Soraya Darabi on Ethical E-Commerce, Storytelling, and Zady.Com

7/2/14Follow @bvbigelow

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make that an ongoing theme in our Tumblr blog. [We] ask our users to post photos of the objects they hold near and dear.

X: It’s like Zady is a boutique storefront you might find on the Upper West Side. But it’s really an e-commerce website. How does operating as an Internet business make it different?

SD: The advantages of launching a brand online are great and vast. Maxine and I decide to build this brand online because we firmly believe that the next Ralph Lauren will begin online, the next Nike, the next Starbucks will begin online. It’s just smart and efficient, and less cost intensive to begin a brand online.

If you have a real point of view, an intelligent team, and savvy communication skills, you can really build a community online that will lend itself to being a loyal customer base. So with the advent of social media, two-way communications between brand and customer, and with our ability to design a beautiful platform like Zady.com with a heavy emphasis on visual merchandising and storytelling, we knew that in a relatively low-cost way we could acquire customers who would become almost part of our family.

We encourage them to share the news of our website with their friends and family, and then what happens is you start to build a community and as that community grows, interesting data emerges. Data that is easiest to measure, of course, online through analytics platforms like Google Analytics or Kissmetrics. That’s one of the reasons we were so pleased to partner with Analytics Ventures and Navid, because he is so data-driven and data-savvy.

Soraya DarabiYou have to look closely at your demographics. Where are people coming from when they come to your website? What website did they come from initially? What part of the country did they come from, demographically? Do they skew more heavily female versus male?

It’s important, not to become dependent on the data, but to learn from the data and to use the data to make smart decisions about where your company and your brand are headed, using those metrics.

It’s important to be a brand online first, but ultimately, we think of Zady as an omni-channel brand. Three months after we launched, we had a pop-up shop at LaGuardia Airport, and since then, we had another pop-up shop sponsoring a music festival in Brooklyn. We’ll have another one this summer.

X: Were you inspired by any antecedents? The storytelling part of your business reminds me of the J. Peterman catalog.

SD: Yes. There was definitely some inspiration. The [Peterman] catalog we remember from our youth, and not just from Seinfeld show. People revere it and love it. It’s a brand that resonates with a lot of people because the art of storytelling has been lost in recent years, especially when it comes to apparel. We no longer know where something comes from, and truthfully, that’s scary. Maxine and I banded together to create a brand that revived traditions of craftsmanship, transparency, and process and honesty. With that came Zady.

X: What are your top three or four best-selling items? And do you know what makes them best-sellers?

SD: The Milano bag by Alice B. ($450-$475). It’s a bag from Milan, Italy. It’s definitely a best-seller. It was featured on the cover of The Wall Street Journal and the cover of The Wall Street Journal style section. That definitely moved the needle for us. But what sells the item is the story: It was designed by a … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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