Hey, Look Who's Reinventing Retail

Katia BeauchampBirchbox’s Katia Beauchamp

It’s an unusual combination for a startup executive: retail expertise and tech savvy. Or it used to be. Now entrepreneurs are launching trendy companies in fashion and merchandising that are both disrupting the giant retail sector — which nets about $400B monthly in the U.S. — and improving it for consumers.You can hear from the disruptors reinventing retail at Social Commerce Summit Chicago, Business Insider’s deep-dive on the convergence of digital, social and commerce, taking place June 7, 2012, in downtown Chicago. Tickets are still available under the early-bird rate.

Speakers include:

  • Brian Spaly, CEO, Trunk Club

Spaly, co-founder of the successful men’s e-tailer Bonobos, has helped pivot social-commerce startup Trunk Club from a limping experiment that matched men with local stylists into a more robust business that allows male shop-o-phobes to get quick, tailored recommendations. What’s more, users control the level of effort they must put into interacting with retail reps. Sound revolutionary? Well, no. In fact, it probably sounds like a lot of other e-commerce startups you’ve come across.

So how does Spaly fight the signal-to-noise ratio? In the uber-crowded online shopping space, how do you distinguish your company, and make sure your product gets discovered by users?

Joining Spaly to address the question at the Summit are Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp, and

  • Diego Berdakin, Co-founder, BeachMint

The Olsen twins, Jessica Simpson, Kate Bosworth, Rachel Bilson — the list of beautiful people who have signed on to sell merchandise with Berdakin and former MySpace co-founder Josh Berman borders on teenage fantasy. Still, though, fashion competitor ShoeDazzle has Kim Kardashian to plug its wares. Social-shopping company OpenSky boasts Kristin Cavallari, along with a slew of well-known figures in homeware, food, and other retail subverticals. ShoeDazzle co-founder Brian Lee and OpenSky founder John Caplan dished on how to stand out in the crowd at the last Summit in New York.

But while celebrities might get customers in the door, customer acquisition doesn’t magically create retention. To keep coming back, users have to like the product.

Now we’ll hear from Berdakin: what are the best practices in personalised shopping online?

  • Cam Balzer, CMO, Threadless¬†

Started with $1,000 from founders’ pockets in 2000, Threadless’ community-voting system gained traction with users and grew to revenues of roughly $20 million by 2008, pushing co-founder Jake Nickell’s life into “crazy-rad-town,” as he describes it. But the Threadless story isn’t just dream candy for other rad founders — Nickell’s website calls him “the coolest dude in the world” — it also has a lot to teach social marketing mavens. An early example of crowd-sourced commerce, Threadless began to scale before Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, et. al. made the social web seem obvious. And when networks later arose, Threadless jumped in fast, leveraging the new platforms to grow its brand, community and revenues. The company continues to hit social hard, as its site still includes community engagement. And artists continue to sign on with stylish designs.

So what is Threadless doing right? What can other e-commerce shops learn about social promotions? And building an engaged and active user base?

If you sell a design-focused product, what’s the best way to leverage the latest crop of visual-social services like Pinterest and Instagram?

Hear from Balzer at the Social Commerce Summit, in a drill-down interview with Seth Kravitz, the serial entrepreneur is encouraging Chicago’s tech community to keep connected through a million cups of coffee.

Also speaking at Social Commerce Summit are investors in social commerce and digital strategists from Fortune 500 brands:

  • Eric Lefkofksy, Co-founder, Groupon; Co-founder, Lightbank
  • Jon Teo, Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners
  • Lon Chow, General Partner, Apex Venture Partners
  • Kim Musgrave, Social Media Team Lead Manager, McDonald’s
  • Rich Lesperance, Head of Digital Marketing & Emerging Media, Walgreens

You’re invited to join us there. See you in June! Meanwhile, you can follow @BI_Events on Twitter for more info or deals.¬†

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