“In the first part of this event, which will be between a panel and fireside chat, learn how these two entrepreneurial powerhouses have both started successful companies at young ages through owning and operating retail stores and similarly, how they both moved on to working in early-stage consumer tech at top Venture Capital funds. However similar their backgrounds were, they have both now taken different directions.
In the second part of this panel, you will see what motivates these entrepreneurial leaders, how they innovate within their respective fields and how they excel at their roles today with their ingrained strategies that keep them moving forward. Each speaker will share some insight into their current industries (venture capital, luxury retail/e-commerce).
We'll follow the speaking portion with Audience Q&A, during which attendees can expect to get real, substantial answers to their questions.”
Retailers and brands are making mistakes within their planning initiatives by the pure ignorance of not understanding how technology is impacting their company.
Traditionally, retailers and brands have had a dense foliage in terms of history with technology. As a retailer, for the past hundred years or so, you had distributed your product in one of two ways: distribution through retail and wholesale. Most likely you operated retail brick-and-mortar locations and, if you were a brand, you most likely had your product in some major department stores. However, in the past twenty years this model of distribution has changed; however we choose to call it, we are in an era of change and that change is being facilitated by technology.
So, how does a brand and a retailer plan for that change?
Up until the past few years, retailers and brands did not know how to interact with their customer in the digital age. How do you plan for the assortments that are going in your store, in your wholesale doors and in your e-commerce website? Are those plans connected or just tied together through the P/L? What if you don’t have any historical data to help you make those decisions for your e-commerce website? How do you account for the emotional relationship that will drive a sale online? How do you plan for improving sell-through in full-price at retail stores? How do you gain visibility in your store and region’s marketing events? How do you then allocate and replenish merchandise based on high-value marketing campaigns? What does it mean to capture the data and analytics that are now available to you about the customer that is purchasing your product? How do you account for the “what-if scenario plans” that live outside of your current spreadsheet? How do you translate a financial merchandise plan into an assortment plan based on breadth and depth by store cluster?
I was asked to speak on a panel as a Millennial Disrupter, and more specifically, as an early innovator that navigated the ropes of owning and operating a brick-and-mortar retail store, growing a fashion brand, entering into the world of technology through early-stage consumer tech investing, driving wholesale for a luxury brand and how I finally landed at o9 where we utilize technology to help those retailers and brands I care about become more successful.
It’s a daunting experience, being on a panel and discussing your background and experience in hopes of inspiring a room full of attendees. So rather than recap this event, I wanted to discuss a question that was asked by one of the members of the audience during a Q&A. The question was, “How do two companies enter a market, sell within that market and coexist alongside one another? And, does it matter which company started first?”
There are a few points I would like to take a moment to highlight in this question that I would like you to keep in mind as I begin to explain our answers and how it relates to what we are doing at o9 Solutions.
Markets are big, therefore there is enough space for more than one player.
Not everything is about being first; what is more important is understanding the problem you are trying to solve, understanding how your brand is different and understanding your customer.
Samantha Smith, a Venture Investor and my fellow panelist, took this question first and did a comparison with two companies in the same space that entered the market at different times: ZipCar and Hertz on Demand. I continued the conversation with another example and choose the booking platform for food reservations: Opentable and Reserve (a new company founded by the Uber founder).
If you look at Opentable, they were founded in 1998, currently own the market and have not had much innovation throughout the years, except for introducing mobile payments in 2014. Reserve, on the other hand, is a brand new company that was founded in 2014, and enables a more seamless experience- from getting the table you want to paying effortlessly at the end of the meal, the same way Uber created a more seamless experience within transportation. Through their app, you are able to have your own personal dining concierge where they are utilizing technology to improve the process of booking a reservation for both the restaurant and the customer. Reserve is solving a different problem than Opentable. They understand their brand differentiation through the idea of a personal concierge and creating a seamless experiences and they are catering to a new type of customer; the new “luxury” consumer that has the cash flow for the lifestyle, but not for the investment. The same customer that has already been validated by Uber.
So to take the question that the gentleman in the audience asked and relate it back to my first statement as to how both retailers and brands are making mistakes within their planning initiatives by the pure ignorance of not understanding how technology is impacting their company. Our company, o9 Solutions, helps solve this problem and we do it with a very different approach than other software companies in the market.
Intrigued? Let’s explore- there are many large software conglomerates out there. One of which was actually started by our team at o9 Solutions and later sold to a competitor in the space. We are not first in the enterprise planning space, nor will we be the last, but our brand is very different than the current players. We have a very specific problem that we are trying to solve within organizations and that’s closing the gap around all different types of planning initiatives through one solution.
We don’t sell clunky hardware and software. We don’t sell you things you don’t need. We don’t sell you something that you can’t afford. We sell you precisely the software solution that can help improve your business and move the needle just enough in order to make the difference and you, as the customer, pay for only what you use. We understand that your business has changed, so we have changed. Our customer is every brand, every manufacture, every financial institution, every tech company and every business that has any level of planning involved.
o9 is a ahead of the curve and I say that with the most humility as I possibly can. We look at problems differently and we’re able to solve those problems with technology that we understand and software that we have built. Retailers and brands are stuck trying to figure this out. Unfortunately for them, by the time they realize this change, they are stuck scrambling to find a solution to stop the bleeds. They generally do what they think is right by consulting one of our big-name competitors to address this change, they may or may not enter into a RFP stage and bring on a consulting firm to guide this implementation, but they will generally enter into an expensive, long, multi-year project with systems that don’t talk to one another and by the time the roll-out is complete, their business has entirely changed. This process needs to change.
We win through speed to market, user adoption and offering a next-gen capability to our customers that our competitors don’t have. We offer a SaaS-based software that is purely-cloud based, online and accessible through all your smart devices. We’ve successfully amassed a collective of retailers and brands that understand how we are helping them solve their problems, because we understand their business problems in today's world and can easily adapt for problems in the future. Companies are veering towards this new era of technological change and they are hungry; our mPower Platform offers a solution to these companies problems.
You heard it first, o9 Solutions has brought you the most sophisticated enterprise planning software available to date. What will we think of next? We don't know, because we're so focused on being the best in the planning space, but I'm sure it will involve some clever way of getting more customers, because frankly, we can't get enough of your planning problems. Thanks for reading and see you in New York again soon!
Coco wears an Etro Silk Dress, Ben Amun Earrings, Christian Loubtouin Simple 100's
Photographer: Matt Emmin