Jason & Scot Show Episode 98 Zola CEO and Co-Founder, Shan-Lyn Ma

A weekly podcast with the latest e-commerce news and events. Episode 98 is an interview with Shan-Lyn Ma, Zola CEO and Co-Founder.


An interview with Shan Lyn Ma (@shanlynm), CEO and Co-Founder of Zola. Zola is re-inventing the Wedding Registry for the modern couple.

In this episode we discuss Shan Lyn’s previous experience including Yahoo and Gilt Group.  As well as Zola’s business model and potential growth opportunities.

Shan mentioned a recent article written by Zola investor, Alex Taussig (@ataussig) of Lightspeed: Finding product/channel fit at Zola.

Don’t forget to like our facebook page, and if you enjoyed this episode please write us a review on itunes.

Episode 98 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded on Tuesday, August 22nd 2017.

New beta feature – Google Automated Transcription of the show:


[0:25] Welcome to the Jason and Scott show this is episode 98 being recorded on Tuesday August 22nd 2017 I’m your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg and as usual I’m here with your co-host Scot Wingo.

[0:40] Hey Jason welcome back Jason Scott show listeners Jason the day after the eclipse did you get to see the clips at all.

[0:47] No tragically I was on the airplane and I was sitting next to a pilot that was Dead Heading and I asked him if there was any chance we were going to see the eclipse and he told me that they would have to bank upwards about 45 degrees which seemed unlikely.

[1:02] Yeah but opted out of that the clips here in review of it and it was a lot of fun pretty exciting to have midday Darkness.

[1:14] Where you at I’m imagining you’re one of the special people that had ordered a glasses well in advance and so you had them.

[1:21] That is correct yes and I were them and I didn’t wear them more than 3 minutes I followed all the rules and as a result I have good Vision still so I’m excited to report that everybody.

[1:31] I am I’m very happy to hear that I was a failure in my family I ordered them a month in advance and they arrive so early that I lost them before the eclipse came.

[1:39] Epic fail.
Well you know summer is winding down here at the Jason is got show and we’re heading into the fall so we are going to ram back up the interviews of e-commerce movers and shakers and tonight we have a special treat for listeners,
please join me in welcoming shan-lyn ma she is the CEO and co-founder of Zola welcome sham.
Thank you very happy to be talking to you both.

[2:08] We are happy to be talked to.
Sham what is a regular listener the show your pray for me or this but we always like to get things started off by.
Having our guests tell us a little bit about their background and how they came into their current roles and in in your case you have a very story e-commerce Paso can you share your background with her listeners.

Scot and Shan:
[2:33] Shaw so I was mentioning to you earlier that I am a fan of this podcast particular because I am also an e-commerce nerd and,
that has come from what can you Nokomis at particular over the last 9 years in New York,
I moved to New York from Silicon Valley to take a job at what was at that time a very small startup that had just launched cold Gill group,
that was 2008 join Guild as the first product person and it had just launched and so.
Joint when it was about 30 people about 7 million in Revenue a time and.
Was tasked with redoing what does gilt.com look like both,
from the front-facing user experience as well as what we want it to be out over the the longer term of the next they wanted to use as the business. To add new categories like,
Harmon’s kids and what would eventually be added on would be things like,
Gilt City and experiences and travel and Bowl.
Ended up staying at guiltful for years which was a fantastic full use of very intense learning during that time I got to be the product lead on a lot of the new business lunches go to launch the mobile.

[4:07] And and then go to pitch in launch my own business unit within guilt which was a gourmet food and wine,
business that we called guilt taste and so then at that point really in,
my 32nd transitioned out of a product management role into more of a GM Mini CEO within a bigger startup kind of role.
Salina great deal there about all the functions outside of just product development.
At the end of four years guilt had grown from.

[4:43] Initial 30 people to be over thousand employees and at that time was probably around six hundred million in revenue and so really got a great sense of.
What would really write to see that Revenue growth so quickly and then what was some of the challenges that that business faced as it tried to.
Move towards profitability and an obviously following the company closely after that got to see a bit of perhaps you know what.
Mites that company what might we have done differently that.
Might have could have avoided some of the decline that it had in more recent years and so often I.
Wanted to do this. Up Jenny all over again and move to become Chief product officer of another New York consumer.
Text Atif cold Chloe & Isabel which is social selling and Jewellery.
Company start up and after being in that role for a relatively short amount of time realize that you while I had been putting off what I always wanted to do which was stopped something.

[6:02] Based on your kind of idea or number of ideas that I had I thought I could not delay any longer and.

