When you Wisher upon an omnichannel star
The retail landscape is rapidly changing, meaning companies must step up digital transformation initiatives. Maz Cohen, Founder and CEO, Wisher tells RTIH about how her startup is helping omnichannel wishes come true
Based in London and Los Angeles and founded in 2015, Wisher is a social platform, with its Wish Factory pitched as a one of a kind pop-up experience where customers can try out products and add them to mobile wish lists. Brands in turn can track data and convert sales. “I’m a bit of a hippy at heart,” confesses Cohen, whose background is in marketing and advertising.
“I used to be a brand strategist and then moved on to retail strategy,” she continues. “I worked in some of the top advertising agencies in London – BBH, Ogilvy, Momentum on global accounts ranging from Unilever, Sony and Coca Cola. I am a hybrid problem solver and happiness geek. Always looking at improving people’s lives and helping people to be happier. I truly believe that a wish made and shared has the potential to realise.”
A few things inspired her to set up Wisher. “Being the global retail strategist for Sony who launched new products weekly in new markets, I was looking for a go to market solution and a tool that allows us to gauge “desirability” in stores and online. I imagined a mobile app that’s also a wish list where you can snap the item you want and buy it later or someone else can gift it for you. Because nothing like this existed, I tinkered with the idea of a mobile wish list – something like Pinterest – which also allows you to save up for the things you love or people can contribute money together.”
Cohen investigated the gifting market and came to the conclusion that there was an enormous amount of waste; £2.4 billion of unwanted gifts in the UK, $9.5 billion in the USA and that Wisher could partly solve that problem “if we share our wishes in the form of a personal registry that is accessible to everyone where you can tag your wishes – things, dreams, travel or experiences….I was also inspired by the many different social elements in marketing – people sharing the products they love, people buying stuff together, influencers promoting the cool new things in market. Advertising and commerce is changing so fast amongst the next generation and I am inspired by the fun and chaos of it. I am obsessed about trends and what will happen or change in the future.”
What has been the reaction from retailers thus far? “As our mission is to drive next generation commerce, retailers looking for digital transformation have reacted positively and are keen to collaborate to gain more insights and generate more sales at scale. Inventory management and forecasting is hard – Wisher allows retailers and brands to have transparency on desirability. We have rich social data too which can help them with more accurate marketing techniques.”
Highlights have included going live with its pop-up experience from 1st-24th December at Westfield, Stratford. The company says that it has enabled over £2 million worth of wishes to be granted through its app in over 124 countries ranging from hot tubs, holidays and laptops. It also recently spoke to a retail group in the UK who asked about white labelling Wisher technology and hosting its experiences as a resident experience to drive more interest from the younger generation and more footfall to their retail spaces. “I think there will be a real need to collaborate with younger startups and bigger organistions moving forward. Their ship is too slow to turn and they need the little life boats.”
“Influencers love Wisher as they can tell stories about their wishes in an authentic way and indirectly promote the things they love and what’s on their Wisher from the latest gadget to new eye shadow to a travel adventure they would love to do,” she adds. “They can also view their fans wishes and grant wishes for them and become Fairy God Mothers – this really helps them gain more loyalty from their fans. Users love Wisher as it’s an easy way to store all the things they want in one place. It’s a great place for discovery as we always feature the latest and coolest stuff on the market relevant to Millennials.”
Not that it has been all plain sailing thus far. Technology is ridiculously expensive, Cohen states. “For a young tech business looking to scale and really provide values to all parties, a lot of money needs to be pumped into the product and the value needs to be validated. Both are equally expensive especially if you are looking to provide value to multiple parties, keep the cost per acquisition low and monetise without having to show scale. Wisher’s challenge has simply been keeping costs low and moving things along very slowly to keep the burn rate low.”
Put simply, times have changed and the customer is now in control. Retailers can’t direct their purchase behaviour. They are curious and will be jumping in and out of social media, chat groups, recommendations from peers and online sites to buy. “The retail landscape is changing super fast and omnichannel retalers need to revise their strategies constantly. Omnichannel retailers need to seed discovery and conversations about their brand in an authentic way both online and offline,” comments Cohen.
Offline retail is an expression of the brand and the challenge is whether the brand can uphold desirability for the next generation, enough value for them to engage with and promote it amongst their peers. “Missguided is doing a great job to create aspiration amongst the younger generation. As the generations with their dreams, values and aspirations change, so should the retail brands. It’s tough to reinvent yourself.”
Brands are looking for a more agile retail platform and go to market strategies, Cohen believes. There is so much red tape with traditional retail which can cause new product launches to fail. They need to look at unique ways to differentiate themselves and offer more value to their brand partners to ensure success.Convenience is one of the main drivers for shoppers. To get fulfilment nailed is key and omnichannel retailers need to keep looking at where they can add value to stand apart.
2018, meanwhile, will be about international expansion. Wisher is looking at the US and the UAE to scale its business model out through influencers and getting the latest tech, toy and innovative products in the hands of target customers in a more experiential way through the Wish Factory. “These markets provide us with a huge opportunity as the tech adoption curve is very high with very favourable consumer sales opportunities.”
The aim is to build the YouTube/Wisher community out, enabling them to monetise through their own wish list as they are promoting their favourite things. “We believe it’s a more authentic way for influencers to sell and promote products. Amazon is actually launching a similar platform though we believe Wisher is more fun and integrated with a variety of retailers – Asos, Amazon, Sephora and more – which gives them more choice. Limited edition products are high up on their wish lists and that usually comes from brand owned stores.”
“The Wish Factory is a retail experience where we bring together the most innovative products in the world in one space and enable shoppers to play with products, engage socially and buy online. We think there will be a massive need for this model as all product sales are moving online, but brands still need to get out there with their product before it fails. It needs good reviews, plenty of social content and the right price point. We can help with all of that plus give them data on desirability, social insights and sales,” Cohen concludes.