Digital first, mobile first. Pre-pandemic this was a “nice to have” strategy, now it is a must have. Platforms like Shopify have lowered the barrier for retailers and brands to launch their online stores.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kristen Miller.
Kristen Miller is a seasoned entrepreneur who has founded four successful companies in the Home Improvement and Retail industry, and is a pioneer of leveraging technology to optimize business processes and strategies to accelerate growth.
Kristen is an inspirational leader within the women in technology community, as a board member for The Beyond Project, and advisor to Women In Cloud. She is an in-demand speaker on retail innovation and entrepreneurship for Techstars Startup Week Seattle and CloudInnovateHer.
At Stylyze, Kristen’s mission is to provide a platform for retailers that revolutionizes the omnichannel shopping experience. Stylyze’s platform allows retailers to bring key elements of the in-store experience into the virtual and digital space, refining and advancing the online customer journey of the future.
Stylyze’s iStyle platform was leveraged to create and launch a custom app for a luxury fashion retailer to equip 5,000 store associates and stylists with digital styling tools that would enable them to offer white glove styling experiences across all channels. 60 million in revenue was raised within the first 90 days from launch, during the Covid-19 lockdown. It’s “Visually Similar” technology product, enabled by machine learning, drove a 10 million increase in revenue for a leading mass retailer via optimizing the browsing experience.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My first experience with entrepreneurship was running a house painting business during my freshman year of college. It was unglamorous and hard work. But after a summer of knocking on doors to give free estimates while being covered in paint, I realized that I had the power to create something from nothing, and I was hooked. Ironically, it was also this experience that showed me how challenging purchase decisions for things like paint color often are for customers, and this was one of the pain points that we solved at Stylyze through our patented color system.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Two years ago I found myself in a situation where I was on stage, speaking to 1000 people at the annual Women in Cloud Summit, 6 weeks after delivering our second son Malachi. It was bad enough that I was 6 weeks postpartum, exhausted, and squeezed into my pre-pregnancy attire. But, I had also come to the event straight from Seattle Children’s Hospital where I was living with Malachi who was born with a serious heart defect. I had a speech for the event prepared, and as I stood on the stage I realized that nothing that I was planning on saying mattered. I ended up sharing my story with the audience, and telling them that there is no perfect moment to take the next step to make your dream a reality. You just have to take the step. This moment is one that I reflect on when I feel like things aren’t going as I had planned. I am reminded that we have no idea how strong we are, or how capable we are, until we are put into a position far outside of our comfort zone.
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?
Debriefing about a client meeting in the bathroom while the client was in the other stall… Thankfully we only had very positive things to say but it was nonetheless horrifying when they walked out. Lesson learned: don’t do client debriefs in public!
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We always think about what we do from the perspective of how it impacts our retail partners as well as their end customers. Stylyze was in the process of launching an omnichannel clienteling platform with a large luxury fashion retailer when the pandemic hit. Within a week, we pivoted the platform from a tool used by associates and stylists in store, to a tool used to service clients and earn commission from home. This enabled over 5,000 associates to continue earning a living while stores were closed, while providing clients with virtual white glove styling services. Knowing that our platform enabled our partners to continue operating their business, while providing moments of delight for clients during such a challenging time was a big win.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Go outside everyday and make your physical wellness a priority. I keep hearing about how this is such an “unprecedented time.” It can either be unprecedented in a negative way, or a positive way, and that outcome is up to us. While there are certainly many challenges in the retail industry today, there is also an “unprecedented” opportunity to be a leader in the transformation of the industry. Taking time to shore up your physical, mental and spiritual health will equip you with the energy and fortitude needed to capitalize on this unique opportunity.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
You know the saying “it takes a village”… that is certainly true when it comes to people who have helped me get to where I am today. It has literally taken a village. My senior leadership team Lisa Perrone and Sophie Huang, and Board of Directors Ken Block and Mike Koppel, are leaders in this village who have had a profound impact on my journey. Loyalty is a rare quality in today’s world and these four have quarterbacked me through the best and worst of times over the past several years. A great example of this is how Mike Koppel has taught me how to manage communications with our investor team. Mike was the CFO of Nordstrom for 17 years and reported to Wall Street during that time. What an amazing experience to receive his mentorship and learn that art from the best!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Countless people have extended their time, resources and wisdom to me over the past several years and without them I would not be where I am today. I am now at a place where I can return the favor with a specific focus on supporting women entrepreneurs. I am a member of the Advisory Board for Women in Cloud, involved in speaking in writing engagements, and spend time weekly providing mentorship and access to networks and resources for other female entrepreneurs.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
The pandemic has exponentially accelerated the digital transformation that was already happening in the retail vertical, specifically in these five ways:
- Digital-first, mobile-first. Pre-pandemic this was a “nice to have” strategy, now it is a must-have. Platforms like Shopify have lowered the barrier for retailers and brands to launch their online stores.
- Immediate Gratification. The pathway between inspiration and purchase has become smaller. Therefore, retailers need to be ready to execute and ship. This means instock products linked to inspirational content, fast shipping and easy returns. Customers will be looking for the fastest path to buy with the least friction and risk.
- Humanizing the digital experience. “Other people recently viewed” recommendations, linear catalog trees and “creepy” cross-platform advertising strategies are no longer enough to capture and retain the customer. Retailers need to find meaningful ways to build relationships with customers using an omnichannel approach. This means that any interaction the customer has with the retailer, whether online or instore, pre-purchase through post-purchase, should be tailored to that customer and leveraged for meaningful future interactions. This is a lofty goal but becoming more attainable through new technology such as the merchandising platform provided by Stylyze.
- Aspirational, Content Driven Shopping. Influencers have made this form of shopping popular, but the toolset enabling influencers to socialize and monetize their curated stories is the behind the scenes star of this show. Everything from affiliate platforms such as Rakuten, to the types of merchandising tools provided by LIKEtoKNOW.it, to the channels provided by Instagram and Facebook are making it possible for influencers to reach broader audiences with their shoppable stories.
- Contactless Shopping. From completing the transaction to picking up or receiving the products, customers will expect a contactless experience across the journey.
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. 🙂
Gratitude is a very powerful force that unlocks positive outcomes and joy. I would challenge myself and others to perform 5 acts of gratitude every day. This could include positive words of affirmation for those around us, moments of prayer or meditation, written words of gratitude or pay-it-forward actions such as paying for the order behind you in the Starbucks drive through.
In fact, I will start this movement for myself today by expressing my gratitude to you for taking the time to read this interview! One down, 4 to go…
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!