[6:12] Decided to stop Zola with micro fountas and that you was 2013.
Which also happened to be the end of all my friends got married at around the same time and I was,
buying a lot of wedding presents for them from the different wedding registry sites online and was thinking you know.
I am surprised that these.
E-commerce experiences which is why the wedding registry really is I’m surprised that they’re no better than than what I was saying online and was starting to talk to Nobu microfindr about.
Frustrations that I had as a gift give up shopping from their Registries and we started to think about how would we do it differently if we would have create a wedding registry from scratch and that was.
When we came up with Zola and and toes all was born and that was four years ago.

[7:08] Very cool I feel like that is a common story is that you no germ of a great startup idea being born out of need the only sad thing is if you would have recognized the need of your early are you could have sold it to all your friends.

Scot and Shan:
[7:20] Exactly yes I am I’m often,
sad that now the precise time that I love to go to weddings is actually the time that I am no longer invited to living since most of my friends get married have already been married,
but every time I meet someone that is not married I secretly hoping they will at some point get engaged and invite me to their wedding which is user research essentially.

[7:48] Night yeah that’s in fact I assume the gift you give are write-offs.

Scot and Shan:
[7:54] I wish that is not the case however you’re in combination with that when I should say is that I,
my my the quality of gifts that I give to people now is so much better now that I know the data around what makes a good wedding gift what is the average price point of a wedding gift this is all,
information I wish I had before 2013.

[8:21] And I should throw in usual disclaimer I have no Financial background and I’m not qualified to give tax advice to anyone listening.

[8:30] The.
You know you mentioned your experience guilt from kind of 30 employees through through a thousand and I think most listeners are probably familiar with the story of guilt but one thing that I feel like gets lost is,
that that gill really built a.
A fabulous e-commerce team and that Talent has spread throughout the industry are in an are in a lot of interesting position so you remember the pretty cool Alumni network in the e-commerce space.

Scot and Shan:
[9:00] But I think that is one of the most exciting things that I’ve seen change in at least the New York,
technology ecosystem since I moved to New York in 2008,
when I moved here in 2008 I was new to the city and so I was looking for other product people like myself to come talk about ideas and best practices in the city and.
It was hard for me to find other people in that same role I found a few but,
you can compare that to today if you are trying to do that same activity there is,
hundreds and thousands of people that could probably find that so many meetups that are all stalking new startups and from the people that you meet that so it’s it is.
It’s changed since I’ve got started but.
Also when we look at the companies that have come out of Gil group alumni at last count there were around 20.
Startups that was founded by people that had previously worked a guilt and and said that alone even in the short few years that,
that’s been possible to do is a pretty big impact,
Graco the PayPal guys call themselves The PayPal Mafia I don’t know if they call themselves that but have you guys call yourselves like in.
Gilts Gilder you have a clever name for that is prettier.

[10:37] My money is on the guilty.

Scot and Shan:
[10:39] Guilty.
We could we could just turn the show into Gill tons guilty as charged hello alright so Zola is,
in the wedding space 04 listeners that aren’t familiar that tell us a little bit about the wedding space and and what’s exciting.
To you about that space Zola is.
The fastest growing wedding registry around and we started as a wedding registry because we really wanted to solve this one particular.
Pain point that I described of couples getting married wanting to create a wedding registry that,
met the needs that they have today and so couples getting married today all the millennial generation and the the way that then needs a different,
particular relates to wedding registry is threefold so one is they want to register for products and experiences and cash all in the one registry they want.
Registry that is truly personal that they can personalize that reflects who they are at the couple and what they love and similar to the way that they post lies their Facebook page old Instagram and the third,
they want complete control over their registry as it relates to how it shows up at.

[12:10] When that gets a ship to them and they want to control on their mobile devices as well as on their laptops and desktops and so those three things and would not really,
available at all outside.
Zola so that was the starting point for Zola and we lunch with that idea and in the few years that we’ve been around we’ve seen it grow extremely quickly.
This past quarter we actually launched of a first new product that.
Speaks outside of the wedding registry which is the product code Zola weddings and what that is is a suite of wedding planning tools that helps couples plan their wedding.

[12:58] On top of their wedding registry so specifically it’s a free wedding website guest list manager and checklist and.
Overall what my trying to do here is really helped a couple plan their wedding for the day they get engaged through the fs your marriage through all the different.
Tivities and toss that you have to do as you’re planning your dream day.
Coin and I’ll take a shot I don’t know much about how it works but I’m guessing your business model is effectively,
I’m kind of like an affiliate commission model on the back end where are you you’re as as couples kind of say I want to register for this and purchases are made you have a revenue-share kind of model is that how it works or is it more of an ad model.
Actually neither of those so the the best way to think about Zola is that we are a hybrid of a Marketplace and an e-commerce business so where am a place in the sense that we have.

