Things move fast at Zulily.
If you’re a customer, you buy fast or risk that Tom Ford sunglasses or Philosophy shower gel sale expires. If you’re in-house and part of the design or merchandising team, changes in response to consumer demand that perhaps took several weeks or months to act on in the past can now be done in a week with technology.
Suzanne Betro, which is sold exclusively through Zulily in the U.S., is a women’s brand that’s grown up under that sort of direction.
The data points Zulily so carefully monitors on the back end are analyzed to see what’s selling in terms of sizing, color and styling so that the roughly 50 styles released weekly from the line are just right for the Suzanne Betro customer.
“Data has always been used in merchandising and in retail design,” said Suzanne Betro designer Minnie Yeh. “It’s just before it was slower. You wouldn’t get it until you shipped the stock into stores. Maybe a few weeks into the selling and then you put it into your collection for next year. Now, you can literally use it for next week so you can change things really fast. For example, if navy’s not selling, we switch to some other color. We don’t have to wait six months.”
Yeh is the sole designer for the brand in the U.S. with an additional team of designers in China. If the data indicates something selling well today, for example, Yeh can tell her colleagues in China, where the line is produced, to source a specific colorway. That would then be sent to Yeh the following day and cut the following week.
“[The brand’s] grown in real time,” said Susan Kondo, Zulily merchandising manager for the women’s plus division. “Every week it looks different. Every week we work on changing color palettes and finding new fabrics. It’s just been really fun and not a lot of guessing.”
Suzanne Betro’s not the only within the Zulily fold that’s grown up that way. Other examples within women’s include 42 Pops and Cool Melon.
Zulily began working with Suzanne Betro in August of last year, when Yea approached the company. Yea, previously a designer at Bebe, left the Los Angeles retailer to explore her opportunities to live in China, where she lived from 2011 to 2014.
“When I came back [from China], the whole retail landscape was so different,” Yeh said. “Lots of people were going under and I was thinking, ‘What can I do?’ I knew I had to do e-commerce because everything else is not the future. With my resources, I know we have the ability to turn [product] really fast so I came to Zulily. They had the technology and the traffic and we were able to just keep building on it.”
The line’s since evolved, originally with an aesthetic that looked more contemporary, albeit at approachable price points. Dresses are around $39.99, while tops with more lace or other detailing are usually $29.99. The line’s gotten more casual since partnering with Zulily, with a focus on modern details in the way of sleeve embellishments or decorative stitching.
Where it’s going next is expansion into the casual and ath-leisure space. The brand launched denim not long ago and separates to pair with that offering are seen as the next logical step for easy pieces to wear on weekends.
“The unique thing about this is we’ve grown this brand together,” Kondo said. “It’s 100 percent collaborative. We meet every single month. She pings me, WeChats me, calls me.”
Yeh agreed: “I talk to her more often than I talk to my husband.”