TECHNOLOGY

CSA Exclusive: Online startup Olivela uses luxury fashion to empower girls

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A hot new luxury retailer is using its partnerships with high-end designers to educate and change the lives of girls worldwide.

Founded online in June 2017, San Francisco-based Olivela takes the notion of retail philanthropy to a new level. Selling apparel, jewelry, accessories and beauty from such luxury brands as Valentino, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo, and Dolce & Gabbana to name a few, the retailer donates 20% of each purchase to charity partners dedicated to supporting education for girls.

What’s more, Olivela lets shoppers directly connect with the end result by doing the math for each piece of merchandise on the site. A $395 metallic pleated skirt from Marc Jacobs, for example, pays for 10 days of school for Syrian refugees (provided through partner Care), while a $3,890 Max Mara cost provides for 113 days of school.

“We launched with a dozen luxury brands, and now feature 225 of the world’s best brands,” said Stacy Boyd, founder and CEO. “Our partnership with the brands is what makes all of this possible.”

Olivela is not Boyd’s first foray into retail. A parent and former school principal, she parlayed her career in education to launch a number of successful ventures. These include the Academy of Pacific Rim, a charter public school in Boston, as well as Project Achieve, an educational information management system startup. She also launched Schoola, an online retailer that sells gently-worn clothing to support schools in need.

The idea for Olivela evolved during a trip Boyd took to Africa in 2016, to celebrate Malala Day — the birthday of Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people, as well as her work supporting children’s rights to an education. During the trip, Boyd met girls in makeshift primary schools located in refugee camps in Dadaab and Mahama, and was inspired.

“At one point, I took out my camera to take a photo of some of the girls and looked at my [designer] bag,” she explained. “That was when I knew that we could unleash the equity in luxury shopping to yield benefits and opportunities for so many children around the globe.”

“During the trip, it became increasingly clear that while talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not,” she added. “I knew that I could draw on the experience and expertise from having launched Schoola, which aims to benefit public schools here in the United States.”

It was from that realization that Boyd began developing a retailing experience with “giving back” built into every transaction. Once the evolving company’s social mission was in place, Boyd needed an equally meaningful name —one that highlighted the company’s philanthropic ideals. For Boyd, the perfect moniker was a mash-up of the words “olive” and “vela.”

“The olive tree represents growth and wisdom, and vela is the Latin word for ‘sails of a ship,’” she explained. “Overall, Olivela helps set children forth on the right path in life.”

To date, Boyd added, Olivela has provided over 41,000 days of school to at-risk girls through all four charities.

To ensure it maintains loyalty among its shoppers, the company also price matches merchandise. Eligible items must be identical, from the same designer, and in-stock on a designated U.S.-based competitor’s website, according to Olivela’s website.

Participating brands ship all merchandise to Olivela’s warehouse in Columbus, Ohio, a practice that ensures that product is authentic. Some pieces are also exclusive or limited edition items that may only be available for short timeframes and thus, not restocked when they sell out. Olivela currently ships merchandise to customers across all 48 continental states.

STORES: Eager to reach an even broader audience, the company opened its first pop-up boutique in June. The 900-sq.-ft. store, in Nantucket, Mass., features a curated assortment of 950 items from top designer brands, as well as hosted trunk shows and beauty events. The location, which also accepts returns of online purchases, also makes its standard donation from each sale to its children-based charities.

“Nantucket’s vibrant business community combined with the stylish and socially conscious residents and visitors, was the perfect setting to launch the retail side of our business and further make a real impact in the lives of girls around the world,” Boyd said.

The pop-up, which will remain open through October, also sparked a partnership with the Nantucket Cottage Hospital. Through its sales, Olivela made donations that provided over 19,000 hours of life saving dialysis, she added.

The store’s success has spurred the company to open 15 new boutiques through 2019. The first will open on Dec. 5, in Aspen, Colorado.

Olivela also plans to broaden its assortments, as well as charity partnerships.

“We are excited about extending Olivela into more categories and evolving the cause partnerships, both in depth and specificity,” she added. “We will continue to bring on new brands, as well, fulfilling our promise to make Olivela the ultimate philanthropic retail destination.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Online product recommendations still miss the mark

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Irrelevant product recommendations are taking a toll on retailers’ personalization strategies.

This was according to the “Consumer Propensity Study” from SAP, which revealed that only 25% of digital shoppers received relevant recommendations either “almost all the time” or “half the time.” By region, only 17% of shoppers in the United States said they regularly see recommendations, followed by 14% of Japanese shoppers and 6% of U.K. shoppers. Worse, U.K. shoppers are the most likely (15%) to have never seen a relevant product recommendation online.

Recommendations aren’t the only factor killing an online shopping experience. More than half (52%) of respondents said they were willing to abandon their shopping cart if the shipping costs are too high. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 55% said they were significantly more likely to complete their online purchases if they received a discount or a product promotion deal.

Other global insights include:

• Korean shoppers are among the most likely to have purchased fashion products online (89%), followed closely by China and Germany (84%, respectively).

• Brazilian shoppers are the most likely (70%) to abandon their shopping cart if shipping costs are higher than expected. They are followed by Canadian shoppers (69%) and French shoppers (67%).

• U.K. shoppers most commonly (66%) cite “easy exchange or return services” as a major driver of better online shopping experiences. Russian shoppers, however, are more likely (60%) to cite comparison tools as a driver of positive online experiences.

• Over half of Thai shoppers (51%) believe that online retailers should have virtual/augmented reality technologies that allow them to see what the product will look like in real life.

“Providing personalized online shopping experiences is now more within reach for brands than ever,” said Chris Hauca, head of strategy and GTM (Go To Market) for SAP Commerce Cloud.

However, there is still a striking gap in what consumers are seeing as they navigate online marketplaces. “Brands too often miss the link that bridges consumer behavioral data — complete with context and intent — with the back-end supply chain,” Hauca said. “Having a 360-degree view of the customer will enable meaningful recommendations and unique shopping experiences — something organizations should have in mind as they enter the holiday shopping season.”

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Walmart makes big move to beef up video-on-demand service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A discount giant is banking on its newest partnership to step up its video streaming game.

Walmart is partnering with U.S. movie studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer to create content for its video-on-demand service, Vudu, according to Reuters.

There has been speculation that Walmart wanted to launch a subscription streaming video service to rival Netflix, and make a foray into producing television shows to attract customers. The retailer denied the rumor, but did report it is looking at options to boost its video-on-demand business and offer programs that target customers who live outside of big cities, the report revealed.

Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing told Reuters, MGM will create exclusive “family-friendly content” based on their extensive library of iconic intellectual property (IP), and that content will premiere exclusively on the Vudu platform.

The deal and name of the first production will be revealed at the NewFronts conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

To read more, click here.

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