[14:01] We work directly with over 500 Brands today and of the 50,000 products so if you look at the Zola store you can register for any of those products and we we partner directly with brands.
Zola in the same way that we pottanat directly with friends when we were in guilt.
The difference and why we have a Marketplace hybrid is that we are not taking inventory so we are in Dropship.
Business model and.
The big shift that has happened in the home industry which is the industry that registry operates within is.
Home Brands really started to transition to enable Dropship capabilities in the last 5 years or so so.
If we try to do Zola much earlier it would have been hard for us to do as a business and hard for us to have.
Best Dropship capability with the number brands that we would need to have within the registry,
and we probably wouldn’t have done it if we had to buy all the inventory because with a registry you need a lot of skews and very shallow depth answer that that’s the the komaki pre-flight component,
an e-commerce site in the sense that Zola is the merchant we are the retailer we have,
and developed a relationship with our customers which are a couple’s we provide all the customer support and everything is captured through the Zola experience insight and so in that sense we.

[15:40] We look and feel like an e-commerce experience.

[15:45] Very cool and one of the things that maybe I just want understand a little bit better like so when I think of a traditional.

[15:51] E-commerce wedding registry it’s a single retailer experience so.

[15:57] Like in general I have to decide upfront oh I’m going to register at Crate & Barrel in so I go to Crate and Barrel and I I go through there there specific.

[16:06] Registry experience in there I’m only going to be able to register for products that they sell and certainly not experiences or cash.
Products that they know self.
So you are what I would call a sort of a multi retailer registration through you I can register for a potentially much wider range of products I have that right correct.

Scot and Shan:
[16:31] Yes and,
and we have all the brands that you might expect to find it any other department store so top registry Brands include things like lecreuset all clad KitchenAid and those are all.
Brands that we have and partner with on Zola and wee wee retail them like any other department store retailer does.

[16:56] Yep and so do your partner’s 10 Dobby the product manufacturers as opposed to other retailers is that.

Scot and Shan:
[17:03] Yes that’s right.

[17:05] Got it.

[17:09] So do any of those those brand like so obviously some of those brand cell direct so you mention like la Creuset or All-Clad like they would have their own e-commerce site.
Do any of the manufacturers try to do their own wedding registry or is that just not not common at all.

Scot and Shan:
[17:28] We don’t really see that and I think the reason is because it from the use of perspective,
the use of the couple does not want to create,
ideally more than one register you don’t want to set up a registry on Lake say and then registry on Old Clyde and then it registry on KitchenAid because all of a sudden you’re sending your gas to light potentially hundreds are different sites so,
you want to do it once and he want everything in the one place it’s convenient it’s more straightforward for the couple and for the gas which is what the couple also has equally about.

[18:09] That makes total sense but then I saw recently that you had announced a partnership with Bat Country.
That’s fascinating cuz you know that you wouldn’t think of his the backcountry assortment as the.
The traditional merchandise for wedding registry but I suspect you’re going to tell me,
that it’s an in high demand in in the new Target demographic but they I think of as a as more of retail out of other people’s products so it does that work differently than your than the manufacturers or or.

Scot and Shan:
[18:44] Yeah so wait.
The way that we decide how we want to add products apartments or retailers to Zola is based on what we think the couple’s pull into the registries.
Does m.
Couples can set up their Registries and add products that we already have within the Zola stole but they can also on top of that.
Add any products from any site online anywhere on the internet into the Zola registry as well and.
Similar to the way Pinterest has the pin it button we have the add to Zola button which just pools in that particular product into.
A couple’s registry and so that for us as being the best insight into one of the products and Brands and retailers that customers,
once that we don’t currently have on solar because they’re pulling it in as a from day one we really had that day too driven approach to merchandising where we,
use this.

[19:52] Pull data essentially to inform a merchandising roadmap and the reason we added back country.
Is because we saw a lot of couple.
Registering for outdoor equipment and a wide range of outdoor camping gear.
That we didn’t have on Zoll at all until we thought sociable.
If we would Apollo with that country it would allow us to add a lot of different.
Products to the Zola cement very quickly but also that’s a brand that we know couples already love it’s a retailer that I couples already love and so.

[20:35] Makes sense for them to if we will add it to Zola so that’s one another example of a similar partnership we did with a retailer is Michael C Fina which is a New York.
Tabletop retailer that has.
It has a very storied history in New York’s upper east side and they had a lot of high-end luxury brand,
that we didn’t have on Zola and we did see that was some months for that and so we added that to the side and certainly that has gone very well and full couples that are looking for that really fine China from top brands.

