Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Juliana Pereira, vice president of marketing at cross-border e-commerce technology firm Flow, discusses how working in online retail has shaped her shopping behavior and how her company is team building during remote work.
Name: Juliana Pereira
Title: vice president of marketing
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
It’s hard to limit innovation in supply chain to one industry. There are several different companies that have diversified their supply chains and distribution globally either because of the nature of manufacturing or production. This is particularly important during times of market interruptions—such as during the current pandemic—where consumer spend in the domestic markets or certain international markets decreases dramatically. In these cases, companies that have multiple locations for production and manufacturing have the advantage of recuperating losses more quickly or shifting their production to other regions that are less affected and that can help maintain productivity.
But specific to industry, apparel can certainly learn a lot from the tech industry. There are many software and technology companies that service the retail sector that can be a tremendous resource, particularly during disruptive global events. Many software companies have a wealth of expertise in supply chain management and other related areas that can help retailers. The tech vertical is uniquely positioned to offer best practices because these companies are building the tools to bypass the barriers and streamline the cumbersome processes of supply chain as well as other areas.
Do you consider yourself a typical consumer?
In some ways yes, and in other ways no. I say yes because I buy the typical products that most shoppers buy, I read and write product reviews, I comparison shop, I enjoy promotions, I prefer free shipping for most if not all items, I expect free returns, and I exhibit several other familiar behaviors and habits when I browse, shop and consume products.
I say that in other ways I’m not a typical consumer because my background is in online retail and retail tech, so I tend to be more discerning than most customers. For example, with very few exceptions, I shop exclusively online, which isn’t entirely the norm, especially in the West. Also, I am constantly stress testing retail sites to see how well their promotions work or where they have issues with merchandising or checkout, and I have in the past sent emails to companies letting them know of bugs that I’m seeing or areas they could improve. I also have very high expectations for all the different touchpoints in my journey as an online customer. Because I work for a company that sells a product to streamline these issues so that consumers everywhere have flawless, localized online experiences, I expect an incredibly high level of service from the retailers I purchase from.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Clear, transparent communication and excellent customer service is key to winning my loyalty as a customer. I want to know that the price of the product that I put into my shopping cart is the amount I will pay. Free shipping is important, but the delivery window must be accurate as well. One area where I feel brands really stand out are the ones that handle returns and exchanges seamlessly. If I can exchange or return an item without jumping through dozens of hoops, then that’s a huge plus, especially when shopping for apparel and shoes.
What’s your typical work uniform?
I work at a startup in the retail tech space, so we are more informal, but my personal dress code varies widely between seasons. In the winter, I enjoy cozy cashmere sweaters, jeans and boots, whereas in the warm weather my fashion background kicks in and I mostly wear brightly colored summer dresses and flats.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
The fashion styles of the 1920s and 1930s are my favorite. There was something classic, yet extravagant about that era. Most people think of the flappers of the time, but in fact the variety and range in attire was incredible. I like that there was so much variation and also androgyny in womenswear. Neckties, hats, trousers were quite common—and before then these were rarely worn by women—as were elegant gowns and more traditional feminine formal wear. So much of what we consider classic was really born in that era.
Who’s your style icon?
To follow in my 1920s/1930s theme, I must say Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. Their fashion range reflects the trends at the time. Also, the classic portrait of Greta Garbo wearing all black in a turtleneck with her hair pulled back to me is the original version of the Steve Jobs uniform 70 years later. She could walk out onto a stage in that outfit today and give a presentation and no one would know when or where she came from.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
The best decision we’ve made this year is focusing on specific aspects of our tech to make our online merchant clients more successful. Our clients have always been our greatest asset and, after securing our Series B in December 2019, we have made a more concerted and intentional effort to ensure their business growth and continued success. We’re committed to doing this through technology development as well as increased staffing across key areas of the organization like on-boarding services, customer success and engineering.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
One of our values at Flow is called “Flow Balance,” which speaks to our culture. This value is a reflection of the importance of balancing work-life and ensuring that we all make time for the other important parts of our lives—family, pastimes, passion projects, etc. We also have developed several programs encouraging team building, collaboration and socializing. Even during this time of working remotely, we have daily Zoom coffee breaks, we host yoga sessions, happy hours, lunch presentations on personal passions, Trivia Night and we even continue our tradition of hosting a weekly company-wide sponsored lunch. Flowites generally enjoy spending time together, even when we’re apart, so these shared activities are an important part of our shared culture.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Even in normal times (without COVID) the apparel industry should always be focused on customers and delivering excellence at every touch point in the customer journey and providing a flawless omnichannel experience. Because of the current circumstances it’s important now more than ever to focus on clear communication with customers. Also, because more consumers are shopping almost exclusively online, now is the time to invest in the website and especially focus on creating outstanding mobile sites.
What keeps you up at night?
Right now with COVID we’re focused on keeping current customers happy and supporting them as much as possible during this difficult time. From a marketing perspective, I am spending a lot of time figuring out how to support the retail community more broadly as a whole and helping companies find the silver lining in the current situation, no matter if that means using our solution or not.
What makes you most optimistic?
Retail overall is a strong sector, and I believe strongly that it will bounce back. Consumers will continue to buy goods, and now is the time to focus more on e-commerce. I’m very optimistic that e-commerce will continue to grow quickly and thrive. Also, I’m confident we will see greater engagement in cross-border e-commerce (consumers buying products from companies based in other countries) as businesses look to tap into a wider audience and diversify their consumer base.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction/service:
Most e-commerce businesses struggle with the complexities of selling products internationally. The problem is they don’t have the tools nor the flexibility they need to sell cross border, and existing solutions are missing the mark. At Flow, we believe cross-border e-commerce should simply work. Our solution empowers online merchants to market, sell and ship products to customers everywhere, enabling those customers to have simple and easy local shopping experiences. Flow’s solution offers multi-currency pricing, direct international shipping, local payment options, well-defined taxes and duties and simple returns. Now global brands like MVMT Watches, MZ Wallace, Charles & Colvard and others can increase their customer conversion and grow international revenue.