Monday, January 9, 2012
Interview with Michelle Crames, SkuLoop
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
What do you do when a new industry, which serves the same customers as you do, suddenly appears and starts to grow astronomically? In the case of Los Angeles-based SkuLoop (www.skuloop.com), what you do is you shift your focus to that new industry--in this case, flash sales and daily deals--and figure out how to apply your technical know-how to that rapidly growing market. We caught up with Michelle Crames, CEO and Founder of SkuLoop, to hear the story about how the firm pivoted form its former focus on mobile gifting (as Giiv.com) and caught the wave of the flash sales and daily deals industry.
Tell us about SkuLoop and what you do?
Michelle Crames: SkuLoop is a solution that lets retailers create and measure their own, branded shopping frenzies. It takes mo bile, email, and retail into a single engine, which increases the value of new and existing customers.
When you say frenzy, and what do you mean?
Michelle Crames: It's a platform where retailers can do their own, private label versions of something like Gilt Groupe, Groupon, or a curated event. Those are all different models which combine the excitement and passion of consumers with new formats, in ways that get them excited to buy and to tell their friends. We're experiencing tremendous success with this, and even recently did a control test on one of our clients' websites, where we saw a 3X increase in conversions. Another client was able to do a week's worth of revenue in just an hour. We're seeing that we are able to create tremendous excitement and amplify that using social.
What kind of customers are using your product?
Michelle Crames: We're focused exclusively on retailers and brands, although we prefer multi-channel retailers. There is a lot of commerce that still happens in stores, with more than 90 percent of sales in physical retailers. We like working with those retailers who are excited and want to try new ways to target their customers.
We run into lots of companies trying to provide similar social marketing apps, and social agencies who claim to help do similar things, how is what you do different?
Michelle Crames: We are focused on driving revenue, and driving long term value with both new and existing customers. We're different than social agencies, because our focus is on real transactions. We're linking online and offline. We are different than e-commerce platforms, because we are truly multi-channel, amplifying the value of what retailers are doing from a marketing perspective, with new and exciting formats, and the ability to personalize and customize offers.
You were once known as Giiv.com--can you talk about what pushed you in this direction?
Michelle Crames: We started as Giiv.com, and were primarily focused on mobile gifting. Around last summer, we realized that by doing these flash events, we were driving much more value for us. We started to see the growth of some of the new models and thought, we're serving these retail clients, what do we think about this bigger market opportunity and possibility of rapid growth? Companies like Gilt literally went form zero to 500M in revenues in less than three years. Zulily, in the children's space, just launched last year and now has over $100M in revenues this year. We thought it was a logical extension. Although mobile is exciting and is still part of our platform, we saw a broader opportunity to help retailers with these new ways of marketing, which are growing so quickly. We thought we'd provide a bigger impact for our retailers, and help them in a more dramatic way.
So, are you an alternative to Groupon and LivingSocial?
Michelle Crames: Retail is about letting retailers take control. Instead of participating in Groupon or LivingSocial, they can utilize those exciting new techniques to get to customers. It's just not sustainable for a retailer to sell $50 worth of product for $25, especially when they're only getting $12.50 back. Instead, we let retailers control what they are offering customers, and ultimately own the customer data around that, too. Retailers can control and own the experience, without having to build up staff. They can create their own events, whether those are flash events or curated offerings, in just minutes.
Were your investors supportive of the shift in direction?
Michell Crames: We have an awesome investor, and are really lucky. It was a group effort to shift into this tremendous growth opportunity. Because we had an amazing group of investors backing us, and we also have a world class technology and social team, we felt like that we could be successful in this much larger business, and be much more impactful for our clients--by helping them to drive not just 2 or 4 percent increases in sales, but potentially 10, or 20 percent additional through these new categories.
How has the difference in the markets changed how your operate?
Michelle Crames: We're more B2B now. We're more focused on creating a solution to help retailers be successful. We loved having and creating exciting experiences for the end customer, and we've been able to parlay that background into making our retailers successful. One thing we've seen, obviously, is it's very hard to break through all the clutter. Retailers are great at buying merchandise, planning inventory, and marketing and building trust with consumers. That's something they're great at. We're able to pair that with our knowledge of social, the ability to work quickly, and have a dedicated development team to build out new capabilities, so that we're able to save them time to market, and save them potentially millions of dollars. It's a really powerful combination, and I feel like it's resonating and the results are speaking for themselves. We just ran a campaign where our customer asked consumers to list their most wanted products on Facebook, and we had clients with as many as 20 percent of their Facebook fans creating wish lists, which is a staggering percentage.
Finally, what's on your horizon for next year?
Michelle Crames: We're excited to work with a growing list of retail clients, and growing those results. We plan to have some additional partners in place to help give distribution as well, and we're looking to work with a broad variety of new retail clients. There are lots in Southern California, because the best retailers are here. We want to bring our assets to retailers, to help them utilize our toolsets to create even more consumer excitement around them.