[21:19] Very cool and prisoners every time I dine at Scott’s house he always has a fabulous table set with Michael C Fina so that that would probably where he would register.

Scot and Shan:
[21:30] It’s not a great dinner without a great table top iOS actually have Star Wars plates and glasses.
Does that is that fancy.

[21:42] Well getting some Michael thinking that is the place where many children of presidents have registered for their wedding so it’s not surprising that you would also have some of that fine china.
Cozy get started in 2013 give us a little idea of traction like gum,
have you raised BCE and and how much and any idea about maybe how many weddings have gone to the platform Registries or anything like that you can share would love to get us fuel for the scale that you’re dealing with now,
Shaw soap since we launched we raised over 40 million in VC funding from.

[22:25] Great Venture Capital firms such as Lightspeed Venture partners and Thrive capital and canvas pensions and full Runner to name a few.
At most recently I lost round was the series C round where we raised 25 million,
into fall last you until be announced at that time we have had over 300,000 couples register with Zola and.
Quia multiplying each year.
Yeah it’s great having race venture capital I have a lot of respect for folk stuff done that it’s it’s not easy so congratulations on.
Thank you and I agree this is not easy.
And then so,
you know I know Target Macy’s and lot as other guys really promote their registry pretty heavily do they view you guys is a threat or are they happy to partner as long as kind of some of the sales go through their retail platform sword or do you go direct Brands pretty much most the time.
Right now the vast majority of our business is directly through the Brand’s and.
What we hear from our brand Partners is that.
Zola is one of the few channels that is growing for them which is reflective of our overall.

[24:00] Very fast growth is a company and we are also deleting M text audible leading startup.
In the Online Registry space so.

[24:14] I think for the audience that is Young professional tech-savvy and working busy does not have a lot of time to.
Think about all the different places they can register but they want a wide range of things on their registry in Zelda has become the go-to place and I think there are the time we will.
Want to see a good reason to partner with more and more.
Retail is like the ones you mentioned and it will be determined by the day that away collecting based on what couples and pulling into their registry.

[24:55] Got it in one thing I do think of most of the traditional like single retail Registries is.

[25:02] A big and ponent I assume the overwhelming majority for most of the Retailer’s is is actually in store and you know.

[25:10] I’m assuming you’re exclusively digital like is there an omni-channel Ellen into the offering at this point or is it all via e-commerce.

Scot and Shan:
[25:19] One of the really interesting things about,
the wedding registry is that unlike the rest of the e-commerce world so I think if we look at e-commerce,
total industry online shopping in general it’s about between anywhere from 10 to 20% of total purchases online in registry,
80% of registry purchases are online and.
When you think about it logically makes sense because if you are a guest you’ll going to a wedding.
What would you prefer to do if you’re buying a gift for your friend do you prefer to go into the store.
Awesome to pull up the registry buy it in the store and then leave the store and that’s it or would you prefer to do it in a few clicks online so the purchase thing is already online the thing that is.
Sometimes off line is when couples want to set up their registry and they want to see some products in person so.

[26:22] Full. Use case and Zola has,
what we call the Zola townhouse which is essentially a showroom or a concept or an experiment that we have set up in New York where couples can come in person see and touch and feel product that they may want to register fall.
However we do find that the vast majority of our couples.
At the end of the day end up just registering fully online and don’t feel the need to come in to see something person it is something we’re experimenting with.

[26:54] Got it and is there any um.
I’m almost wondering if there’s an omni-channel component component in terms of the gift delivery right like so you mentioned dropships all these manufacturers are probably shipping the goods and in separate boxes of the couple of or some.
Long period of time is going to get boxes.

[27:13] Presumably in most cases they’re not going to be wrapped or you know what you like so majun one of the areas or opportunities.

[27:22] For some future experiences to is to figure out the you know how do you recreate that experience of there being a Pyle of beautiful gifts at the wedding or maybe people just don’t want that.

Scot and Shan:
[27:33] No couples do not want that that is that is a.
I miss that that a couple’s want that at their wedding so the actually win a Wii with first thinking about is even a good idea for us to start we interviewed many many couples about.
What the wedding planning experience was like what the registry experience was like and what really surprised us was the number one complaint that we heard was,
couples who have been through the registry process and had gotten married with saying when it comes to registry the worst part of it was.
As people were buying gifts from their various departments or Registries gifts would just start turning up at the house and they had no idea what was coming who sent it what’s in the box,
if boxes were arriving for them on honeymoon or when they were at work and it was suddenly all the taking,
that lives the stress of having to track all these gifts that they didn’t even realize what coming when they were coming and.
After hearing story after Story of this complaint we thought this is something that is easily solved using technology.
The couple should have control over when gifts arrived at home so the thing that we built into Zola from the start and that’s.
Is is really the idea that couples can control shipping of their own gifts so we don’t send anything to the couple.

