BOE interviewed Genevieve Kunst, the tech savvy Director of POPSUGAR. She talks to us about leading fashion search engine, ShopStyle by POPSUGAR, and her leap from the U.S. to living in Europe. She is inspired by people’s interactions with one another and has a creative business head in the E-commerce and digital world. Continue reading to learn about all things fashion and tech related, including mobile-first development at POPSUGAR and ShopStyle.
What sparked your interest in a career in digital?
I have been working in digital for 15 years now in its many different forms. When I left business school back in 1998, (I went to Wharton and The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania), half of the class went to NYC and the other half went to San Francisco to be part of Internet 1.0. I went to NYC to work in management consulting, but got a call a year later from a schoolmate asking if I was interested in moving to Germany to work for an e-commerce start-up. Since I missed the first wave in the U.S., I decided to be part of Internet 1.0 in Europe. I left NYC thinking, “No boyfriend, no dog, no plants… what’s the risk?” I have been in Europe working in e-commerce/digital ever since.
Tell us about ShopStyle?
ShopStyle is a leading fashion search engine, community and source of inspiration that enables our customers to find just the item they need or never knew they wanted. Globally, we have more than 10 million products in our catalogue from 1,200 retailers and represent more than 30,000 brands. We have over 12 million monthly visits and last year we influenced more than $ 750 million in retailer sales.
What was the inspiration behind POPSUGAR acquiring ShopStyle?
ShopStyle was acquired by POPSUGAR in 2007. POPSUGAR is a global women’s lifestyle brand focused in media, commerce, and technology. Our mission is to connect women with new entertainment, products, and experiences they’re most passionate about. Our editors write about new products they discover every day, the latest fashion and beauty trends, and we wanted to provide our audience a seamless opportunity to shop from the content they were consuming.
What can consumers expect to see in the future?
As one company we are always looking for opportunities to further integrate commerce with content. We want to provide our readers and shoppers with the best experience, whether helping them find that new little red dress, or showing them 5 ways to wear it. We will continue to innovate around bringing the best experiences to our audience.
Why do you think it is so important to combine content and commerce in today’s digital world?
People want to be inspired and emotionally engaged when making a purchase. The days of buying a product solely based upon its description are over. People want to connect to a product, be it through enhanced imagery, recommendations, reviews, blogs, social media, etc. For instance, we know that customers who engage with our shopping editorial content come back to ShopStyle 4x more often, and are more valuable to us as they engage more with the brand and our content.
What are the key factors that you believe will impact the way people shop fashion in the future?
You will see a lot more personalization and customization across the whole shopping funnel through improved use of data and improved technologies. By knowing more about the customer, retailers/brands/distributors will provide more tailored products and curated content that will ultimately elicit a more emotional response, and will provide enough relevant information to make the customer feel more secure in his/her purchasing decision.
How seriously do you take Mobile in the business?
Very seriously. So seriously that we have mobile-first development at POPSUGAR and ShopStyle. It is ultimately about convenience and making lives better in a busy, modern world. No matter who you are, you only have 24 hours to play with! The apps and sites that are most successful are the ones that help people get the most out of their day. By plugging our customers into our offering/catalog while on the go, we can inspire them and give them the information that they need to make more informed purchasing decisions during a time when traditionally they would not be browsing or shopping. We want to help our customers be the most stylish version of themselves, be it at home or when out and about.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by people’s interactions with one another, especially when I see people treating each other with respect or when someone overcomes a challenge. My father was a humanist and believed that you should treat people the way that you would like to be treated. It is something that I admired greatly in him and it is something that I try to aspire to daily.
What are the key characteristics you look for in your team?
I look for smart, highly-motivated individuals who exhibit an inner quality compass. Ultimately, I do not like to micromanage, so I like people who are self-starters, are able to deliver to a high standard, have enough wherewithal to know the business’ main objectives, and can easily read their environment to determine what they should be working on to achieve their goals and the company’s targets. Additionally, I am known when hiring to look at non-traditional candidates – people who are clearly bright, but who might not have done a particular role in the past.
Are there any books you would recommend to our readers on business and leadership?
Although not a new book, I absolutely loved “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose” by Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh. I just remember reading the book on my Kindle and feeling the need to bookmark and highlight passage after passage. The ideas were not revolutionary, but it makes you realize how often companies, and ultimately those working for them, lose track and forget what is most important – the customer.
I can also recommend the “The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance.” Again, the concepts are nothing new or earth-shattering, but they are clearly laid out and it is great to be reminded how important recognition is to employees and the ultimate success of a business.