Zulily Quietly Powers Past 5M Members in Mom-and-Kid Sales
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individual responsibilities can change quite a bit. Most of his time is focused on the product side, including mobile development.
Aley says an enormous part of Zulily’s success thus far is its merchandising team, led by Lori Twomey. Even though Zuilly is a considered a technology company because of its reliance on e-commerce fundamentals, there’s a human element to the product selection that can’t be ignored, he says.
“I think the world of e-commerce is sort of being bifurcated into search and curated,” Aley says. “You wouldn’t go to Amazon, really, to browse for an item.”
Zulily has been diversifying its product base, too. Although known primarily for kids’ gear, the site also features apparel for women and has added some home products as well. In his job as general manager of strategic partnerships, Saliba also works on bringing in new suppliers for sales and promotions, like a recent offer for a free photo book from online picture site Shutterfly.
That means some 1,400 products a day on the site, with a new storefront of featured sales published each morning. Cavens has likened this to operating like an old-school publishing company, with a daily deadline of coming up with a new package of things to offer a hungry audience.
That kind of curation in e-commerce fascinated Saliba, who had also worked at Amazon and his own startup Imagekind, which sells art prints and photographs online. Saliba stayed at CafePress for a couple of years after it acquired Imagekind, but he began looking for new opportunities back in Seattle, where his family is based.
After working with previous investor Kelly Smith’s mobile website builder startup Zapd, Saliba knew he’d found a new home when he met the leaders at Zulily. “They’re probably the smartest group of people I’ve ever seen amassed at one place,” he says. “I knew then and there that it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Not only does Zulily publish a new version of its site each day, Saliba notes, but it takes advantage of a member’s shopping history to serve up a different version of the site based on what that person has been looking for.
“I don’t want to say it’s personalized, but it’s a step toward personalization. We want to deliver products that are most relevant to you, I think that’s the goal,” Saliba says. “And we think that’s what mom wants as well. Stating the obvious, if she’s not pregnant, she doesn’t want to see maternity clothes.”
Even though it’s had apparent success with the flash sales model, it also doesn’t sound like Zulily is married to the model. It’s not clear how long the novelty of that kind of shopping will drive big growth, but as with most new things that hit the consumer sector, it’s reasonable to assume that the market will become saturated at some point and growth could level off.
What’s Zulily going to do at that point? Aley wouldn’t say, exactly. But he said the company is secure enough in both revenue and user growth that it doesn’t have to go off chasing new “shiny things,” the way a startup might if its underlying business wasn’t living up to the hype.
“We think about it from the customer perspective. We have to deliver a great discovery experience, great brands and value every day. The model is sort of a vehicle through which we work,” Aley says. “I never get concerned about models because the great companies … work their way through different models. But they don’t lose sight of the things that are really core to them.