[29:10] Until they say they’re actually ready to receive it and.

[29:15] That the big difference is that actually couples most couples don’t want to receive any gifts until after they’ve come back from there,
honeymoon they’ve often waiting until they moving into the new home that they move into,
between 3 to 6 months after the wedding and then they’re ready to look at what will be given and what do we actually want to now receive.
So because of this feature which is controlled shipping feature and we have,
very low return rate we have virtually no returns because couples are able to determine if they really want something before it shipped to them and for that reason I’m couples tell difference you Zola because.
Eliminates this stress of getting gifts when you’re not ready to receive them.

[30:01] That that makes perfect sense and frankly I don’t want them to receive my gift until they’ve proven that they can at least survive the honeymoon.

Scot and Shan:
[30:09] Well I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories of people who and your vote,
I have registered elsewhere and they said they can secretly took back the gifts because they wanted something else but then that.
And whatever registry that when using.
Refunded the person that gave them the gift and then the person was I why did I get a refund for this gift I gave you did it you like it wants to do and then the couple istick embarrassingly like tell the.
Fox we could you give that back to me so it’s there’s a lot of old Christmas around that that we are really try and we have we have avoided.

[30:49] Yeah and I am sure there that retailer appreciated being used as a gift card.

[30:54] The you mentioned earlier that the the the first expansion product could bend the wedding planning product which them that makes.

[31:04] Great sense I’m curious like so your first expansion is kind of a vertical expansion into the wedding event.

[31:13] And I imagine that the wedding space is a huge opportunity in and of itself is.

[31:20] Is that likely the continued to ejector e of Zola would you keep adding like looking for more wallet share of the wedding or like are there other significant gifting occasions that you could see expanding into like what’s the.

[31:33] What what.

Scot and Shan:
[31:35] Yeah yeah so this to a big expansions that,
that makes sense for us one is right now in the wedding registry space,
even within the us alone that’s a 19 billion dollar a year industry so that is a big Market in itself with the lunch and soul the wedding what where,
dipping a toe into is the lodge weddings Market which is an additional 70 billion within the US and so that’s an area of expansion for us that’s very interesting and very deeply.
Tied to each other so because we now off of tools in.
Wedding planning checklist guest last wedding website and registry overtime it does make sense for us to add more and more based on what the couples are asking us to build for them.
Which we already had many requests.

[32:35] The next big step is then once you come back from your wedding couples are often moving into the new home they often need more things to set up the Newlywed life together and we already have.
Today on the 50,000 products for the home.
So you can imagine because we have a great sense for what will a couple’s love in terms of the Brand’s the price points that stop references similar to what Stitch fix is done and done in fashion we have.
Awesome Arkham level of intelligence we can utilize for home and because we already have all the skews we can think about how do we.
Move into being the place a couples turn to as they setting up then you home.

[33:24] Awesome if you had do you guys have some machine learning folks there that are starting to kind of look at those this correlations.
I think that’s another if I told you I’d have to kill you kind of question however I will say that engineering is on biggest team and soda.
Yes good as an engineer we we appreciate that job job security.
So just to switch gears a little bit when you when you talked about how you guys are different you talked about you know your your couples and how they want that mobile experience what are some of the things you guys have done that the differentiate your mobile experience is it,
is it an app or is it mobile web and in what are some of the things that you do leverage any of the phone’s capabilities and interesting ones.
Yeah so this two things that I think you might find interesting so one is we have at this shop the room.
Feature within Al iPad app which I personally love the most out of all the different features because it gives you an immersive beautiful editorial type of room.
Homescape and you can then click on the hot spots and Shop different products that you see now or add to your wedding registry from there so it’s not.
Augmented reality in the way that the people think about it today because it’s just it’s a room that we have shot so it’s not your own home yeah.

[35:00] But it is giving it is serving the the user need of inspiration and discovery of new products that is.
That is also shoppable so that is one thing that we’ve done that’s really interesting that’s experiment through our iPad up.
The other cool features that is one of talk about that we have in Isola iPhone app it’s the registry iPhone app and the feature we have there is cold.
Glenda which is essentially a Tinder for Home Products so it lets you can swipe through one by one.
Selection of products that we have in the Zola stall and if you swipe right you add it to your Zola registry and if you swipe left it dismisses it and you go to the next one,
so what’s interesting about this is that it is the most popular feature on any of the Zola apps it is.
It is very highly used a couples love it and it’s it’s a very frequent activity that we see people using blender to.
Discover new products and add them to the registry which is interesting to me because it’s certainly not as.
Immersive and emotional and beautiful as the previously tried just described but it is one that people while they described as fun and entertainment and so.

