Yesterday evening an eager crowd gathered at the Apple store in Soho for the Meet the Innovators: eCommerce panel discussion sponsored by Women Innovative Mobile. Moderated by Veronika Sonsev – CEO of inSparq, panelists in attendance included Shelby Drummond – Vogue Accessories Editor, Emily Hickey – COO of Lolly Wolly Doodle, Chantel Waterbury – Founder and CEO of Chloe + Isabel, Andrew Mitchell – Co-Founder and Managing Partner of ZIG Capital, and our very own Liza Kindred of Third Wave. Topics for the evening spanned from new and current trends in eCommerce to omni channel business models.
Kicking off the event, Veronika asked each of the panelists to cite a company they believed was a current innovator in eCommerce. Emily Hickey went into a discussion of subscription based services such as BarkBox, a doglovers’ monthly product box service. She explained how the company has effectively managed to take a tightly focused category and appeal to its community by building a content marketed driven strategy. Shelby Drummord referred to the new LA startup Beauty Counter, empowering the customer to be the seller. Liza remarked upon the growing trend of recommerce sites and how at this point in time the market has almost reached saturation but the innovator in the space still remains to be Posh Mark. Andrew Mitchell talked about a nearly across the board favorite: Warby Parker. He spoke about how the company’s transparent approach and extraction of the middle man has created a unique value proposition for consumers that is causing industry wide disruptions in the supply chain. Chantel Waterbury talked of Wantful, a site that allows consumers to curate a special gift book, solving the problem of gifting that so many of us dread.
Moving on, Veronika asked the panel to speak about unique eCommerce business models. Liza started off the conversation by talking about the move towards social production, getting consumers involved in the early stages of the design process. Companies that are capitalizing on this platform are Threadless and the Stitch Collective. Chantel brought up how social mobile is driving innovation across the board, revealing that 74% of people look to their social networks for validation or recommendations and 91% trust the recommendations they receive online. Andrew talked about the movement towards pull driven business strategies. Entrepreneurs are providing the solutions that larger companies are ignoring. He explained that it is a Whole Foods Market effect and consumers are rooting for these brands to succeed.
The concept of omni channel retailing was touched upon throughout the course of the discussion. Chantel explained how personalization and mobile commerce are pushing brands to rethink their strategies. It is becoming increasingly important for brick-and-mortar stores to have an online presence and in the reverse online brands now need to have a touch point for the consumers. She explained how it is more difficult to be innovate offline but as Emily stated the costs and barriers to entry in the market have lowered. eCommerce sites can now utilize pop up shops and partner with public spaces and restaurants. Shelby cited a space in Chelsea that allows for eCommerce sites to set up for a month at a time to allow customers to actively engage with the brands offline.
The panel concluded with a short Q&A with the audience and the opportunity to meet and network with the panelists. Attendees left feeling uplifted and excited for the shifts that are coming online as brands and retailers continue to actively seek consumer involvement.
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