Report: Rent the Runway co-founder joins Walmart tech incubator
Walmart’s tech start-up has added a new leader.
The retail giant’s newly launched startup investment arm, called Store No. 8, has named Jenny Fleiss as the chief executive of its first portfolio company, according to Reuters. Fleiss is the co-founder and former head of business development for Rent the Runway.
Store No. 8, which is being spearheaded by Marc Lore, Wal-Mart's e-commerce head, will work with startups that specialize in areas that include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Fleiss will run code eight, a start-up company that will develop personalized, one-to-one shopping experiences, the report said.
This is familiar ground for Fleiss. As the leader of the designer fashion rental company, she was responsible for managing business growth and long term-strategy planning, including honing key partnerships, and driving sponsorship sales and long-term strategic growth opportunities. She also assisted with company-wide infrastructure, project and financial planning, and lead key logistics decisions — all factors that contributed to the start-up company’s rapid growth trajectory.
Fleiss, who officially left Rent the Runway in March, will play a key role in evolving the company. In a report in Business of Fashion, Fleiss said, “I have missed the earlier stages of starting a business for a couple of years now. The big mission is to make shopping magical and enjoyable for consumers. There isn’t as much magic in online shopping today.”
By leveraging experiences from Store No. 8, the retailer is adding another weapon in its arsenal to battle its agile online rival Amazon.
Tech Insights: Omnichannel Bots Are in Your Future
As recently as the 1990s, the only real form of text-based communication with customers was via email. Today, consumers have a range of social platforms they use to effortlessly communicate — and they expect their shopping experiences to be effortless and, more importantly, seamless across channels as well.
Their expectation is that — just as they communicate with friends — they can begin a conversation via one platform (e.g. Facebook), jump over to another platform (e.g. text messaging) seamlessly, and then move on to something else (e.g. Twitter).
While this might be the preference of customers today, many brands are falling short in delivery.
Brands today are, at best, socially awkward. Many might be able to engage with a customer via email, Facebook, Twitter, and more, but as soon as the customer moves to a different platform, that conversation — or sales experience — ends. There’s no ability to pick up a conversation or purchase on one channel that was initiated on a different one.
However, this can now be solved with omnichannel bots.
Rather than siloed communications, the promise of omnichannel bots is that communications with customers can fluidly bounce across mediums to keep interactions alive and moving ahead. Ideally, you want customers to feel like they are interacting with one person on the other end of whatever medium they use to communicate with your company — yielding an improved customer experience.
Move to omnichannel bots in three steps
Unfortunately, a full-blown artificial intelligence omnichannel bot solution isn’t realistic for many brands today. It has little to do with the cost or readiness of the solutions, and more to do with the readiness of retailers, many of whom lack even basic engagement insights. Therefore, when considering the path to omnichannel bot implementation, the journey should be broken into three steps.
First, you must be able to connect customers to sales. At minimum, retailers must understand what customers are buying and who those customers are. Begin by gathering a simple history of interactions with customers. If a customer engaged with you on Facebook, that interaction must be accessible when they re-engage later via Twitter.
Once retailers have that basic insight, they can make their channels more intelligent by connecting them to the customer and captured sales data.
The third step involves using advanced solutions to enable contextual engagement intelligence across all channels.
Admittedly, most brands are still in stage one. Luckily, if this is where you find yourself, you can make headway fairly quickly. There are loyalty solutions on the market that can be easily implemented to gain customer insight almost immediately. Depending on the size of your operation, you could be advancing toward an omnichannel bot solution within weeks.
Pitfalls to avoid
Before you dive in, there are some best practices you should consider. First, advance with purpose. Many brands will launch a mobile app to play catch up with a competitor. They launch this new channel, but they never really figured out the in-store side of their business — which is still the largest part of their sales. Focus on improving the key areas of your current business first.
Next, as you evaluate potential solutions, make sure they will fully integrate with your point-of-sale (POS). Many customer engagement projects have failed when retailers learn that their POS won’t fully integrate and key data can’t be accessed. For example, if you can’t tap into the sales data in the POS, you’re really no better off. If you’re not able to measure the impact of marketing, you might as well not do the marketing.
Finally, if you’re unsure of how to implement a customer loyalty/engagement solution because you’ve been burned by one of the earlier, first-generation solutions that came to market, it’s time to give it another try. Considerable progress has been made by companies dedicated to creating powerful and effective personalized customer engagement platforms for mobile apps, as well as online stores.
Integrated with today’s latest omnichannel bot solutions, you can reach new levels of customer engagement that yield a tangible ROI.
Ivan Matkovic is CEO and founder of Spendgo, a provider of personalized customer engagement solutions for mobile apps and online stores.
Target goes big for Mario
Target Corp. is celebrating the highly-anticipated release of a popular video game with some fun in-store flourishes.
The game Mario Kart 8 has been around for the past couple of years, but on April 28, it launches on the Nintendo Switch. To celebrate, Target is adding Mario and Luigi accents to approximately 650 stores, starting on the exterior. The retailer’s signature big red bollards have been given a makeover, with Mario and Luigi now welcoming shoppers into the store. (This isn’t the first time Target has given the bollards a makeover — in 2011, it painted beach balls as part of a summer campaign, and last year it created Pokemon balls.)
As shoppers walk through the doors to the store, motion sensors fire up flashing lights and play Mario’s catchy theme song. And for anyone who has ever dreamed of driving a real-life Mario kart, the retailer has decorated some of its shopping carts to make it appear as if they Mario karts. (This is the first time Target’s ever decorated our carts. (This is the first time Target has decked out its carts).
“Experience counts — it’s what keeps guests coming in and coming back to our stores,” said Scott Nygaard, senior VP, merchandising, Target. “So we’re delivering the fun like only Target can, giving generations of Mario fans a shopping trip they won’t soon forget.”