[36:30] We’ve learned a lot through that.
I wonder if they’re sitting there doing it together or if she she goes and swipe rights on 8 things and he kind of like going to swipe left on these 30 off swipe right on these two other ones,
if it’s like a dinner you can almost like that there be in there at you know me there’s like a button or hit there and talks to,
potential newlywed therapy.
We do here a lot of brides saying that they are essentially the the manager of the registry so they approve oldest final decisions.

[37:11] So when you said they wanted complete control you meant complete control for the bra.

Scot and Shan:
[37:15] No no that’s not what I meant.

[37:23] I say no more so one of the things is going to be fun as you get to you get this like fascinating insight into how these young couples think like any.
Particular products that surprise you the people register for or any sort of funny funny trends that we we might not expect about how people are registering.

Scot and Shan:
[37:45] Yeah so the biggest surprise for me was I am.
I did a lot of using interviews before launch and I was always asking what.
What do you do with a bride-to-be want to register full and I hope lot of fried say I don’t need them.
Traditional registry items I want.
Cool new experiences to do together and I want cool unknown Brands and products so we did have a lot of those and we didn’t have as many of the classic,
make registry items when we first launched Sola and what we very quickly soul.
Which was through this at Isola button that people will pulling into the Registries a lot of the classic registry items that people said they didn’t necessarily want so very quickly we can see everyone actually does want.
The blender and the toaster and the iron and the vacuum.

[38:46] They also want all the things I said they want which one’s the experiences and the cool Boutique items and so the takeaway.
The point which is kind of obvious in retrospect but not obvious at the time was that they want it all and I wanted to really reflect what that passionate about as a couple soap.
Some couple the very passionate about.

[39:13] Food and an eating and cooking and drinking wine together and said that you can really see come through on the registry of the couples,
very passionate about,
Outdoors hiking skiing biking together and said they have all those items on their registry but what is consistent is that,
everyone sees the registry is an opportunity to upgrade a lot of the items in the home that they might not necessarily been able to afford themselves so it’s what everyone.
Does have some sort of blend a toaster or iron this is the chance that they can get the one that.
We’ll lock them for another 10 years where they might have had that toasted that they bought when they were straight out of college 10 years ago.
Apps about his big surprise.

[40:05] I’m sad to report that next year’s toasters are all going to have WiFi so the ones they thought we’re going to ask them forever I’m going to be good enough anymore.

Scot and Shan:
[40:13] Well I don’t know if there was a going to still be the the top sellers because that the top sellers in registry have been the same top salads and many many years so I don’t know his buying did the newest gadgets vote,
we see some of those on so well but it’s not the vast majority of items.

[40:33] Sure in the actual answer to your question is who’s buying the newest gadgets is Scott and I.

Scot and Shan:
[40:38] Your Jason ready has the Alexa toaster.

[40:42] Yeah and Scott has an R2 D2 toaster so that does charity or philanthropy coming to play at Ridge in registry and all.

Scot and Shan:
[40:52] Yeah so a couples can certainly set up a charity fund all up Prado at a fun that day then designate.
To a charity of their choice and so we really leave it up to the couple to.
Share and determine what charity is most meaningful to them and then they can add that to the Zola registry so that is a component.
And 1. And we see coming up it’s very it’s as you might accept a very personal charity or cause.

Jason and Shan:
[41:29] Yeah yeah I have to say my own wedding experience was an epic fail.
Not hopefully not that the wedding I got married fairly late in life and so my my fiance and I were both lucky enough to like.

[41:47] Frankly you like own the aspirational version of most items in so I really didn’t want to register I really didn’t want to get gifts and felt like it was going to unnecessary until I.
Try to get that message out and all the guests were just angry at me.

Scot and Shan:
[42:04] Yes you know we hear this actually pretty often in that it is.

[42:13] It is often ends up being dead guess who buy you a gift if they want to buy you a gift and so the best thing you can do for yourself is to give guidance and it makes everyone’s lives easier.

[42:26] Yeah if I had it to do over again I would have taken that or if I had met you earlier I would have definitely.

[42:32] It taken that advice another topic that’s interesting so you know one of the challenges and opportunities you have to acquire your own couples.

[42:43] So you know what what like what are the marketing tools that you’re using to get customers are couples into the ecosystem.

