Retail Zipline, a startup aiming to improve communication between retail stores and corporate decision makers, announced today that it has raised $ 9.6 million in Series A funding.
CEO Melissa Wong previously worked in corporate communications for Old Navy, where she said she saw “such a disconnect between what was decided in headquarters and what was decided in stores.” For example, management might decide on a big marketing push to sell any remaining Mother’s Day-related items after the holiday has passed, but then “the stores wouldn’t do it.”
“The stores would say there were too many messages, they didn’t see the memo, they didn’t know it was a priority,” Wong said.
So she founded Retail Zipline with CTO Jeremy Baker, with the goal of building better communication tools for retailers. Baker said that while they looked at existing chat and task management software for inspiration, those tools were “mostly built for people sitting at a desk all day,” rather than workers who are “on the floor, dealing with customers.”
Retail Zipline’s features include messaging and task management — plus a centralized library of documents and multimedia and a survey tool to track results and feedback from stores.
To illustrate how the software is actually being used, Baker outlined a scenario where an athletic shoe company is launching “a huge initiative,” with a big-name athlete signed on to promote the latest pair of shoes.
“In a traditional environment, someone might FedEx over a package to [the store], someone might send an email down, ‘Hey, look for a package on this day,’ someone else from the marketing team might say, ‘Hey guys, we’re doing a shoe launch,’ ” he said. “All of this in these disparate systems, where people have to piece together the story. It’s kind of like a murder mystery.”
Baker said that Retail Zipline, on the other hand, provides a single place to find all the needed materials and tasks “tied together with a bow, instead of a store manager spending 10-plus hours in the back room trying to piece this thing together, or even worse not seeing it.”
The company’s customers include Casper, LEGO and Lush Cosmetics. Wong said Retail Zipline works “with anyone that has a retail location” — ranging from Gap, Inc. with thousands of stores, to Toms Shoes with 10.
The funding was led by Emergence, with Santi Subotovsky and Kara Egan from Emergence both joining the startup’s board of directors. Serena Williams’ new firm Serena Ventures also participated.
“As someone with an incredibly active life, I understand the need to be dynamic, and capable of quickly adapting to shifting priorities, but I’m also aware of the stress a fast-paced work environment can impose,” Williams said in a statement. “Retail Zipline is tackling this issue head-on in retail – a notoriously stressful industry – by pioneering products that help store associates get organized, communicate efficiently, and deliver amazing customer experiences.”
If you visited a Bulletin store, or bought products off its website, COO Ali Kriegsman said you might “pigeonhole” the company as a “feminist apparel brand” — a place to buy T-shirts and accessories with fun, provocative political slogans.
And yes, that is part of what draws consumers. But Kriegsman and her co-founder Alana Branston have also laid out their broader vision for a more flexible, WeWork-style approach to brick-and-mortar retail, one where brands essentially rent out shelf space in Bulletin stores.
So brands that may have only sold online can experiment with physical sales, while shoppers can purchase from a curated, constantly refreshed selection of brands and products.
“We’re building this more feminine retail company, but we are also part real estate company, and now, we are also part technology company,” Kriegsman said.
The “now” that she’s referring to is the launch of Bulletin Omni, a software platform that allows brands to apply to sell with Bulletin, manage their inventory and track their sales.
Bulletin has actually been working on something like this since I first talked to the team last year, but according to Maggie Braine, the company’s director of product and brand experience, Omni only just reached the point where the company is ready to roll it out to all of the 150 brands it works with. She said that without it, the company has mostly relied on “emails, phone calls, and a very, very large Google Doc” to manage the process.
Braine gave me a quick walk-through of Omni, showing me how a brand could, with just a few clicks, add a new product to its offerings in a given store, confirm once that product has actually arrived and then see how each product is selling in each store.
That’s “unheard of” in traditional retail, she said, where “there’s very little transparency” once goods are purchased by retailers. With Omni, Braine said the goal is to give brands the same kinds of data around physical purchases that they have access to when they promote and sell their products through online channels.
She also said the team plans to introduce ways for in-store staff to offer feedback to the brands — like whether a product isn’t selling because it’s too expensive.
Kriegsman said that if the software does well enough, she could imagine Bulletin becoming “a retail software destination,” where other companies buy the software to manage non-Bulletin stores.
Either way, she predicted that Omni will allow Bulletin itself to expand more quickly. The company currently has three New York City stores — one in SoHo, one in Williamsburg and a recently opened location near Union Square — with plans to open in additional cities later this year.
We pulled together a number of awesome resources and created 3 different bundles that are catered to an industry or a solution. In this post, you’ll find a bundle for Retail Marketers, for Travel Marketers, and for Lead Generation. The resources included offer specific tips for that bundle, as well as additional resources on strategies or channels Hanapin has used for a client in that industry.
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