The rise of mobile commerce has also been a boon for the business. While adapting to a mobile audience initially added more complexity to Zulily’s data analyses, the company's early investment in a mobile-ready platform helped it to adjust quickly. According to Ragland, 74% of its orders were made via mobile this year.
“Our vision has always been for customers to have flexibility in how to interact with us. Our core demographic of mothers with young children are just as likely to be browsing our website in bed as they are to be logged into our app while commuting or waiting in line for a cup of coffee,” he said. “What’s important is that we’re there with them and can customize their experience no matter when, where, or how they’re engaging with us.”
Combining Creativity With Insight
Ragland’s broader vision is to bridge the gap between art and science in Zulily’s decision-making, which requires closer alignment between marketing and analytics teams. Such collaboration is also necessary to break down data siloes, develop a complete customer view, and avoid myopic decision-making, he said. Ragland has hired a number of marketing engineers to help drive this transformation at Zulily. As technical experts with a sales remit, these individuals have brought a valuable commercial mindset to Zulily’s analytics function.
“What keeps me energized is how much data we have and how much freedom we have to make the most of it,” Ragland said. “Our employees don’t have much red tape holding them back, which means we can develop a clear vision for a new service and actually bring it to life.”
For example, from analyzing feedback data from its most loyal shoppers, Zulily learned that in 97% of cases, it offers a lower price than the competition—significantly, Amazon and Walmart. This prompted the company to launch a "promise comparison tool." The premise is simple: Shoppers can compare the price of products on Zulily alongside their prices on Amazon and Walmart and make an informed decision about where to buy from.
“I see analytics as the bedrock of the business,” Ragland said. “We’re here to deliver solid insight to the teams who need it and to keep enhancing their level of customer understanding. This is a particularly exciting time because we can finally analyze the impact of investments in the customer experience in the same way that we look at returns on marketing investment. That puts us in the ideal position to show off what all the data we collect can really do.”
'Always Striving To Do More'
Looking ahead, Ragland said he intends to expand data’s role in the organization even more.
“It’s about building on what our engineers and analytics experts have done by taking advantage of new technologies and building closer relationships with customer-facing departments,” he said.
A top focus for Ragland is to establish the members of his analytics team as genuine business partners. In addition to making data more accessible, they will provide marketers, merchandisers, and people across the organization with valuable guidance on how to craft the best digital experiences.
Zulily’s data-driven approach also continues to shape its corporate culture and processes, from training and skills development to the way teams tackle new challenges.
“What’s foundational for [Zulily] is to test, try, and keeping improving," he said. "When my team is analyzing data or evaluating the quality of a new digital experience, I encourage them to ask whether what they’ve delivered is a local maximum or if we could go further and make it a true global maximum. No matter how well we perform, we’re always striving to do more.”