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, Jessica Murphy, co-founder and chief customer officer at personalization platform True Fit, speaks about the importance of search and why it’s crucial for retailers to get service right for first-time shoppers.
Name: Jessica Murphy
Title: co-founder and chief customer officer
Company: True Fit
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
This a really hard question to answer post COVID, given that industries that would have been at the top of my list, like CPG, have shown immense strain. That said, I’ve always believed that apparel, an industry that typically is a late adopter of technology and innovation, has so much to learn by looking outside. For example, aspects of pharma’s sophisticated tracking and tracing systems could inform the tracking materials and components all the way through the chain, to provide consumers increased visibility of sourcing and sustainability in an efficient way.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I would say I’m not a typical shopper in that I am very decisive and efficient when I shop. I know exactly what I want and what I’m looking for. Take, for example, the time I was shopping for a dress for a wedding and I specifically wanted a long canary yellow, one shoulder, kimono sleeve dress. Spoiler alert—I never found what I was looking for. For me, retailers with strong SEO, strong search capabilities and advanced filtering options, with availability in the specific product attributes I seek, get my business.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Easy and seamless UX, service and logistics are table stakes in my book, but “feel-good” and relevant product is still the number one differentiator for me; that’s what really keeps me coming back. I define “feel-good” as products that match my style, fit and price preferences. Whether it’s that perfect find at Home Goods or a killer pair of shoes, when a product nails these three things, it’s a “feel good” buy that drives me back to a retailer or brand. To me, product relevance is products that match my preferences—implicit or explicit—and requirements, [or] what I’m looking for, when I need it. The cherry on top is when retailers have the tools to easily help me as a consumer discover relevant and “feel-good” products!
What’s your typical uniform?
Skinny jeans or leggings, oversized tops and great shoes.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Who’s your style icon?
Jennifer Lopez, from head to toe. Whether it’s a yellow power suit or full red carpet glam, a slicked back bun or volume full blowout, perfectly bronzed dewy skin or the perfect red lip, J. Lo rarely misses. She mixes swagger and elegance in a way that only she can pull off.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Having our employees participate in an anonymous third-party survey that solicited broad employee feedback on a wide variety of topics from culture to company direction. Giving employees a platform to provide direct feedback in a structured and anonymous way was incredibly useful. While it reinforced areas of strength, it also uncovered some key areas that required commitment, investment and improvement. The feedback provided a launch pad for action that inspired everything from our roadmap to the way that we communicate with employees and even customers. Making time for this proved to be incredibly powerful for our organization, and fed our culture of continuous learning and growth.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
True Fit is a family of passionate, gritty, and committed individuals. Even though we don’t always agree (what family does?) we always have each other’s backs. The way that people jump in to help one another across departments is one of the most special aspects of our culture. Another aspect of our company that makes me very proud is that despite being a high-growth, high-intensity environment, we are a culture that really encourages and respects the “5 to 9.”
What can companies learn from COVID-19?
Innovation doesn’t have to take years. We saw companies launch innovation that they had been testing, debating, researching for years, come to life virtually overnight. From ship-from-store to the implementation of core digital and mobile innovation, the winning companies have been adaptable, decisive and service minded.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Creating confidence and loyalty in the buying journey, while servicing demand with an integrated supply chain. The financial effects of COVID-19 will have lasting effects on companies’ cash positions. This means incredible risk to the supply chain, representing a critical need to ensure retailers and brands can meet, but not overshoot, consumer demand. Connecting systems, logistics, inventory and tech innovation will be absolutely key to managing dead-end consumer experiences driven by out of stock and growing lead times. As it stands today, over 80 percent of apparel and footwear consumers are first-time buyers to your brand; therefore the risk of not serving customers well that first time can mean a lost customer forever.
What keeps you up at night?
The lasting effects of a global pandemic and social instability on my employees, my customers and my family.
What makes you most optimistic?
Two things. First, consumers are rewarding companies that are serving them well as their needs have evolved, and they are beginning to come back in very big numbers. Second, the heightened level of collaboration and commitment between retailers/brands and tech partners like us, to expedite and elevate the consumer experience is creating a lasting model for the future of tech and retail to deliver meaningful innovation to the market.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction/service:
Our team rolled out an entire offline program for our retailers in record time to leverage our digital capabilities in size, fit and style guidance within the in-store environment. This program acts as a key service component and aids in the reopening of stores. We pulled together a cross-functional team here at True Fit to assist in bringing this to life for our retail partners, by providing everything from creative assets to store associate training, at no cost, in an effort to help our retailers emerge strong. I’m so proud of the effort of the team, and their ability to be innovative and service oriented during a time when our partners need it the most.