How Lux Retailer Olivela is Leveraging Virtual Experiences During COVID-19 to Lead with Purpose

Lisa Johnston
Editor-in-Chief, CGT
Lisa Johnston CGT

When it comes to operating with purpose, luxury online retailer Olivela has been putting its money where its mouth is from the get-go.

Founded by Stacey Boyd in 2017, the fashion, beauty and home goods seller directly donates 20% of each sale to a host of local, national and international charities. Boyd was inspired to start the business during a visit to a refugee camp with Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, and upon returning, she connected with some of the world’s leading luxury designers.

Today, the company donates to Save the Children, Malala Fund, Global Wildlife Conservation and Project Glimmer, among many others, and the COVID-19 global health crisis has only solidified its commitment to supporting vulnerable communities, Brittany Billings, Olivela senior VP, strategic partnerships, tells RIS.

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RIS talked with Billings to learn how the company launched a new virtual experience platform during the pandemic in order to further its corporate mission.

RIS: Tell us about the technology that you've leveraged to help make this initiative successful.

Billings: As a mission-based luxury platform, we pride ourselves on the unique experience customers have when shopping at Olivela. At the onset of the global crisis, we knew our model was set up to most quickly help those negatively impacted while also offering our customers an empowered way to shop their favorite apparel, footwear, jewelry, beauty and home design brands.

We launched Olivela IRL, which is an online, one-stop digital destination for everything beauty, fashion, education and fun. We created and invited customers and guests to sign-up for exclusive virtual experiences, one-on-one sessions with fashion and beauty experts and informational talks with industry pros and designers.

Furthermore, Olivela IRL was seamlessly integrated into our philanthropic model. With millions of children affected by the closure of schools due to the coronavirus, particularly America's most vulnerable children losing perhaps their one and only daily meal, Olivela quick partnered with Save the Children and No Kid Hungry, where 20% of every purchase provides meals and educational tools for families and children in need.

RIS: Can you share any engagement metrics you're using to measure success?  

Billings:  The most important metric we track on a daily basis is how we have a positive impact on the communities our products are made, sourced and purchased.  Creating community and identifying new customers through our Oliveal IRL experiences has helped us significantly grow our business, even during the crisis. 

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However, most importantly, we have provided over 70,000 meals to kids negatively impacted by coronavirus-related school closures since mid-March. We continue to provide additional essential supplies and meals to kids each and every day through our partnership with Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. 

RIS: What kind of feedback have you received?

Billings:  Quite frankly, it’s overwhelming. My team is lucky enough to oversee our charity partnerships, so we hear firsthand on a daily basis from our partners about the positive impact we are making in people’s lives.

But we also hear it from our customers via direct feedback through social media to our NPS scores about why they chose to purchase with us versus another retailer, from our brands and vendors that partner with us because they truly believe in what we are doing to our employees — every single person at Olivela wakes up with an immense sense of pride in the work we are doing and that goes a long way in making a difference.

RIS: What have you learned from this process? What are some best practices that you can share with other retailers?

Billings:  Doing good is core to our business model and “shopping with a purpose” is truly our differentiator — for our customers, our brands and our non-profit partners. Our best practices are authenticity and empowering customers to give their purchases meaning for the causes that matter most to them. Test, learn, and, if and when you fail, fail fast!

RIS: What are your thoughts on the value for companies to operate with purpose during this period (or at any time)?

Billings: Mission-drive companies, like Olivela, are the future of retail. By 2025, Gen Y and Gen Z will represent 55% of all sales (Bain & Company) — these are the conscious consumers who will be closely assessing where they are spending their dollars and we all need to listen and pay attention — corporations have a responsibility to help improve the lives of every single person.

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