By Terry Boyle, Zulily’s President and CEO
When Zulily was launched in 2010 by founders Mark Vadon and Darrell Cavens, it wasn’t the first entrant into flash sales, but it was the first one to understand the value and importance of moms. By focusing on delivering amazing value to moms, originally through kids-focused events and then via family-focused sales, the company reached $1 billion in revenue in less than five years, one of the few e-commerce businesses ever to do so.
Like many businesses, Zulily was disrupted by the pandemic — first growing quickly as demand shifted online and then shrinking just as rapidly when supply chains were disrupted, and off-price inventory wasn’t available. It’s now the responsibility of every industry leader to lead their company through an e-commerce world that has changed drastically. After extensive market research and testing, Zulily pivoted back to the place where it first began: mom.
There’s a sizeable economic impact if brands are successful in capturing moms’ attention. There are 65 million moms in the US responsible for $2.4 trillion in spend. In some sense, they are the CEOs of the US consumer economy. And they’re under a lot of pressure. Whether it’s time, inflationary, financial, or societal, that pressure creates a rich opportunity for retailers whose assortment speaks to their needs.
“To-do” list pressures create digital fatigue: The retail industry was turbulent even before the pandemic. The internet was supposed to democratize information and e-commerce was designed to democratize deals, but there’s more obfuscation than ever and consumers, particularly moms, are facing digital fatigue. The selection is endless, overwhelming, and inescapable, and now it’s done on smaller screens — nearly three out of four dollars spent online are via mobile devices. Shopping used to be a pleasant escape for moms; when they must scroll endlessly to find items for each member of their family, it’s no longer fun.
Requirement to maximize budgets: Inflation reached a 41-year high of 9.1% in July, so it’s no surprise that 92% of moms say inflation has impacted their household spending, with financial tradeoffs and essentials, like groceries and gas, being most impacted.1 The mental tax for many moms in America and the ever-declining middle class is real. If a purchase is made simply based on want (vs. need), moms may be burdened with a sense of guilt or a need to justify shopping simply for the fun of it. The median US household income in 2020 was $67,521, the first significant decline since 2011, while costs are increasing around every corner.
The unifying principle of financial responsibility is finding ways to save money and leverage simple and straightforward shopping experiences. The value equation has shifted in shopping behavior, and retailers are challenged to rally to moms’ call: Value is the sum of an experience that provides service, convenience, availability, affordability, and fun tailored to their specific needs and preferences.
Time and societal pressures: 84% of moms believe the “perfect mom” stereotype is an outdated standard, but nine out of 10 still feel pressure to be perfect.2 Burnout and societal expectations are at a max with 79% of moms wishing they had more time to spend with family.3 Reinventing the online shopping experience requires reimagining convenience and redefining the concept of value. This means centering a brand around offering a fun shopping experience that frees her from her to-do list, without breaking the bank.
Here’s how Zulily is doing it:
Create a sense of discovery: The origin of online flash sales was a win-win for customers and brands: Customers could conveniently access great brands at great prices without getting in their cars and digging through racks of traditional off-price merchandise. At the same time, brands were able to sell their off-price merch more quickly and discretely while winning new customers. But now, exacerbated by the pandemic, moms want to supersize their shopping experiences through simplicity and ease.
Curate high-quality items she can trust: To combat the endless selection, a level of curated discovery search paired with personalization is a new norm. Moms seek curation from TikTok and Instagram or word-of-mouth via their friends and have a new expectation that their own priorities and interests will be understood by the brand they interact with.
Anticipate her needs and wants before she does: Zulily realized a need to broaden its selection: A mix of flash sales and persistent, curated inventory of quality items and brands available every day of the year. The company also started offering free shipping with minimum purchases and simplified its returns, because moms said these were non-negotiable.
With those needed updates complete, Zulily can now renew its energies on figuring out how moms will shop next, regardless of what the future holds.
For more information, visit www.zulily.com or The Find by Zulily. For vendors interested in selling on Zulily, visit www.sell.zulily.com.
This post was created by Zulily with Insider Studios.
1Zulily 2023 Brain of the Planner – Inflation Edition Report
2Baby Dove US ‘Understanding the Multi-Dimensional Mom’ Research, 2017
3MRI-Simmons, 2021 Doublebase; Base: Adults
By Terry Boyle, Zulily’s President and CEO