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8 Women Founders Talk About the Biggest Missed Opportunities in Retail

From AI and DTC partnerships to disrupting the shopping experience as we know it, these founders have big ideas about what's possible for retail and e-commerce.

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This story appears in the October 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

“Gone are the days of ‘’ or ‘. Soon enough, if you see it, you can buy it — from scanning a sweater on a friend’s back to texting a number on a screen and buying your granola bar from the aisle. Technology and what we know as ‘distributed point of sale’ are evolving, so why do I have to go to a website or a store to purchase a product? Why do I need to enter my payment information every time? Looking ahead, we’ll move away from the traditional shopping experience, where browsing and perusing was the norm, to the one-click to purchase — from anywhere, through any platform.” — Laura Modi, Cofounder and CEO, Bobbie,

an organic infant-formula

“The best opportunities are discovered through a pain point that you’ve personally experienced. You ask yourself, How does this not exist? (In my case, it was candy I could feel good about.) It can’t be just slightly better than what’s out there today — it must have a radical value proposition for consumers. A powerful filter to ask yourself is Do I feel that the world can go on without this product/service? If the answer is no, that’s a good indicator that you should bring your innovation to life. And the insights you’ll gain on your adventure will lead you to more untapped opportunities.” — Tara Bosch, Founder, SmartSweets, a low-sugar-candy company

Related: How Retail Companies Are Adapting to Improve Profitability

“Focusing on what’s next can be paralyzing because you are attempting to compete with some version of yourself or a major entity that has endless capital. Sometimes it’s more valuable to re-ground in the things that have already made you successful and amplify those efforts. Being stripped and reworked by external variables like COVID-19 is a chance to reflect and love on every crevice that didn’t break. That’s what the future is to me. And that’s where you should start.” — Bea Dixon, Cofounder and CEO, The Honey Pot Company, an organic feminine-care brand

 

“For e-comm, there is a big opportunity to leverage both art and science. This year we launched our TikTok channel, which is heavily creative and grew to more than 620,000 followers in six months. Our performance team has asked our TikTok audience questions about new products, which helps us see what content is working — insights we use week after week to create ads on TikTok and other social platforms that drive customers to our site. Together, the data driving insights and creativity driving eyeballs help you grow while building a strong brand.” — Ellen Bennett, Founder and CEO, Hedley & Bennett, a premium aprons

Related: Retail Will Never Go Back to Normal. That's a Good Thing.

“I find the opportunity lies in an understanding of the newly developed consumer habits and shopping behaviors that formed as a result of the pandemic. For many, COVID-19 provided a total reset. Purchasing online wasn’t just about convenience anymore; it was about safety. Seeking out value for money became more important in a shaky . Minimizing physical contact through QR codes became the norm. Businesses have had to navigate unprecedented challenges to survive, but as the economy rebounds and supply chains stabilize, brands that truly understand their new consumers are set up for success.” — Georgina Gooley, Cofounder and Co-CEO, Billie, a shave and body-care brand

“There’s much more value to be gotten from partnerships between DTC brands and retailers like Target and Walgreens than is happening now. Aligning on trending industry insights and strategies has been key for us — as when Tiny Organics launched Michelle Obama’s Veggies Early & Often campaign and partnered with retailers to bring it to market. For retailers, there’s a tremendous value add in DTC brands because their rich data ensures best-sellers are on the shelves and product launches are catered to customers’ needs. Such partnerships will position these retailers to lead in the digital-first world.” — Betsy Fore, Cofounder and Co-CEO, Tiny Organics, an early-childhood nutrition company

Retail: The Lack of Diversity in Retail: How Being an African-American in the Retail Industry Gave Me an Competitive Edge

“I think the answer, more broadly, is the Black female consumer. Across the globe, we are growing in population, growing in terms of spending power, and we share a lot of the same needs. We are tired of consuming products that were not made with us in mind. The future is Black and female, honey.” — Mary Imevbore, Cofounder and CEO, Waeve, a beauty brand that makes trendy, high-quality wigs

 

 

“I believe we’re on the precipice of a seismic shift in online shopping with the application of AI. By allowing users to share preferences in an ongoing way, AI will make shopping much smarter and more adaptive to each individual. The Yes is using this approach for fashion. Spotify and Pandora paved the way with music years ago, but it’s taken commerce longer to get there. AI can also help retailers better predict demand. And some of the most fascinating applications are in robotics and optimizing delivery routes, which will cost-effectively speed an order from placement to doorstep.” — Julie Bornstein, Cofounder and CEO, The Yes, a personalized, data-driven shopping platform