It’s more of the same but hardly status quo at Zulily as Lori Twomey settles into the position of interim president.
That’s because Twomey, who has been with the Seattle-based e-tailer since its start, is hardly looking to effect any major upheaval in where the business is headed, which is all about new, new, new when it comes to product, all done at a rapid clip. That was essentially how cofounder and former chief executive officer Darrell Cavens, who is now president of new ventures for Zulily parent QVC Corp., thought about the business. It’s more of that with Twomey now at the helm of a business with more than $1.5 billion in revenue and more than 100 different sales events clocked daily.
Twomey officially added the interim president duties in January, while remaining the company’s chief merchant. Having been with the company since the start eight years ago, the transition went just fine with the only uphill battle, she said, there not being enough hours in the day.
“What’s really fun about what happened over the last couple of months was the transition was really smooth,” she said. “Darrell and I started the company together and so over the last eight years we worked side by side, so I would say there’s not a lot of challenges that I think are out there right at the moment. I think it’s more of us just focusing on what our 2018 goals are and making sure that the team is in tune with that.”
For Zulily, the goal will always be keeping pace with the customer. Nothing is ever static and the churn happens daily. Each morning the homepage changes up with new product, personalized for each user. Internally, the team likens itself to a daily newspaper.
“If I take a look at our business over the past eight years, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the business model of discovery and entertainment from day one,” Twomey said. “Our goal was always to bring the unique product, unique brands — large brands — to our customer at an amazing value. Even though we started in the kids business early on, that has migrated to now we are in every category with women’s being our largest category.”
There is opportunity to grow the men’s business, but it’s driven by the shopper who is making the purchases for the man in her life. Health and beauty, Twomey said, is in its infancy on Zulily but presents the e-tailer with a large growth opportunity. The home decor category also has potential.
“When we think about where we’re going, it is us making sure that we’re listening to our customer and then we’re applying it every single day,” the executive said. “As we look at our growth rate throughout the years, it’s really us focusing on as the market changes, as the customer behavior changes, that we shift with it.”
That may mean moving faster or being more transparent throughout the shipping process, which has seen Zulily recently take on the part of third-party logistics provider for vendors to send product to the company’s fulfillment centers for shipping from there.
The holiday selling period, which starts for Zulily around the third quarter with Christmas-in-July promotions, saw the testing of a few new formats between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That included Flash Finds, which highlighted product from the homepage for brief one-hour stints. There was also 12 hours of Facebook Live content, promoting product across categories.
All of this is more about creating a three-dimensional shopping experience for what is, in the simplest of terms, online commerce, with the company focusing heavily on what it can do to keep shoppers engaged through entertainment — such as the Facebook Live content — which makes sense given the company sees 67 percent of its orders placed through mobile and a 90 percent repeat rate.
Video will become increasingly important for Zulily, with different projects in place for this year unlike what has been done in the past, Twomey hinted. More and more the idea of contextual commerce will be one piece of that, with content focused on how-to instructions around styling or crafting, for example.
“I don’t look at ourselves as a flash-sale site. I look at ourselves as a different type of retailer,” Twomey said. “Our business model is about entertainment and it’s about discovery. It’s about making sure that every day there’s something new and interesting and ‘Oh, my god I didn’t know you had this.’ You could say that we started the business way back when as a flash-sales business that has evolved into this amazing retail business.”