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Welcome to the Glossy Podcast.
Every Monday, we’ll bring you a conversation with someone innovating in the fashion or luxury industries. On this first episode, we sit down with the founder of a company that has become one of the more intriguing success stories in the mobile fashion space in the last three years. Alan Tisch, founder of Spring, launched the mobile shopping app in 2013 to solve two problems: To create a marketplace that met both supply and demand needs while offering trustworthy online shopping — all on a phone.
Spring is a hip hit, one of the bigger success stories in the space, having raised $32.5 million in VC funding from two rounds. An interface similar to Instagram offers both high-end and low-end shopping options. And it only takes a tap to purchase. “The future is direct to consumer,” said Tisch, who formerly worked at Fab.
Below, edited highlights.
Spring considers itself a platform.
Tisch is adamant that Spring’s platform approach is what is going to make it successful. It is keen to distance itself from retailers: Instead of buying items and then marking them down, Spring takes a 3 percent to 7 percent commission, while the brand selling the clothes picks the images, sets prices, and controls branding. “We’re giving brands the best part of selling direct which is margins, data and control,” said Tisch.
Big department stores are failing because they don’t want to change.
The retail story of the year, so far, is that department stores have been seeing low sales and lackluster revenues. Tisch said a lot of that is due to the cyclical nature of the industry. The companies with 20,000 employees often have the hardest time because they’ve gotten really good at one thing. “Nordstrom, for example, is one of the most incredible retail companies in the world, known for in-store experience,” he said. But while Nordstrom has done a decent job at building ecommerce capabilities, it’s not what they’re optimized for. “When you’re good at something to say ‘forget that let’s go be great at something else’ is really hard,” said Tisch.
A lot of the inertia is because of history.
For a long time, department stores and big malls thought nobody would buy high-end, expensive fashion or luxury online, much less on a smartphone. But as the tech caught up, that ended up being proved wrong. Big retailers have been slow to catch on, though, said Tisch.
Retailers are no longer curators of style.
Consumers of the 1980s and ‘90s grew up in an era controlled by retailers. It was all about lookbooks with glossy pages, campaigns choreographed and photographed meticulously. “A lot of production went into selling an individual dress,” said Tisch. Today it’s about Instagram, Coachella, and one dress on an influencer that then sells out. “In the past, it was take this Burberry item, wear it with these Saint Laurent shoes, and Nordstrom curated that style,” said Tisch. “Today, it’s editors, brands, celebrities and influencers creating that.”
Chatbots, meet world.
Spring, which coined the term “conversation commerce” and was one of the first brands on Facebook Messenger, is all in on bots. Facebook approached the platform and said it had this dream of what personal shopping would look like, said Tisch. And that’s when he realized it wasn’t anything new. “This is how shopping has been happening for decades,” he said. The way people saw catalogs, then called a phone number, or the relationships based on texts and IMs people have with personal shoppers and stylists means the world is ready for bots. “A lot of commerce is already being done over texts,” he said. “This is just a new destination.”