In the retail world, Amazon is becoming inescapable, with Kenmore and Nike recently joining the ranks of big-name companies selling the wares through the company’s online retail platform.
A Seattle startup called Kwontified wants to help retailers deal with this new reality, navigate the complexities of selling on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms and get the most out of their virtual storefronts. It is led by Elaine Kwon, an ex-Amazon buying manager focused on the company’s fashion push, and former lawyer and business development expert Jordan Taylor. They are working with primarily fashion, beauty and lifestyle retailers for now.
Kwon said the rapid pace of change in retail, as well as the growing influence of Amazon and other online retailers over fashion has sent a shockwave through the industry.
“We saw a huge opportunity with (online retail) affecting not just a particular type of brand that was trying to survive in today’s retail market, but even among the most established brands that have been around, some for over 100 years, everyone is panicking,” Kwon said.
The company helps sellers by mining data from Amazon’s API and sharing crucial metrics that are hard to find, such as ways to determine which customers will become repeat shoppers. Kwontified also helps retailers with a forecasting function so they can keep the correct inventory on hand, fights counterfeit merchandisers and sets retailers up to expand to international e-commerce marketplaces.
Kwon and Taylor started the bootstrapped company a little more than a year ago. Today it has five employees, and it is actively looking for a few more people in its Seattle office.
Kwon has seen first-hand the importance of good advice for Amazon sellers. Some of her family members sold consumer electronics on Amazon. They got advice from a buyer, and after working at Amazon, Kwon said she realized they were led astray.
“If someone had taken more time to truly understand the nature of their business, how to help them grow — where different advice should have been given and different direction should have been given — they may have ended up in a very different place with their brand on Amazon.”
Amazon’s fashion ambitions go back several years, and the company has struggled to break into the market in the past. In 2012, Amazon shut down Endless.com, a five-year-old high-end online fashion site that sold accessories. Last year, Amazon-owned MyHabit faced the same fate.
But Amazon’s momentum in clothing and fashion is undeniable. A study last year found that Amazon is expected to become the biggest clothing retailer in the U.S. in 2017, moving ahead of Macy’s. Last year, Amazon rolled out seven in-house fashion brands, and this year it released a fashion focused Alexa-powered device, the $200 Echo Look.
Amazon’s fashion push has traditionally been blunted by the problem that shoppers couldn’t try on clothes to see how they fit before purchasing them. But Amazon appears determined to rectify that issue with Prime Wardrobe, a service that lets online shoppers select and ship a box of clothes, shoes and accessories to their homes to try them on before buying.
All these moves are making it tougher for retailers to stay off Amazon.
“About five years ago, most fashion brands that we were trying to get in touch with at Amazon, they didn’t really care to be on the platform,” Kwon said. “Many of them didn’t even really care about their online presence at all. Unfortunately today that position is breaking a lot of their backs.”