Simplifiers Interview: Liza Landsman, President and Sumaiya Balbale, VP of Marketing at Jet.com.

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Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview marketing leaders and founders of brands that have performed well in the Global Brand Simplicity Index. In this Simplifiers interview, I speak with Liza Landsman, President and Sumaiya Balbale, VP of Marketing at Jet.com

MM: What does your brand stand for, and how does it deliver on that promise every day?

Liza: Jet.com stands for transparency and fairness in e-commerce. We deliver on this by designing an experience that reveals the hidden “levers” in e-commerce—for example, disclosing the cost of returns and allowing the customer to waive his right to free returns to save money on a purchase. This brings transparency and empowerment to the customer.

MM: How do you try to create simple experiences within your organization?

Sumaiya: We’re a startup, and part of being successful as a new brand is focusing on where we can have the biggest impact. From the get-go, we organized ourselves around the goal of delivering a great user experience.

Liza: We’ve had strong discipline around only innovating where we need to innovate. Sometimes there’s a temptation to rethink every aspect of an experience, but our working mantra is to be innovative about the things that are going to create meaningful value for the customer.

MM: What are the challenges in creating a simple experience for customers?

Liza: Simple is challenging. It forces you to consolidate and make hard choices about what matters most.

Sumaiya: At Jet.com there’s a lot of complex work going on behind the scenes. It’s tempting to explain the details of how it works so customers know why we’re unique. As a marketer, we have to resist that urge and simply communicate your point of differentiation.

MM: Is simplicity something you actively discuss and value at Jet.com?

Sumaiya: We’ve been discussing simplicity since before we launched. The Marketing team’s goal is to filter our story down to a simple set of messages without condescending to the customer. We believe our customers are smart, and have the ability to understand the value proposition we’re putting forward. But we also understand that they lead busy lives, and Jet.com isn’t the number-one thing on their minds.

MM: How do you strive to conquer complexity at Jet.com?

Liza: We break all problems down into small components, allowing us to solve them faster with fewer people. We have a squad-based organizational structure—for example, a small group of people works on checkout. This allows employees to develop subject-matter expertise and not have a cast of thousands always weighing-in. Also, we have a strong bias toward decision-making. I’ve seen other large organizations that also had this bias, but also a bias to re-decide. At Jet.com, when we decide, we go.

MM: Marketing is getting to be a complicated discipline—how do you keep things simple on your Marketing team?

Sumaiya: One of the biggest challenges and opportunities marketers face is the immense amount of data that’s now available. You can get lost in all that data, and it won’t necessarily lead to the best outcome. We focus on staying in touch with the metrics that matter, and keeping them simple and contained. When using data, we ask: will this information lead me to act differently?

MM: What are the key indicators that simplicity is driving your business forward?

Liza: At Jet.com we’ve used simplicity to tell our story. In a world of practically infinite stimuli, you need to find a message or two that resonates with consumers and connect with them on that. This demands simplicity and consistency.

MM: Why do you think it’s difficult for companies to deliver on simplicity?

Sumaiya: No one wants to be the company that got left behind. When there’s so much innovation happening, to stick with something that’s working is a risk. Because of that, it’s hard for people to avoid chasing the bright shiny object. It’s that tension—making sure you’re moving the brand forward but not at a pace that creates confusion for customers.

MM: What’re the biggest mistakes brands are making regarding simplifying?

Sumaiya: Brands sometimes take simplicity to a stark, transactional or personality-free zone. That’s something to avoid. Customers are looking for simple experiences and delightful is part of that.

MM: What’s the most recent, simple customer experience you’ve had personally?

Liza: Dark Sky Weather, the app. Weather isn’t necessarily fun, but Dark Sky makes it easy to digest lots of information with simple visuals. And it has a map of the globe that you can spin to see the weather anywhere in the world, which gives you this dopamine kick.

Sumaiya: This is a boring answer, but I love Google Maps. I use it constantly. They’ve taken the world of maps and given people the ability to use it in the simplest way.

MM: What does simplicity mean to you?

Sumaiya: For me, simplicity is about the absence of clutter and unnecessary distraction.

Liza: Distillation of understanding your customers’ needs. When he created the Pietà, Michelangelo said he had to find the statue in the stone. With simplicity, you have to get rid of all the distracting and excess stuff around it to reveal the truth.

This interview of Sumaiya Balbale, vice president of marketing and Liza Landsman, chief customer officer of Jet.com, was conducted, edited and condensed by Margaret Molloy.

This is one in an ongoing Simplifiers series. See interviews with Target CMO, Jeff Jones; Ally CMO, Andrea Riley; McDonald’s USA CMO, Deborah Wahl; Direct Line Group Marketing Director, Mark Evans and Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman

Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview: mmolloy@siegelgale.com

Margaret Molloy is global CMO and head of business development at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy

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