• As marketers, we hear it all the time: “the customer is always right.” Every once in a while, though, the customer is actually so right that you need to listen to that advice, even if that means making a massive change to your business.

    At thredUP, we encourage both positive and negative feedback because it gives us a view into the customer experience. Only by knowing what works and—perhaps more importantly—what doesn’t, can we quickly learn and pivot. Consistent themes that emerged from customer feedback  have driven us to add several new features, and tweak existing ones.

    That feedback, however, isn’t always explicit. Often times, the best customer feedback is actually their behavior, but rarely the behavior that you were trying to encourage. Instead, you have to pay attention to what your customers are doing, and that starts with looking at your customer data.

    The inception of one major new feature came when we noticed that customers were buying dozens of items, but returning a majority of them. They were treating their purchase as a visit to the dressing room.

    At first, we were hesitant. Returns at this scale were costly, but because so many customers were doing the same thing, we felt their behavior warranted a closer look. So we dove into our data.

    While 70 percent of our customers are first-time thrift shoppers, these customers were acting like they were really trying on clothes in the thrift store. That’s not a bad thing—in fact this was a behavior we wanted to encourage in more of our customers. It would enable a wider set of them to think secondhand first.

    Ultimately, this led to the Goody Box—a curated selection of 12-15 articles of clothing, of which the customer can return as many as they want. We created a new feature for our customers, inspired by their data trails.

    Bringing it to fruition, however, wasn’t quite as simple.

    Implementing the change

    Sometimes, being a startup doesn’t mean that we always act as nimbly as we’d like to. That’s why we have the New Ventures team at thredUP—to act as a startup within a startup. This team is in charge of building and launching all new business ideas, including Goody Boxes, and operates fairly independently. This gives us autonomy to pursue and iterate new ideas fairly quickly.

    Before building the feature, we needed more data. So we added a page to the website asking consumers for direct feedback on the Goody Box idea, and waited. What would they think?

    They loved the idea. During our one-month beta, 28,000 shoppers joined the Goody Boxes waitlist, providing us with a wealth of data and the confidence to push forward. Our “keep” rate was strong, with 65% of customers keeping two or more items, and those customers keeping four items on average. Goody Box shoppers were spending 30% more than the typical thredUP customer, but the change we were most excited to see, however, was that the program attracted new audiences to the brand—30% of Goody Box beta customers were brand new to us.

    This information helped us tackle the real challenge of creating the tools and processes around how each Goody Box is fulfilled. When you’re creating a product built around individual customer preferences, you need to know what those preferences are and then find a way to cater to them.

    We created a Style Quiz to learn customers’ fashion preferences, altered our existing algorithms to scan over two million unique items to personalize each box, and built a team we call Treasure Hunters from the ground up, scaling quickly to add a completely new level of styling expertise.

    All of the cross-departmental work that went into launching Goody Boxes has been worth it. To date, we’ve fulfilled nearly 10,000 Goody Box orders. Goody Box customers spend 40% more on average and 40% of them are new to thredUP.

    Dissecting key learnings

    Three key learnings from Goody Boxes now shape every new project we consider:

    • Everything starts with the customer
      • We can’t stress enough: nothing is more important than your customer feedback. As the head of the New Ventures team, I [Rebecca] get Goody Box feedback sent directly to my inbox. Having an open and constant flow of communication from the customer to a real employee allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of demand, and act quickly enough to capitalize on it. It also helps my team understand what our customers’ expectations are, why they’re not buying the product, and if there are any bugs or issues we need to work on.
    • Test and iterate
      • Everything you do should be data-backed and thoroughly tested. It’s a combination of intuition and data. We’d much prefer to launch a less-than-perfect beta product first in order to capture customer feedback early, rather than launching a totally perfect product. We incorporate data from over 50 million shoppers to create algorithms that match customers with items they might like. But before we take anything live, we send it through multiple levels of testing.

        Testing the idea, iterating the feature, and running the beta gives you the confidence you needed to launch the project in a big way, because you’ll know it will be successful.
    • Embrace change, and dedicate a team to it
      • Though the Goody Box was truly a full-company process, it would never have happened without the New Ventures team. Having a team specifically dedicated to new ideas and creating change provides the focus on making it happen, as well as the ability to scale quickly. You might not need a full-time dedicated team, but try creating an internal task force that meets regularly to discuss strategy, roadblocks, and successes.

    Listening to your customers is one thing. Acting on it is another. But if done right and with the proper teams, data-driven changes to the customer experience can pay off tremendously.

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