“I love to build,” says Miki Racine Berardelli, CEO of Kidbox, who joined the 1-year-old company in August, just a few months into its existence and just ahead of its first go at tackling the back-to-school sales season.
The e-retailer ships name-brand apparel for kids chosen through a combination of stylist know-how and a machine learning algorithm that makes the best matches from Kidbox’s product catalog with the answers provided in a 20-plus question style quiz at signup. Kidbox puts 6-7 items together that it thinks will suit the customer, and each shipment costs $98 (or $58 for boxes styled for babies). Customers keep and pay for the products they like and return the products they don’t want at no charge.
Racine Berardelli calls this flavor of e-commerce—where the e-retailer makes informed product selections on the customer’s behalf—assisted commerce, and believes it is a retail business model attuned to the needs of today’s shoppers, especially busy parents whose kids are constantly outgrowing their clothes and need new ones. Racine Berardelli says the service seems to be resounding with customers. Kidbox is managing more than one child per household, and customers are spread across the demographic and economic spectrum. “We are encouraged by the demographics that we see,” she says. “It’s a very democratic reach.”
Kidbox has five set sales events—one for each season plus a back-to-school shipment—and the data it collects on each shipment helps refine the selections sent the customer the next season. For instance, if a customer returns a shirt because it was too small, the data about that return and the product is logged in the customer’s account and used so that if Kidbox ships another shirt of that brand to the customer, they know to go one size up. “The idea is we will close the loop with data to constantly improve the quality of the box. Every box will outperform the box before it,” Racine Berardelli says. Kidbox’s development team, which is in Tel Aviv, is continually adding more refinements and data points the algorithm can use to generate better matches, Racine Berardelli says.
The e-retailer also is planning to add more need-specific boxes, such as a pajama box or a box meant to meet the apparel needs of a kid going to summer camp.
Racine Berardelli, who will appear on the main stage as a featured speaker at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago in June, says the first year in business has had its challenges and rewards. Racine Berardelli, who previous led e-commerce at Chico’s FAS and digital initiatives at Tory Burch LLC and Ralph Lauren, will present June 8.
One challenge, for example, was how to set up a warehouse fulfillment operation where so many items had to be efficiently picked per order. “For a lot of online orders, it’s usually just one or two items to pick, pack and ship. We have six or seven items per shipment,” she says. Kidbox users set their own delivery cadence. For instance, they can opt-in to automatically receive a shipment every season, or they can pick which season’s boxes they want. Returns are free.
The idea is we will close the loop with data to constantly improve the quality of the box. Every box will outperform the box before it.
The Kidbox team is also working on perfecting the timing and interactions tied to each shipment. “It’s a delicate balance between [timing a shipment] and tapping into the child’s anticipation of the box. Children love getting things in the mail, addressed to them with their name on it. We want to tap into the anticipation from when an order is placed to when it arrives. It’s a cool marketing moment where we can build up that anticipation.” Racine Berardelli says the going thinking is 5-7 days from order to delivery, and the Kidbox team is working on how it can maximize the brand impact in that time, such as by sending emails that tease the box’s contents, so that when the Kidbox arrives kids and parents are excited to dive right in.
That excitement ties into something that surprised Racine Berardelli in Kidbox’s first year. She says the e-retailer’s best customer acquisition tool has been word-of-mouth referrals about the service shared on social media. This includes unboxing videos and photos produced by kids and parents and shared online. “This unboxing experience lends itself to social media. It translates into fashion shows taking place all over the country,” Racine Bernardelli says. “It’s earned. It’s authentic, and the Facebook community is amplifying our message beyond our wildest expectations.”