars or Minecraft LEGO sets?
However, we know that the answer is not always in the database.
Truly progressive customer-focused companies combine data tightly with insights obtained from customer research to identify root causes behind observed behaviors. Why do some web pages not perform as well as others? Why are some search filters used more than others? Why are some emails clicked on more than others? These ‘signals’ about customers create relevant, personalized, and even inspirational experiences for eBay’s over 160M active buyers globally in marketing channels as well as in our site and mobile experiences.”
Steph Korey | Co-Founder of Away
“Streamlining communications and automating the automatable is key. We have a company policy against internal emails, you can only use email if there’s someone external on it. For purely internal communications, we swear by Slack for making everything quick and efficient. Our in-house team works directly with our manufacturers, raw material suppliers, freight forwarders, warehouse, shipping carriers to keep everything very directly streamlined. We love data and utilize the data we get from our customer service platforms, web analytics software, billing software, NPS survey, and dozens of other sources to constantly evaluate our customers’ experience and how we can constantly improve it. We use Google Analytics, Desk.com, Flexport, Delighted, Klaviyo, Yotpo, Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack, and Greenhouse to name just a few of the tools that keep us running.”
Janet Kraus | Co-Founder & CEO of peach
“There are so many, yet there are also holes we wish someone plugged. We use Slack for communication, but also rely on good old email. Asana for project management, as well as for ad hoc organization around topics. We still need a way to organize information in the way the ‘intranet’ would, but without the, well, dreadful sound to it.
We are always experimenting with ways to leverage and democratize data. Right now we are playing with Tableau for insight sharing and data exploration, and Klaviyo for segmentation marketing. Our fulfillment and inventory operations are a bit more complex than in other companies our size due to the nature of our bra try-on program, so we invested in tailoring an open-source ecommerce platform to fit our needs. We are still on the hunt for the perfect inventory and warehouse management solutions that would play nice with our set-up.”
Built on a robust study of trends and patterns in the market, the Future of Retail 2017 report offers transformational strategies for a customer-first business. The directional playbook from PSFK‘s research team helps business leaders drive success with insights into empowering employees, optimizing operations and leveraging technology.
Note: If you would like to participate in a coming PSFK Editorial Roundtable, please contact us here.