Movers & Shakers Q&A with Chris Morton, CEO, Lyst

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Chris Morton, CEO, Lyst

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

The last ten years have been about proving that people will buy fashion online and changing the consumer mindset, done by moving offline retail models, like department stores and flash sales, online. The next ten years will be about totally new ways to shop, ways that truly leverage the digital medium – that’s our greatest opportunity.

As Fred Wilson, the investor behind Twitter and Etsy said: “Taking the offline model for something and porting it to the web is not often the best way to build a business online. What we have seen over and over again is that taking a model that was optimised for the analogue world and porting it to the Internet is almost always suboptimal. And that the person or team that finds the optimal model for the Internet is almost always the one who ends up with the big win.”

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

With Lyst, we’re introducing a totally new way for consumers to shop online. The idea of following brands and stores to create a personalised shopping experience is radical – as such it takes time for consumers to appreciate. We are constantly working at making the ‘a-ha’ moment easier for first time users of the site. But once they get it, shoppers become fairly addicted.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

As with many new ideas, there was a lot of trial and error involved early on while we were exploring the best was to build Lyst. It took us about 18 months and many different versions of the site before we found something that worked – it was a fairly painful process so I wish we’d found the right product sooner!

4. What is the future of the physical store?

For successful brands and retailers, I think physical stores will be just one of many, interwoven consumer touchpoints – it’s unlikely physical stores will thrive if they are not part of the company’s wider digital strategy.

Many fashion retailers are now doing considerably more in online sales than instore, but their store is a physical manifestation of their brand – it’s a powerful way for consumers to understand the brand and what it stands for. LN-CC in London is a great example of this, as is Warby Parker in NY. This means the instore experience impacts online sales – the boundaries are blurring.

5. What will the high street look like in a decade?

It will be digitally integrated, with the smartphone playing an integral part in the shopping experience.

Also, it will probably have many new stores on it, ones that started life online and moved to the physical world subsequently.

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

As I mentioned above, the boundaries between sales channels are getting blurred – it’s hard to say which will be the primary channel, if any. For example, if the mobile is a key part of the physical shopping experience (as I believe it will be) then it’s hard to attribute a sale to a channel.

I think that looking at channels in isolation is dangerous – as much as possible we shouldn’t think of in-store commerce, ecommerce, mobile commerce and social commerce by themselves, as often a purchase flow will touch more than one of those channels.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

Amazon. Their systematic, data-driven approach to commerce is breathtaking. However fashion remains a challenge for them, largely because of their brand, but also because ‘Emotional Commerce’ verticals like fashion and art work very differently to the ‘Commodity Commerce’ world they dominate.

Emotional Commerce is about making shoppers fall in love with something, it’s an irrational act – which is very different to the rationality behind Commodity Commerce.

8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?

I have always been interested in using technology to improve the status quo. Right now that means changing the way we shop online and making simpler and more engaging, I have no idea what comes after!

9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

Hard to say – the most important thing I’ve done is brought together a talented team of people to help us build Lyst. I feel truly lucky to work with them every day – that’s the achievement from which everything else flows.