Did the Internet kill store catalogs? Nope. Not at $275 billion a year. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t huge opportunities. Meet CoffeeTable. Coffee Table is the only app where you can browse catalogs anywhere – online and offline – and make your purchase through a secure in-app checkout. SFFT spoke with Peri Kadaster, the VP of Marketing to learn more about how CoffeeTable has become a leader in an industry ripe full of possibilities for disruption. This Part II of a two Part Interview. Read Part I here.
6. CoffeeTable is leveraging existing communities of brands/retailers. What are some of the challenges and opportunities in building these communities?
It’s an exciting time for all of us – our retailer partners know that they are on the bleeding edge of a major inflection point in ecommerce, and we are thrilled to be a key part of the answer to the big question they’re all asking – “What do we do about the tablet?”
First of all, every retailer has very different priorities in why they want to engage with tablet commerce. For some, it’s to gain greater exposure to a (to date) relatively affluent shopper base and acquire new shoppers. For others it’s a means to increase engagement and share of wallet with existing shoppers. For many, it’s a little bit of both – or just a big question mark – and they are looking for ways to dip their toes in the water without diving in. CoffeeTable is constantly evolving its model to be able to customize retailer commitments based on what their priorities and even capabilities are.
Secondly, there’s a question of where digital catalog shopping falls within a retail organization structure. For some retailers, the key stakeholders are the catalog group – for others, it’s ecommerce. There’s a couple of implications here – one, per the point above, is that the priorities will be different (e.g., enhancing a catalog mailing list vs. driving click-through to a website). Two, that the definition – and measurement of – success is fundamentally different. For example, a catalog marketer may be focused on improving pre-media activities such as merchandising, bringing printing costs down, building out their house mailing list, and maximizing impressions / readership of a given book. E-Commerce executives are often coming to CoffeeTable with different metric requests – clock-through rates, dwell time, conversion rates – and even infrastructure requests on how CoffeeTable’s analytics can directly feed into their internal tools.
Another opportunity is of course the technical side – CoffeeTable is full service in taking paper catalogs to digitize them and add an e-commerce layer. CoffeeTable has a variety of different working models with our retailer partners, based on their needs and bandwidth. With some of our retailer partners we can quickly integrate with their systems. With others, we will work for days or even weeks to manually reformat and quality-assure back-end systems that are not yet formatted for the tablet shopping experience. We work closely with people all over the retail organization to help them transition to the tablet shopping infrastructure.
Affiliate networks – GAN, Commission Junction, LinkShare, ShareASale – are key stakeholders for several of our retailer relationships, but even that has some complexity. For example, Google Affiliate Networks (GAN) simply stopped tracking all tablet commerce in February of this year – something CoffeeTable actually discovered through our analytics and informed all of our impacted retail partners about, literally months before GAN did.
CoffeeTable is working to address all of the questions raised by our retailer partners, and we’re very excited with some of the services we’ll be rolling out to retailers over the next quarter. More broadly, as the thought leaders in the tablet shopping space, we are setting a common language, metrics, and industry standards that is already bringing clarity to the space.
7. CoffeeTable has access to large amounts of data directly from the brands/retailers about their products. Can you share with us some of the ways you help your brand/retail partners leverage the data?
Data is a tremendous differentiator of CoffeeTable – we can provide catalog, page, and even product level “heat maps” about shopper engagement with a retailer. Before CoffeeTable, retailers could only truly measure a subset of orders placed via catalog. CoffeeTable today provides retailers regular analytic reports with metrics such as catalog opens, repeat shoppers, page view trending, top viewed products, and many others to – for the first time – paint a picture of how a shopper base is engaging with every page and product in a catalog. Moving forward, we have an even more robust analytics suite that we will unveil to our retailer partners, as well as a ‘self-serve’ platform for them to access their engagement data directly and in real time.
But as we know, numbers in a vacuum don’t drive business, and don’t make money. We will provide the analytics directly drive retailers’ bottom line decisions. CoffeeTable is working with retailers to enhance these analytics such that they can inform catalog pre-media decisions, inventory forecasting, price elasticity, and much more. In short, we aspire to be the analytics powerhouse for retailers not only for their catalogs, but for their entire product assortment and merchandising strategy.
8. CoffeeTable also has a huge amount of data collected about user behavior, e.g. purchases, reviewed, shared, and so forth. How does CoffeeTable leverage that data for brands and retailers and are there insights you can share?
CoffeeTable considers our shopper community an extension of our team – we take user privacy incredibly seriously and have stringent internal and retailer guidelines on the usage of personal information. We do not disclose any individual shopper data and provide only aggregated analytics.
We learn more about CoffeeTable shoppers through a number of avenues – through data in our app usage, but also through focus groups, customer service phone calls, email feedback, and much more. Externally, to our retailer partners, we provide insights into engagement with their catalogs with the metrics noted above. Internally, we are incredibly data driven in identifying how to find and message to our target shoppers, how we should merchandise brands within the CoffeeTable app, what product features we should add, and much more. We look at how cohorts behave so that we can identify key drivers of retention and loyalty. CoffeeTable behind the scenes is a great amalgamation of art, with the creativity of visualizing how people want to shop on iPad, and science, with complex analytics to quantify what aspects of the experience actually makes an impact on shopper behavior and satisfaction. We constantly test and learn to continually improve the user experience.
For example, early on we saw that a segment of our shoppers were very active with their CoffeeTable shopping cart – adding, removing, and editing products with a very high frequency. We realized that they were using their shopping carts as a parking lot for products they wanted to remember and come back to, kind of like dog-earing a page in a paper catalog. That shopper data led us to create the “wishlist,” a customizable screen where shoppers save their favorite products. Much of our product roadmap is deliberately developed in this way.
