Jennifer Lackey Of InstantBoss On The Future Of Retail Over The Next Few Years
If you can make your business stand out among the rest by using creative ideas and incentives for customers, you will always be the one paving the way to success.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Lackey, CEO and Founder of InstantBoss and Small Shop Social. InstantBoss brings together over 20,000 boutique owners and wholesalers in a unique mobile app and Facebook group experience. Jennifer has been an expert in the retail space since 2015 when she launched The InstantBoss Club. Jennifer helps thousands of boutique owners make sales using their social media and also helps wholesalers with her unique mobile apps: “InstantBoss Community” and “SwipeMarket by InstantBoss.”
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I first started my journey back in 2015 when I was selling using Instagram. That first year in business I was able to generate over $100k in sales JUST using Instagram. I had boutique owners coming to me to ask how I was able to do it and that’s how InstantBoss first began! It all began with me in front of my camera in my modest apartment in Dallas. I filmed myself and revealed everything I did step by step to make Instagram work for me. That later morphed into what is known today as Small Shop Social where I provide boutique owners all the content they need to see success on social media. We provide copy and paste hashtags, captions, engagement photos for them to use, and so much more…all mapped out for them in an easy to use mobile app! We also wanted to create a free space for our members to connect with each other while finding wholesale items for their stores! We now have over 20,000 boutiques and wholesalers inside our community and that number is growing daily. We even created a free mobile app for our 20,000 members as well called “InstantBoss Community. I couldn’t be more proud of the business that InstantBoss is today!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I knew when I started my business that I didn’t just want it to be a business but I wanted it to be a mission to spread God’s word! In the beginning of 2020, I decided to start writing some small devotionals for my group of 20,000 members and to my surprise it was well received by everyone. I loved being able to see everyone — no matter their religion — coming together and praying for each other (or just sending good vibes to people if prayer wasn’t their thing)! It was such a special moment to witness as I got to see what “community” really means.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes! This year has been a crazy one! We will now be developing our THIRD mobile app that will release very soon! This app will bring together retailers and wholesalers in a FUN and unique way and we can not WAIT for our members to get a hold of it!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I 1000000% would not be where I am today without my MOM! With two small children at home it would have been impossible to both work and watch them! She helps by watching my kids so I can work, and she is also right there helping in different parts of my business as well! My husband is a huge helper as well; he’s done anything from helping with accounting to going to markets. I have a great support team and I am very grateful for them!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We give so much FREE to our members, including a free mobile app for them to connect with each other, a free monthly digital magazine, free training lessons, and so much more. We have had many members tell us their business would not be where it is today without the FREE resources we have provided them!
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
This is so true! During the pandemic the retailers I worked with were very fearful of how it would affect their sales. However, what we saw time and time again in 2020 was record breaking sales months because so many people were quarantined at home and they were shopping like crazy online. I think the funniest thing to witness was how amazing loungewear did during this time. I think everyone wanted to look cute while they were in quarantine. Now fast forward to 2022, and retailers are trying to get back to having customers come shop in person. I have seen my boutiques offer many different incentives to get people in the door. Some of my favorites are providing an experience for customers. These experiences are things like: succulent bars, cupcake decorating classes, sip and shop events, and more…experiences all housed inside the place of business just to get people into their store.
The supply chain crisis is another outgrowth of the pandemic. Can you share a few examples of what retailers are doing to pivot because of the bottlenecks caused by the supply chain crisis?
As a pivot to the supply chain crisis, we started to see boutiques offer more handmade products from U.S.-based vendors. I really think this helped a lot of the smaller wholesalers out there who wanted to get their foot in the door as the normal larger wholesalers that boutiques were used to ordering from couldn’t get their products out fast enough. I think a lot of smaller wholesalers have seized this opportunity and are thriving right now because of it!
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
I truly hope they do not cease to exist. I think as long as physical locations learn to pivot and start offering more reasons for customers to come inside the store to shop, we will still continue to see retail spaces in the future.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
I think what makes a business a success is their ability to be agile. As a business owner, you can’t be stuck in your ways of doing something a certain way. You have to be flexible to what your customer wants. If you can make your business stand out among the rest by using creative ideas and incentives for customers, you will always be the one paving the way to success.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
I think after the pandemic we started to see small businesses really taking a hit. In time, I started to notice more and more people starting to see this struggle too which created something amazing. People started to support more small businesses by shopping local. They knew that the small business in their town wouldn’t survive unless they supported them. Because of that, I think it’s more important than ever to be creating a relationship with your customers — give them a reason to spend a little bit more with you because of the relationship you have built rather than getting something cheaper from a random company they do not know or have a relationship with.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- The ability to easily pivot. For example, when the pandemic hit the brick and mortar stores, the ones that came out on top were those that were able to quickly transform into an online only space for their customers.
- Knowing your customer. When it comes to buying for your shop, if you buy based on what YOU like and not what your CUSTOMER likes, you will fail time and time again.
- Creating Relationships with customers. A great example of this is demonstrated by my good friend, Katrina Dimiele with The Other Side Tribe Boutique. She uses Facebook Live to create a bond with her customers. They laugh together, cry together and all around just create a relationship together that keeps her customers watching her lives just to hang out with their friend (Katrina) while also finding some cute items to buy in the process.
- Branding. For InstantBoss, we are known for our rainbow/holographic colors. We’ve asked our audience many times what they think of when they hear “InstantBoss” and most everyone responds with our colorful branding colors. When your customers are able to look at colors and immediately think of your brand, it creates trust and trust brings in more sales.
- Customer Service. This is so important when it comes to business! More and more customers are wanting the ability to easily text a company and get an immediate response. That’s why I think it is very important to use text marketing for your business to create that relationship with customers!
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I know that if I could figure out a way to bring customers together to shop multiple boutiques at one time, so many boutique owners’ businesses could stop relying on social media to bring them sales. It’s on my vision board to create this space one day for our boutique owners…we are still working on what that space will look like!
How can our readers further follow your work?
Come join our Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/smallshopsocial or download our free app available on IOS or Google Playstore, just search “InstantBoss Community” to download!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!