Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Ye Jin is heading global customer strategy at Rebecca Minkoff, a contemporary fashion & accessories brand HQ'd in NY. Before joining direct-to-consumer businesses on the marketing side, she worked for Google EMEA crafting, executing, and optimizing digital marketing campaigns for Google's largest advertisers. Her second stint at Google as an industry analyst included diving into Google's search database ("Big Data" before it became a hype). In between, she graduated from Kellogg School of Management's MBA program, and worked at an early-seed VC firm. She frequently speaks at conventions, conferences, and panels adding the perspective of a digital-native professional with client-side experience. She translates digital trends and omnichannel requirements to traditional business leaders by walking them through the customers' journey delivering actionable business insights, and providing straightforward advice.
Ye, how did you get into fashion tech?
I used to work in tech (Google). Then moved on to fashion, now I am finally in fashion tech.
How long did it take you to be where you are now? Tell us little bit more about your journey in fashion and tech.
I loved tech. The “get-it-done” mentality, “don’t-guess go-test” approach, the nerds (I consider myself one), the evidence-based decision making.
However, I struggled with product. There is something special about tangible products. There is a sense of realness when I see the product I helped define. It is a very rewarding experience, and affirms why we do what we do every single day. Having this insight didn’t really help me identify my immediate next steps, which is why I decided to pursue an MBA. Not only was I empowered to upgrade my cores kills, but I was also allowed to peek into new industries and functions. Ultimately, the MBA helped me to get into retail and fashion.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The industry is in flux. A lot of heritage infrastructure, systems built upon old systems – it slows down the breaking down of silos, one view of the customer, and cross team collaboration.
The people are in flux, too. A lot of retailers come from very traditional backgrounds; senior executives have worked themselves up from the shop floor. How do you fit in if you have never worked in retail before? If your first job was at the centre of digital innovation? If your product was in the cloud?
What are the challenges of being a part of fashion tech industry? How about being a woman?
My biggest learning was rethinking storytelling. At Google, my presentations had 90% data, and 10% story. In fashion, I am spending a lot more time on crafting the story, thinking about which data point will resonate with the audience. Unlike before, most people in the room don’t have science backgrounds. It’s my job to make sure every single one in the room understands the implications of my proposals. Sometimes this means speaking their language vs. having the expectations that they speak yours.
Since moving to fashion, being a woman has become less of a talking point compared to tech.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Leading the collaboration between Avery Dennison, EVRYTHNG, and Rebecca Minkoff. This enables our products to be IOT-ready. Being there every step of the way: contractual negotiation, design, wireframes, use cases, and customer marketing - what a journey so far....
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Go to market strategy and optimization - focus China. I recently launched WeChat as a new channel.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
My goal is to make more women aware of what tech means for their career in terms of width and depth. I think people associate only certain functions and employers with tech. The reality is that every one of us can have a slice of it in whatever industry and function.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech and wearable tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I see a lot of change in customer and non-customer facing aspects. For the customer, more products will be digitally enabled allowing you to engage via scan or NFC. The use case could range from care instructions, to UGC, to supply chain related insights. All of the customer facing innovations imply a huge increase in available customer data. Even at an aggregate level, this will help companies design products based on real world insights. Traditionally, this has been a costly process with in-field qualitative and quantitative research.
Non-customer facing innovation is almost as exciting, if not more so. Imagine being able to follow your most precious ingredient (in my case – leather) from the moment it leaves the supplier, to manufacturing, to warehouse, to store – with GPS. With the increase in customization, imagine the customer, who could follow each step of the value added chain. This not only explains processing time, but also allows us to tell a story of craftsmanship and quality as a brand. Other non-customer facing innovation will focus on customer behaviour analysis and prediction. Traditionally, retailers focus on product. We now see product through the lens of customer-first.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all women (and men!) who want to get into fashion tech?
Ask yourself – how can you add value to the company? Always know what you bring to the table. If you don’t have clarity, neither will the company.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or wearable tech?
Amanda Curtis - 19th Amendment
Maria Gangemi - M Gemi
Marta Jamrozic - Claire
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.