Anna Tolmach

Anna is passionate about e-commerce and was inspired to start Fuse when she found that many of the growing businesses she loved were using Excel and Google Sheets to manage their inventory.

Anna has an MBA from Stanford's Graduate School of Business. She was a Marketer at Getty Images and an Investor at the Carlyle Group before earning her MBA at Stanford.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2017

    Will irrational shipping prices doom brick and mortar stores?

    The point that "free shipping isn't free" and "omnichannel is expensive" has been covered, but a big point not mentioned is just how slow retailers are to react to changes in the ecosystem. One example is apps. When apps first became popular and novel with consumers, retailers delayed or took too long to create apps. When they did create them, they invested huge amounts of money in creating apps. However, by that point, consumers were over it. No one wanted to download yet another app, but they wanted a mobile optimized site. The traditional brands were too little too late. Similarly, perhaps holding inventory at a store doesn't make sense anymore. Let your customer come in, try on a sample and order the product from you online. Have fewer stores, but keep them in prime experience driven locations. In general, a bigger problem isn't just shipping, it's the industry's ability to react and adjust to new models of doing business.
  • Posted on: 02/23/2017

    Will a new TJX concept put more hurt on department stores?

    I agree with all of the comments made on TJX's great merchandising, the gamesmanship involved in bargain hunting and the Millennial generation's focus on finding great deals. One thing I'd point out is that I don't think TJX is the problem for traditional department stores but, rather, department stores' own poor merchant planning and the heavy discounting that results. Department stores notoriously overbuy which causes them to then steeply discount the products they sell. Consumers are conditioned to eventually expect a markdown if they just wait. There's very little incentive to pay full price. I'd also argue that it really depends on the department store -- they need to have an understanding of who their customer is and what they are coming in for. Are they looking for an indulgent day of lunch and shopping, or simply a bargain hunt? If your store wants to cater to the former, then thinking about how to attract that right customer is critical.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2017

    Can Walmart grow its online business profitably?

    I agree, Mark. Free two-day shipping is great, but there is a lot of evidence that consumers in certain use cases prefer to actually pick up items in-store which gives Walmart a huge advantage given its vast distribution network. Thanks to Walmart Labs, Walmart is also ahead on using its vast data to predict demand versus Amazon which could provide a long-term source of competitive advantage. The point was made earlier that the two are essentially commoditizing themselves and their own product, so finding a source of sustainable competitive differentiation whether it's from the customer's perspective or on the supply chain side is critical. Amazon's fulfillment capabilities have done this, now Walmart needs to catch up.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2017

    Third-party e-commerce fulfillers: Friend or foe to the grocers?

    It's still very early in grocery delivery and there have definitely been many failed experiments, like Webvan during the last tech boom. Given that, I think outsourcing is the right model for now although it might risk hurting the brand. First, grocers aren't delivery experts. Second, it's a low-cost way for them to test what works and what doesn't work about the delivery model. If it becomes scalable, they can acquire one of the players in the field or start their own delivery model. In general, without a physical store, it's been a money-losing proposition for most delivery upstarts, so that means that the grocer has the clear advantage in this case because they hold the asset and the warehouse needed to make the delivery service profitable. So long as they are getting something out of it, there's no reason not to test it out as a near-term strategy.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Do consumers want to follow grocers on social media?

    Consumers want to engage with social media because it provides a beautiful, visual forum for storytelling. Currently, it seems like the above study illustrates that consumers are turning to their grocers' social channels for information, not for stories. Social is a brand channel, so treating it as a way to convey the values and stories your brand stands for rather than as a way to share the latest promo will be tremendously more valuable. Food is an incredibly visual medium that can easily engage consumers, so it's just about making sure that the content is aligned with what consumers are seeking on each channel, i.e., what you post on Instagram shouldn't be the same content that appears on Twitter.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Zappos takes to the road to connect with consumers

    As recently as Jan 23rd on the how I built this podcast, the CEO of Zappos positioned the company as a customer service company that happened to sell shoes. That vision seems further and further out of reach as they move towards giving customers a physical experience with their product. That being said, finding creative ways to own the customer experience, including providing a tactile element -- whether it's a la the Warby Parker home try-on program or otherwise -- is a broader theme for digitally native ecommerce companies.