Not all shopping experiences are created equal.
According to Jerry Hum, cofounder and CEO of Touch of Modern, what men and women look for when it comes to how they prefer to shop are drastically different. For men, it’s not about browsing for hours and hours just to find the perfect item. In this week’s installment of Warby of X, Hum joined PYMNTS to discuss why Touch of Modern’s approach to delivering the type of shopping experience men will actually enjoy is disrupting the traditional brick-and-mortar journey.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
PYMNTS: How did Touch of Modern get started?
JH: Three former college friends of mine, Dennis Liu, Jonathan Wu and Steven Ou, and I created Touch of Modern in 2012, and we all are still part of the company today. At the time, we sought to fill what we saw as a gap in the market for a shopping destination geared specifically to men with a modern, design-focused aesthetic and who seek out one-of-a-kind items that tell a story or spark conversation.
PYMNTS: What was the inspiration behind using a direct-to-consumer eCommerce business model versus using a brick-and-mortar or physical channel?
JH: We actually started originally as a marketplace for unique local experiences and activities in specific cities with a business called Ravn. What we learned was that scaling with a model built on selling local experiences was extremely difficult, and so we decided to pivot to a model based on sourcing and selling new to market — unique and well-designed products we’d love to buy ourselves. As four guys under 30 at the time, we felt there was a hole in the market for an online destination where any of us would actually like to shop, and that’s where the idea for Touch of Modern came about. The idea of starting a brick-and-mortar retail outlet was never something we even considered.
PYMNTS: How does Touch of Modern work from a member’s perspective?
JH: Consumers can shop at Touch of Modern both at our website or mobile app (available for iOS or Android). After a one-time signup that requires the user to provide their email address, users can browse and add items to their cart to purchase later or immediately purchase items that will ship in one to three weeks. Our shoppers appreciate how closely integrated our mobile app is with their web registry, creating a seamless mobile browsing and purchasing experience. Items saved to their carts are immediately available for viewing from the eCommerce site and vice versa. Touch of Modern was also one of the first eCommerce destinations to offer Apple Pay-enabled shopping.
PYMNTS: How has the company disrupted the retail industry, specifically when it comes to products that cater to men? Why was the industry in need of an offering like Touch of Modern?
JH: It was not that long ago that the traditional wisdom said men hate shopping and that any retailer dedicating time and resources toward courting a male customer base would fail. We believed that actually the problem was the nobody had figured out how to design a shopping experience (and product mix) that would truly appeal to the way men shop and their specific tastes and needs. For example, men tend to love the surprise and delight discovery aspect of shopping — being served up one or two great, unexpected and unique products they might not have even known they needed, rather than spending hours searching and browsing for one specific type of item. That’s why you won’t see “Search” functions prominently featured in our app or site.
Men are also extremely comfortable with mobile shopping — and in fact, two-thirds of all our sales come through a mobile device. That’s why we dedicated many resources into designing a fantastic and seamless mobile app and mobile shopping experience.
PYMNTS: Connecting and catering to two sides of a platform can be quite difficult. What challenges have you encountered in serving as an online platform that connects designers to the consumers that want to purchase their products?
JH: We have found that it is relatively easy to connect the two after a certain level of trust has been established. Customers come to us because they want us to do the heavy lifting for them to research new products that are differentiated in some way either through technology or design. As a result of earning that trust with our customers, we can give designers and manufacturers a platform to reach a sizable customer base and get brand exposure that has higher reach and engagement than other marketing channels.
PYMNTS: When you first started, how did you go about building up both sides of your platform? Did you have to onboard enough consumers or designers first?
JH: I think both sides were necessary. When Touch of Modern first launched, there was only a handful of sales that were available to purchase every week. We have since grown to feature 25 new sales every day.
PYMNTS: How does Touch of Modern differentiate itself from other flash deal sites?
JH: The user experience is similar in that people view products in a familiar tiled layout and are asked to register as a “member” of the site in order to browse and shop. However, unlike flash sale sites, Touch of Modern is not about simply offering big-name designer brands at a discount (e.g., Nordstrom Rack) or serving as a clearinghouse (e.g., Gilt, Jackthreads, Bezar, Overstock) of last season’s styles.
Instead, Touch of Modern focuses on discovery over discounts. We’re a curated eCommerce destination selling products with design sensibility and a unique backstory. While our products are priced lower than anywhere else, our biggest value proposition to our customers is our dedication to delivering the most exciting products for men on a daily basis.
PYMNTS: What’s next for Touch of Modern? Do you have any news or updates you can share?
JH: We are working on content as a means to better educate our customers on the new products that we find. We recently launched a blog, The Manuscript, to bring life to the products we offer. With that, video became equally as important in telling the product’s stories, and by demonstrating their qualities and features in-depth, we can reach more customers. We are also developing a line of our own products using the wealth of data that we have on consumer preferences.