During this interview, Whittemore shares advice for other retailers and his perspective on retail technology.
How Did Your Career In Retail Begin?
I spent the majority of my career in the startup technology world. Four years ago I launched a custom clothing company under my own brand. Through the process, I dove into every aspect of manufacturing a physical product and launching a brand. I taught myself everything from sourcing factories and fabrics to overseeing a photo shoot and designing a strong customer experience.
Before that moment, I didn’t really appreciate just how challenging it is to develop expertise across so many different domains. It’s one thing to come up with a good product, but if you can’t create compelling shopping experience you won’t sell anything.
I didn’t set out to build a sizing and fit solution for retail, but after our customers began raving about our own company’s fit technology, we realized that we weren’t the only retailer to face this problem and decided to focus on creating a solution for the entire industry. We built a plug-in for e-Commerce sites and launched with innovative retailers such as Bonobos and Frank & Oak.
What’s The One Piece Of Advice You Wish Someone Had Shared With You?
If you’re trying to solve a problem that retailers aren’t 100% focused on, you will never capture their attention. Retailers see the cost of returns on their quarterly profit and loss statements so they are motivated to explore any solution that helps reduce returns. We had to create a cohesive story around the impact of our fit technology on conversion, average order value, returns and customer loyalty. In order to accomplish that goal, we had to quantify the impact of our service on each transaction.
Which Retail Technology Has Impressed You Recently?
The checkout experience on the Bonobos web site — it’s insane how beautiful and fast it is. Customers don’t need to click through multiple screens to input their credit card information. The process is actually intuitive and when you return as a repeat customer it only takes a few seconds to check out.
Who Do You Admire Most In Retail?
Retailers like ModCloth and Betabrand that are involving the shopper in the design of the product by voting on which designs are sent to production. That transforms the shopping experience into something really meaningful.
What Is Your Least Favorite Industry Buzzword?
“Mobile.” The press tends to conflate the tablet and mobile experience and the two are very different. If I’m going to complete a transaction on mobile, I probably don’t have time to do a ton of research. I want a fast discovery and checkout experience that doesn’t require a ton of browsing. That’s not the case when I use a tablet while lounging on my couch at home. The two shouldn’t be lumped into a single catchall.
What’s The Best Piece Of Career Advice You Ever Received?
My first boss, Jeff Stewart, taught me that business comes down to people — whether it’s the customer or your team — treat everyone with respect.
Noah Breslow from OnDeck Capital taught me how important it is to understand problems from both a technical and business perspective. If you invest the time to learn both, you’ll make much more informed decisions.
What Recent Article Impressed You?
Fashion’s collective has had a series on the Chinese consumer. I don’t have a lot of exposure to that market in our business, but the topic is fascinating. According to the article, Chinese consumers are evolving and adopting digital behavior faster than any other culture. They travel to other countries to ensure they’re buying authentic items and have quickly moved beyond loud flashy logos.