Its a little after 10 a.m., and my toddler nemesis is just one of dozens of children scattered throughout the labyrinthian premises. On the other side of a glass wall in the waiting area are at least 10 photo shoots, flickering on-and-off in chorus while busy-looking twenty somethings seemingly transposed from an Urban Outfitters catalog zip around like pinballs. Two more tiny humans dressed in bright scarves and furry boots barge through the entrance, screaming at the top of their lungs as they make a beeline for the toy wall.
Zulily has defied the conventional wisdom—marketing to moms, sticking with flash sales, evading Amazon. Can it defy the doubting investors who think it can’t last?
This is Zulily’s “fifth or sixth office space” that the company has outgrown in its five years of life, according to CEO Darrell Cavens, as if office space were teensy Velcro sneakers to be thrown into the donation pile and forgotten. If you aren’t a habitué of the mommy blog circuit, you would be forgiven if you did not recognize the company by name. But when Zulily announces its fourth-quarter results and 2014 revenue on February 11, it’ll be the latest entrant in the still exclusive club of e-commerce companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. In fact, in the universe of all retail brands, only Amazon and Old Navy hit the billion-dollar revenue mark in a shorter amount of time.
Zulily is aware of its challenges, but the company also has a very clear vision of what its strengths are. Investing in infrastructure—whether it’s building the sets in-house for creative; or entrusting its photographers and designers to produce dozens of magazine-style spreads a day; or giving its engineers the freedom to break things; or building an expensive CMS that can automatically compound fraction-of-a-percentage clickiness to boost sales; or going out of its way with customer service—is what has allowed Zulily to scale to its size without buckling. Each stratified layer helps brace the chaotic one above it. It’s about moving fast. Ironically, they’re not worried about how the baby seat fits in the car. Read more…