Lyst Founder Talks New Universal Shopping Cart and the Melding of Tech and Fashion

Lyst, The Cools, The Fancy...it can be hard to keep them all straight, we know. Luckily, Lyst has just completed a new feature that pretty well sets it apart from all the other social commerce sites out there: a universal shopping cart. We talked to Lyst's co-founder and CEO, Chris Morton, about that and how shopping online is changing.
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Lyst, The Cools, The Fancy...it can be hard to keep them all straight, we know. Luckily, Lyst has just completed a new feature that pretty well sets it apart from all the other social commerce sites out there: a universal shopping cart. We talked to Lyst's co-founder and CEO, Chris Morton, about that and how shopping online is changing.
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Lyst, The Cools, The Fancy...it can be hard to keep them all straight, we know. Luckily, Lyst has just completed a new feature that pretty well sets it apart from all the other social commerce sites out there: a universal shopping cart.

Since the beginning, Lyst has essentially been a Pinterest specifically for fashion, where every item you find links to a point of sale. It's also personalized, so you follow the designers, retailers and people whose style is in line with yours. You can also save items you like to create a sort of wishlystlist of things you want.

The new feature, which launched yesterday, is basically an extension of the integrated checkout feature they added a couple of months ago, and makes shopping from a variety of brands and retailers on one personalized platform--even easier. Now, with "Universal Shopping Cart," you can add multiple items from various retailers to your cart and checkout all together on Lyst.

Brands and retailers immediately available through the universal cart include Alexander Wang, Theory, Lane Crawford, Helmut Lang, Revolve, Forward by Elyse Walker, Maiyet, Planet Blue, HUDSON Jeans and IKKON. In the coming weeks, Lyst plans to add Rebecca Minkoff, French Connection, Cynthia Rowley, Lulu Frost, Need Supply Co., Erin Fetherston, Singer22, Ledbury and more.

One reason they've been able to get these many brands and retailers on board (in addition to the promise of increased sales) is that those brands and retailers don't really have to do anything extra other than sign a contract--meaning Lyst essentially does all the work, which isn't easy on the technology side.

Sites like Lyst are also interesting because of the way in which they bring fashion and technology together. Wednesday night, we attended a fancy dinner to celebrate the new launch that brought together just about every facet of the industry, from magazine editors like Nina Garcia, to bloggers like Leandra Medine, to designers like Wes Gordon, to little ol' me.

Lyst's co-founder and CEO Chris Morton was also there, so we took the opportunity to pick his brain about all that went into launching this new feature, what's next, and the melding of tech and fashion.

Fashionista: When did you decide to do a universal shopping cart? Was it something you'd always planned to do? Chris Morton: When we started the business, we looked at the past 10 years in fashion e-commerce and we said, The way that we buy hasn’t really changed; it’s been the migration of physical models to online--like the department store model, the boutique model, the flash sales model. So we thought, what are some new ways we can help people shop in a more engaging, effective way? And there are three parts to that. The first part was aggregating to bring it all to one place. The second thing was a stance against showing the same generic products to every customer. If you and I walk into a store, we’re going to see the same thing because that’s a constraint of the real world. But if you and I visit a website, we can be seeing things that are more relevant to us. Ao we wanted to create a personalized experience, using a social curation technique, so you follow brands you like. The third and final piece which we’ve completed today is to be able to buy all of those items in one cart that we built. It’s been a long time coming and we’re pretty excited about it.

How did you do it? What were some of the challenges? One of the challenges was we needed to be significant enough to retailers and brands that we worked with in order for them to cooperate. Our biggest partners were making millions of dollars in sales [through Lyst], and the early testing we did said [the universal cart] was going to create a 500% increase. And so those partners who were seeing millions in sales a year, five times that is a significant amount, so that was the first thing. On the tech side, it's incredibly complicated synchronizing the inventory across all the sites we work with and building the plumbing for the retailers in a way that they do not have to lift a finger. They sign a contract and they're done. Making it so simple is incredibly difficult, but we’re really proud of that.

What's next? I will say mobile is increasingly significant for us. We started the year at about 8% [of traffic coming from mobile] now we have 30% or so. Our app is still young and we plan to focus on it more. I would love to, in the next year, do different localizations. Right now we have 2.5 million people from 180 countries using it every single month, but they have to use it in English. The other thing we’re thinking about is the role content plays. Right now we occasionally partner with either bloggers or magazines or retailers creating pretty effective content on the site and we’re thinking of ways to make that even more prominent.

Does universal cart work on mobile? You can do it on the mobile web and on the app it will be launched imminently. And it’s the same cart throughout [mobile and web].

Fashion and technology seem to be blending together more and more lately, this event being a great physical example. Have you found it challenging to exist in these two worlds? The reason I think these worlds are blending together relates to how the last 10 years were about the same e-commerce model and now there’s so much consumer demand and so there's a lot of inventive exploration going on with new business models. We have former employees of Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter on our team. I think we have even stronger technology DNA than fashion DNA. If you look at our office in London, it looks a bit more like Tumblr’s office or Twitter’s office than, say, Vogue’s office. Before I started this, I worked in venture capital and invested in fashion companies, like Yoox. It’s very difficult to work in an area that you’re not passionate about.