Pre-pandemic, many large retail outlets depended on in-store product launches for sales. Now, some retailers shifted to exclusive, online event product launches. For example, Adidas is hosting a free week-long digital festival where Adidas Creators Club Members can access exclusive and limited-edition shoes. Moreover, hear from esteemed designers and celebrities who designed the shoes.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Slisha Kankariya, co-founder and COO at With Clarity, where she is responsible for corporate marketing and business development. With nearly a decade of experience in eCommerce and marketing (from working with The Knot), as well as hands-on expertise in diamond-making — particularly the technical and aesthetic aspects, Kankariya is dedicated to helping couples find the ring of their dreams matched with a customer experience that blends the best components of online and offline shopping. Kankariya is married to co-founder and CEO, Shah, who personally designed and crafted her wedding band. A native of New Jersey, Kankariya is a graduate of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Her favorite diamond shape is pear, and favorite pastimes are hiking, traveling, and spending time with Shah and their 6-mo. old daughter, Miraya.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Anubh Shah, the co-founder, and CEO of With Clarity, and most importantly, my husband, started this company because he thought this old and antiquated process for purchasing engagement rings needed a revamp. Moreover, when it came to Anubh purchasing a ring for me, he was frustrated and overwhelmed with the price markups and traditional culture at jewelers. Consumers deserve a process they can better relate to. So, we figured with his generational diamond cutter skills and industry expertise, and my previous experience at The Knot (a leading national authority on all things wedding-related), we created Four Mine, which is now rebranded as With Clarity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
We’ve gone through several site refreshes to get to where we are now. In fact the name of the site, look and feel and even colors have been updated four times fully. But the changes have paid off in a big way because customers really resonate with our brand and our story and the way we showcase it on site.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
The funniest mistake we made was not having enough packaging in stock for the holiday season. We did not anticipate so many orders and then were hit with a barrage during our first big holiday season. This led us to better setting up for the next time around we had holiday season.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Currently, we are continuing on refining sales and our marketing funnel to systematically customize it to each customer. It’s exciting to see how people interact with our products and website. The goal is to make ring online purchasing feel as personable as possible. It’s a bit time-consuming but I think this will help existing and potential customers’ online shopping experience be less daunting and hard.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- For anyone in the startup industry that is a founder or co-founder role, I would recommend starting work a little earlier than the rest of your staff (before business hours). Getting into this habit ensures that you have an hour or two of peaceful time to sift through priority work. Then when your co-workers get in, you won’t mind being pulled in 10 different directions.
- My second tip is to consistently access your mission and purpose, and tie it into your work. If you’re truly passionate about your purpose, it would not be considered “work” anymore. Ask yourself, does your work align with what you do? Once you know, you can easily transition your career/work into your everyday life.
- My last tip goes out to anyone in any industry. Stay curious and always willing to learn something new. Having this sort of mentality will make your job more exciting and interesting day-to-day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
During the early stages of our company, we became a part of the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in NYC. In this summer cohort, along with nine other startups, we were able to help grow our customer base. As a part of the accelerator, we had the opportunity to learn and meet with higher-level execs of inspirational companies many would dream of being mentored by. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator. With their support and help, we were able to quickly raise angel investments as well as a series seed round backed by a venture capital firm in NYC. The growth was immense, and the lessons we learned were and still are invaluable.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In my line of work and industry, we are lucky to directly see our collective work pay off. When people reach out to us about their love and proposal stories featuring our jewelry, we feel so rewarded. We hope to use our growing success to help make people’s loved ones feel more special while making the world more sparkly.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
- Lines for large retail outlets like Costco and Walmart can be daunting and time-consuming. So, Walmart decided to add more curbside pickup spots and let customers pick from 160,000 plus items that could be ready in four hours. Establishing curbside ordering and pickup is a new reality that also eliminates shipping wait-time and cost.
- Whereas some large retail outlets are converting some of their locations to “dark stores.” These are stores closed to the public where workers can pick up online orders to deliver (based on customer proximity). Whole Foods has done this to shorten delivery times and create a more convenient shopping experience.
- Another idea large retail outlets started implementing to adapt is optimizing for mobile responsive web pages and making sure they are suitable for digital shopping. Doing this makes sure customer online experience is easy and consistent with their physical retail experience.
- As many will know, the Pandemic has caused many unsettling feelings, even to step outside their home. Reaching out to customers through email campaigns and social media about their safety procedures is the new norm. More importantly, emphasizing that companies prioritize their customers health and safety. Nike, for example, has done this with its “play inside, play for the world” campaign.
- Pre-pandemic, many large retail outlets depended on in-store product launches for sales. Now, some retailers shifted to exclusive, online event product launches. For example, Adidas is hosting a free week-long digital festival where Adidas Creators Club Members can access exclusive and limited-edition shoes. Moreover, hear from esteemed designers and celebrities who designed the shoes.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
To some capacity, I think retail stores or malls will still exist. Physical retail spaces let customers see and touch what they are getting before committing to a purchase. For example, in the engagement ring industry, we found out that 90% of research is online, and only 10% of purchases are online. The majority of engagement ring shoppers want to touch and see the ring, that is why we made a ring home preview option. Furthermore, physical stores offer face-to-face human interaction, which could make-or-break a purchase.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
- Do not be afraid to rebrand or take risks. Whatever you put into effect, do it with a tangible and clear plan, and know-how to mitigate risks. Do, learn, and then improve.
- Be able to identify what does and does not resonate with your customers, and leave room to experiment. For example, Costco and Kroger have systems in place in order to know what and what not to stock in stores on a weekly and monthly basis. Then they have certain items on shelves to test if their customers would like.
- Communicate with your customers. Whether through in-person, incentivized forms, etc. Be open to criticism and establish trust. For example, when we rebranded, we reinforced that it is the same people interacting and gemologists picking out jewelry. Due to this, we established trust with our customers and got positive feedback.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
- Other than competitive pricing, something that has been very successful for us is trying to be heavily involved in our sales and marketing funnel. So that we can best understand and fulfill our customer wants and needs. An example of this is by structuring our content around search keywords and queries so customers can find what they are looking for quickly.
- Lastly, find ways to set you apart from small and large competitors through your marketing and interactions with consumers. Relationship building, especially online, is so important. You have to find creative ways to differentiate their thought and purchase process. Moreover, how to keep evolving and innovating that.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The fearless movement. As we were starting to root our company in the saturated and well-established engagement ring industry, we had to do a lot of experimenting and testing. If Anubh and I were afraid, With Clarity wouldn’t have had a successful company revamp. Additionally have innovative qualities and ideas in the company culture. The fearless movement will inspire others to forge their path without apprehension and tap into their limitless potential. Moreover, to get it done, even if it is not “perfect”!
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can find us at withclarity.com to see who we are, our story, and our product offerings. We can also connect at @mywithclarity on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. As well as @withclarity on Facebook and LinkedIn for any product or business-related updates.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!