Scot and Shan:
[42:51] So this was one of the things that we learn from guilt and one of the reasons why we really would run to the idea of a wedding registry was this idea that guilt.
Cute benefited from a lot of what a mouth and,
and referrals because everyone was really excited to share Gill because it was beautiful because they felt like they were letting difference in on a secret date.
Dynamic that we liked with Zola was that it has that in built virality or referral,
within the concept of a wedding registry because when a couple gets married on average they invite about 150 guests to their wedding so that’s the average in the US which means that you have.
150 people who are attending of which most of them will feel,
in some way they want to check out your wedding registry and probably buy you a gift and so those,
essentially eyeballs that I’ve been looking at Zola and if Zola is a betta will beautiful more compelling wedding registry they will then when I tell their friends.
O use it themselves when they get married so having that in built.

[44:19] Referral mechanism into the idea of a wedding registry has been the biggest driver,
evolve growth and so when it comes to acquisition we know that if we have a better wedding registry experience than anyone else we will.
Be able to grow with a company that’s a bad has proven out now but so that’s that’s what’s really driven.
Su tomorrow volcanic growth on top of that we are like many e-commerce companies always experimenting with all the online marketing channels so we experiment.
In Facebook Pinterest Instagram and those channels Russell interesting because they do have,
ways for engaged couples to flag themselves as engage the moment that you get engaged so we are able to Target and,
and and it really experiment with different campaigns to understand what what is most compelling for people to want to register with us.
What was Sabbath experiment with more recently is some out of a brand marketing so things that unless.
Easily trackable at we recently launched the subway advertising campaign in New York.
That we sent me advertising Bridal magazines and to oldies things.

[45:52] Interesting for us in in that Derek the the challenge for us is how do we get the most insight into the impact.
Friendly’s marketing dollars.
Which is a different kind of challenge to to building the best wedding registry product but we are up to the top.

[46:12] Yeah it is interesting cuz you look at sort of the the history of the pure-play startups and certainly guilting a prime example but almost everyone bonobos Warby Parker jet whoever you pick it whatever scale,
there seems to be in every industry a finite amount of.

[46:35] Customers that you can very cost-effectively earn through all these digital tools so I can be a bit social or influencer marketing or digital advertising or search are all these things in in in every industry,
there come this inflection point where incremental customers.

[46:52] Start to get dramatically more expensive in and sew in in Moe’s Industries that’s where you see them start to.
Get more omni-channel to open Warby Parker stores or bonobos guideshops or you know or if it’s not opening stores it’s it’s Outdoor advertising and things like that is.
I think of your industry is a little bit different like you don’t just want to reach out of eyeballs like there’s only.
A small finite period in the life of each each eyeball where it’s useful for you to reach them so it almost seems like you you got to find some more.

[47:27] Targeted vehicles.

Scot and Shan:
[47:29] Yes that’s exactly right and that’s that’s why we found the online channels.
As it relates to allocating on mocking budget have always being strong performance for us because we can talk that group of people at that point in time very well online and.
And so it continues to,
be the most compelling place to invest where we do have budget but the bigger investment and by fall we are spending more time and energy investment on building out,
the product experience because we see that drive growth so much more effectively for us.

[48:18] Cool. You talked about how in the early days you did a lot of interviews what what kind of user-testing do you guys do now do you do formal,
watching people use the system or are you instrument it so you kind of know what they’re doing they always get that question from are there on turnovers that kind of get a little lost once they get to a bit of scale it’s kind of hard to get that.
Yeah so we we do we try to do as much as possible when it comes to use a testing so we do.
We do what you said which is watching people as they use the website talking out loud talking about what they seeing thinking,
these are people that are unfamiliar with Sola we also do face-to-face interviews which are more exploratory which tend to be,
tell me about what you think what you’re thinking as you stopped to plan your wedding open-ended exploration all that’s a lot.
Around new product development what we do that and then we do very regular,
online surveys to both people that have recently started a Zola registry as well as people that have gone through the entire Journey gone on honeymoon come back and then,
close to the end of their life cycle and so we want to survey them on that pole experience answer for each of these different.
Types of groups we’re asking and looking for different things and.

[49:53] Constantly trying to understand what are the things that are causing them to.
Restless and promoters of the people and let’s not never lose sight of that lets only lived double down on those things.
And on the flip side one of they saying that is making them hesitate about Zola.
Or making them I’m confused and how can we take those things out for future uses.

[50:22] Cool any any day do you can share on desktop vs mobile.
What’s interesting for us is that it’s not as much of a drastic shift to mobile as you seen on the e-commerce businesses and this is because.
Setting up a wedding registry is a more considered process than buying a.