Everyday we are adding more points to the patterns we are seeing in the constantly evolving tablet shopper behavior trends. A few observations and anecdotes:
• In one particular category, 80% of our shoppers browsed through the last page of at least one catalog. That flies in the face of industry convention that shoppers only look through the first 10 or so pages, so that’s where the key products should be located.
• Catalogs that feature CoffeeTable’s proprietary two-tap “Express Checkout” experience 2X conversion rates vs. the others.
• CoffeeTable shoppers are night owls! During weekdays our peak shopping times get started after the work day ends in that time zone, and increases steadily until “bed time,” approximately from 3 pm through 11 pm Pacific Time.
• One shopper we spoke with exemplifies the CoffeeTable experience – they first downloaded CoffeeTable in early December and started browsing through a women’s apparel catalog that had an exclusive sale. Over the next 3 weeks, this person returned to the app over a dozen times – sometimes every day, sometimes every two or three days – and hopped from the Apparel category, to Home & Garden, to Food & Wine, and ultimately purchased an item from our Outdoors category two days before Christmas. This personifies how CoffeeTable works, a destination where shoppers come back again and again for countless reasons — to shop a sale, discover new brands for yourself, revisit favorite products, find that perfect gift for someone else, and much more – we’re like the Swiss army knife of catalog shopping.
9. Switching gears to the fashtech space, CoffeeTable is backed by RR Donnelley, a huge players in the catalog business. This seems to be a growing pattern in fashtech -a heavier M&A presence by established players. What has been your experience with Donnelley, are they active in the space or just exploring?
RR Donnelley has been a fantastic strategic partner for CoffeeTable; they led our recent Series A round of fundraising, but also importantly, established an exclusive marketing relationship with CoffeeTable – such that their sales force refers its customers to CoffeeTable exclusively for their relevant tablet and digital needs.
RR Donnelley is an active partner: they provide us with unparalleled expertise in the catalog industry – top of mind issues, analytic wish lists, key considerations for both risks and success factors – and in turn we provide RR Donnelley and their customers with insights into the tablet commerce space, from acquiring users to understanding their behavior in this vertical.
10. Finally, what trends in fashtech excite you the most?
This is such an exciting time in fashtech, as both retailer capabilities and shopper behaviors seem to be evolving at lightning speed. There are certainly a few topics people are constantly buzzing about – Have deal shopping sites hit their peak / started their decline? Is pinterest a friend or foe to retail sites? Who is going to win the burgeoning mobile payments battle, and how will that impact ecommerce? There is a lot of change which means there’s a lot of innovation to come. A few trends I’m seeing in the industry and friends’ companies I’m particularly excited about:
• Consignment enters the 21st century: ThredUp revolutionized peer-to-peer kids’ clothes sharing through their ecommerce site, and are now growing to offer a B2C consignment presence. eRelyx does this phenomenally well with luxury timepieces, even Etsy has some elements of this. We see at CoffeeTable that the idea of a “found object” – something you come across you haven’t seen before and you don’t know if you’ll find again – is an incredibly powerful driver of conversion. (That being said – it’s very tricky insofar as it to do it right it requires trusted third-party authentication, inventory, drop shipment / logistics, and all that good stuff).
Consignment and vintage fashion really lend itself toward the discovery-based ecommerce experience for that reason. I didn’t think to search for “vintage one-of-a-kind 1960s leather handbag,” but I saw one in ModCloth’s lookbook and now I can’t get it out of my head (and yes I wishlisted it on CoffeeTable…).
• I’m kind of a big deal: Meet my personal shopper – Trunk Club obviously has massive waves, as did other curation and/or subscription models ranging from Little Black Bag to ShoeDazzle and more, to varying degrees of success. There are a couple of fantastic players in this place – StitchFix is doing phenomenally well in marrying current trends with shoppers’ personal preferences and even price points for a hyper-customized and personalized experience (they also nail the “unexpected delight!” aspect of building a brand – from an uber-user-friendly website to free gifts in their shipments, I’m hooked). Spoke, which just launched in London, is also taking men’s apparel styling to the next level, merging Trunk Club principles of male styling with the refinement of European fashion.
At CoffeeTable we’re evolving our app experience to not only display all the latest catalogs but also customize an assortment specific to a shopper’s preferences. Who wouldn’t want their own catalog?
• Voyeurism isn’t a dirty word… Fashion is inherently social – we look to tastemakers for what’s hot this season, how to style it, and of course where to buy it. But tastemakers aren’t just the Hollywood glitterati or even just Tavi Gevenson anymore – it’s a friend of yours across the country you text a picture of that dress you’re thinking about buying, or it’s someone you’ve never met but their pinboards speak to you on a deep and profound level. We’re seeing this aspect of looking around for both inspiration and affirmation in product enhancements. Fab.com added its feed and is getting more social by the day. CoffeeTable piloted displaying “top viewed products” in some of its catalogs and is rolling out some more exciting social initiatives soon.
• … but over-exposure is. There’s an element of Facebook fatigue – “too much information” – when you realize every 90’s pop song you listened to on Spotify (“who put that on my playlist?”), every celebrity gossip article you read on Washington Post, basically every move you make shows up on your Facebook news feed. Consumers are starting to opt-out of the facebook connect requests and social plug-ins that so many apps are requesting aka requiring. Social engagement is important for fashion, but context is key: you want to see what your fellow shoppers are doing when you’re in the mall, not when you’re sitting down for breakfast or walking into a meeting.
CoffeeTable purposely did not start with facebook integration so that we earned the trust of our shoppers and measured the desire for social shopping feature. Now, we know exactly what our shoppers want – and don’t want – in their tablet browsing experience.