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The 4th Annual Evolving E Summit was a testament to the vibrancy and forward-thinking nature of New York’s e-commerce tech community. On Tuesday September 24th, 400 entrepreneurs, executives and investors convened at TheTimesCenter for a packed day of conversations about retail’s new frontier with some of the brightest minds in the business.
Here are the top 12 things we heard at the summit:
#1 Credit cards are a thing of the past. While they don’t always get the best rep, millennials are driving the change. According to Silvija Martincevic, Chief Commercial Officer at Affirm, 60% of millennials don’t have a credit card, yet their spend is projected to hit $1.4 trillion in 2020!
#2 Brands will waste less money if they know their customer. Rakesh Tondon, Founder & CEO of Le Tote and Lord & Taylor spent the first 7 years at the company obsessively talking to Le Tote customers, often answering customer service emails as “Chloe.” Having just acquired a 193-year-old brand (Lord & Taylor), Rakesh and his team are thinking about how to address the changing needs of the customer and engage them at all stages of life, including during pregnancy with a maternity line for rent.
#3 Authenticity matters. When Bryan Goldberg went out to build Bustle Digital Group, he didn’t think about being cool or exclusive. His advice to legacy companies: “Don’t try to be better than your audience. There is no currency to young people more valuable than authenticity.”
#4 Go global for growth. Europe and Asia are burgeoning markets for StockX. China-based customers are flocking to the site in search of authenticated products. “They don’t want fakes,” said Scott Cutler, StockX CEO. Topgolf is also going global with properties opening in Australia and Dubai to name a few.
#5 Brands are showing up for customers like friends. People are coming to Instagram just to follow brands and in turn, brands are responding to customers DMs, according to Layla Amjadi, Product Manager at Instagram Shopping.
#6 Customer retention improves when users feel like stakeholders. The more communal or social the product is, the more likely users will return, says GGV Capital Managing Partner, Hans Tung. Lively (now part of the Wacoal brand) turned their customers into brand ambassadors, which increased loyalty.
#7 Instead of looking for the right marketing channels, think about unlocking new distribution channels. TikTok, the world’s most popular short form video platform, is seeing massive inbound interest from brands, who are looking to use the app as a way to acquire customers and engage with them. For example, Mac Cosmetics is building strong relationships with influencers, who are representing the brand on TikTok.
#8 The experiential economy and seeking opportunities to connect is just starting. 60% of the people that come to Topgolf are not golfers, according to Erik Anderson, Topgolf’s Executive Chairman. The secret sauce? The team proactively looks for opportunities to create meaningful connections with guests, whether through food, music, charity or social media. It’s working. Topgolf sees 22 million visitors a year!
#9. Operate knowing who your brand fundamentally exists for. “Shopify is merchant obsessed,” said Jeff Weiser, Shopify’s CMO. Everything Shopify does is with the merchant in mind, such as solving the operational hurdles of getting a website up and running. Over 800k merchants in 175 countries rely on Shopify to reach customers today.
#10. Establish trust with your audience. StockX is a destination for the sneaker category, not just a motion of resale, said Scott Cutler, StockX’s CEO. When buyers and sellers on the platform see a green tag on a pair of sneakers, they know that that the shoes have been authenticated by StockX. That green tag is a symbol of trust.
#11. DTC is here to stay. Intermediated selling is going away, according to Jeff Weiser, CMO at Shopify. Investors are looking for strong branding in DTC investments. Lots of startups are tackling products in the drugstore aisle, but the brand voice needs to be strong for investors to pay attention.
#12. Don’t be afraid to talk about diversity and measure it. The first 25 employees of a company will drive the next 300, according to Ryan Darnell, Managing Partner at Max Ventures. Founders should be thinking about gender, ethnic and ideological diversity when hiring from day 1. VCs aren’t just backing diverse founders. They’re looking to back diverse teams.
Hear more at future EvolvingIE community events. Learn more here.
Special thanks to Robin Li of GGV Capital and Ryan Darnell of Max Ventures for making this event possible as well as Silicon Valley Bank, Nasdaq, Google Cloud, Credit Suisse, Dwight Funding, UM, Gladly, Tatari, Lowenstein Sandler, Cushman & Wakefield.
EvolvingIE is an ecommerce tech community that began in 2016 as a summit in New York for the top entrepreneurs and executives in the ecommerce, retail and consumer goods sectors. Today it has expanded to include online and offline dinner series, masterclasses, and gatherings with an ecommerce community from around the world.
ABOUT GGV CAPITAL
GGV Capital is a global venture capital firm that invests in local founders. As a multi-stage, sector-focused firm, GGV focuses on seed-to-growth stage investments across Consumer/New Retail, Social/Digital & Internet, Enterprise/Cloud and Frontier Tech sectors. The firm was founded in 2000 and manages $6.2 billion in capital across 13 funds. Past and present portfolio companies include Affirm, Airbnb, Alibaba, Bitsight, ByteDance (Toutiao), Ctrip, Didi Chuxing, Grab, Gladly, Hello Chuxing, HashiCorp, Houzz, Keep, LingoChamp, Namely, Niu, Nozomi Networks, Opendoor, Peloton, Poshmark, Slack, Square, Wish, Xauto, Xiaohongshu, Yellow, YY, Zhaoyou and more. The firm has offices in Singapore, Beijing, San Francisco, Shanghai and Silicon Valley. Learn more at ggvc.com, @GGVCapital or GGVCapital on WeChat.
ABOUT MAX VENTURES
Max Ventures is an early-stage investing firm that backs entrepreneurs who have unique consumer insights and are relentless about getting things done. Since September of 2013, they’ve built a successful investment track record by backing entrepreneurs who possess extraordinary personal and professional skills. Some of their notable investments include Boxed, ZoomCar, Button, and Drone Racing League. Max Ventures also leverages insights from the US market to invest in Europe.
All photo credits to Jeremey Cohen.