[50:49] 10 old you’re buying a shirt online so for a sexually the we still see.
A good amount they probably the majority of people creating their Registries on Zola through desktop however we do see a lot of,
management updating of Registries browsing new products adding new products to mobile apps so the initial,
experiences desktop and then the follow-on experience through the rest of the life cycle is mobile so for us it’s important to be continually and innovating on both,
because I user is using both the true omni-channel experience going on there people going in and out of each each one,
two two quick wrap-up questions first of all other than obviously everyone should check out Zola and both the the app and,
the iPhone app that iPad app and then also the website but do you publish anything online that people could look at it or you popular on the Twitter or LinkedIn or in those kind of things.
You can follow.
Zola which is this at Zola on any of the social channels and one interesting,
article that is Canmore on this topic actually that one of our investors just published on Monday which people name,
your audience he might be interested in checking out is so invested Alex taussig at Lightspeed Venture Partners wrote a medium blog post on the concept of.

[52:26] Product Channel fit which is the next thing any.
Company Pinnacle e-commerce companies need to tackle once they’ve tackled product-market fit so that post.
Is critically interesting and it kampala’s how.
Zola thinking about product Channel fit and talks a bit to just one prong of.
Yo what up marketing more acquisition team might look at to drive growth.
Sprinkle we will put that in the show notes and then last question got stepping outside of the wedding industry in and putting on your e-commerce biru hat you’ve been in the industry for a long time,
where do you see things going in the next 3 to 5 years what what get you super excited,
Innovations in e-commerce that I’m excited about and so one is,
I think very clearly everyone seeing the direct-to-consumer,
Trent answer the continues to be new brands in new categories that are emerging that I find very exciting both in the way they’re thinking about product about selling and marketing,
the second big category is.

[53:45] Innovations in what I described as curated marketplaces or Target Market places that are serving a particular audience or need some examples of this might be.

[54:01] Caviar in food space oil and,
net-a-porter which is not quite a market place but it is a house of Brands Zola falls into this category of companies include your Rent the Runway which is a different take on on this,
Stitch fix danco or Unbound and then the third big category of innovation which I find very exciting and e-commerce is.
All the Innovation that’s happening in the supply chain so technology that is.

[54:38] Supporting e-commerce companies all supporting retail Brands to.
To buy create a better user experience on the front end but also create.
Address of business operation end-to-end from the moment you think about sourcing your product right through to provide customer support through to reporting analytics Adams shipping.
So those three things I think I completely changing your even though.
Amazon is the thing that everyone wants to talk about there is this really true Innovation happening across the board outside of just how much on.

[55:23] Very cool in one bonus question that that we ask every guest if you were going to have to dress in a costume to appear on your company photo what what would you dress up as.

Scot and Shan:
[55:38] Well I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and we do take Halloween very seriously so my favorite Halloween costume retire.
Secretly don’t tell Mom one twice is Daenerys from Game of Thrones because I have a dog which I like to dress up as a dragon so that would probably be the one that I would have to pick.
Very cool and then you yelled Rick Harrison the dog it’s not spoiler.

[56:11] I know I was just reminding everyone.

[56:12] I haven’t yet but I might try that this year.

[56:17] I think that’d be cool I have a little dog MacGyver and he doesn’t much better Chewbacca than he does a dragon.

[56:26] Well Shan it has happened again we have used all of our lot of time but we definitely want to thank you for joining us sweet we certainly wish Zilla all the best and look forward to following your success I want to remind listeners that you’re welcome to continue the dialogue on Facebook,
if you have any questions or comments about Today Show,
feel free to come over Facebook page and leave us a note we try to be very responsive and of course as always if you really enjoyed this episode jump on the iTunes and give us that 5-star review,
that’s that’s how we pay the bills at the Jason is gosh I was 5 Star reviews.

[57:04] Thanks Shan have a great evening.

[57:11] Until next time happy you commercing.


  1. […] We caught up with Daniel Gulati (@DanielGulati) at ShopTalk 2018. Daniel is a partner at Comcast Ventures a venture capital firm that focus on early stage consumer internet investing.  Comcast Ventures was an early investor in Away, MealPal, and recently invested in Zola (hear Zola founder Shan Lyn in episode 98). […]

  2. […] We caught up with Daniel Gulati (@DanielGulati) at ShopTalk 2018. Daniel is a partner at Comcast Ventures a venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage consumer internet investing.  Comcast Ventures was an early investor in Away, MealPal, and recently invested in Zola (hear Zola founder Shan Lyn in episode 98). […]

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