Add 9000 new items to your web – every day?

“It’s about moving fast.”

No kidding!

Shoot 9000 shots a day? From product-in-the-door to posted-on-the-web in 2 days? Re-launch your website every day? It’s a nightmare scenario to most of us, but it’s a goal to “shoot and sell” at Zulily, a flash site targeting young women and little kiddos with beautiful product at 70% off retail.


An article this week in FastCompany, highlights how Zulily has grown to a billion $ company in 3 years. Being a production geek, I’m more fascinated by the volume and the speed of production. How do they do it?

1. They try new things. If something breaks, the responsible person gets the “ugly pig” award on their desk – until someone else makes a mistake and the pig moves on. Mistakes are recognized, accepted, learned from, and even welcomed. You can’t do something in a whole new way without making mistakes. Zulily calls this being “fluidly adaptive”.

2. They test ALL the time. They publish 9000 items a day. Look at how many opportunities they have to test!

3. They dedicated entire floors in their corporate office to shooting product. The CEO’s office is in the basement – he didn’t want to get in the way of the real work. They “pay” their kiddo models in snacks and copies of beautiful photos, and have a waiting list of kids wanting to be shot.

4. They built an incredibly robust CMS (content management system).

In addition to their volume and speed, their web experience is individualized – something many of us have talked about but few have achieved. Buy a shirt for an 8-year old boy? Get more items targeted at 8-year old boys. Never buy girls clothes? Then never see girls clothes.

The downside to this type of quick turn? They don’t keep stock on hand, so shipping times can top 3 weeks. Will they make it? Unclear. Can we learn from this type of volume and speed? You bet.

Here’s a link to the full article. Many thank to Kevin Hillstrom for posting this article yesterday on his excellent blog, MineThatData.