If you’re an internet user in the year 2021, there’s a good chance that you shop online. And that means you’re familiar with the rollercoaster ride that is waiting for your package. Tracking information from the shipping company isn’t always reliable. An email from the retailer might say that the shoes you ordered were delivered, but you know they never materialized.
Evan Walker, founder and CEO of Route, is on a mission to make that process simpler and more efficient. “We saw this big whitespace after purchase,” Walker tells Bustle. “There was this huge opportunity to communicate with the customer after purchase in a way that was much better than an email.”
Thus, Route was born. The platform works in two ways, one designed for consumers and one that caters toward merchants. If you’re a consumer, you can think of it as the central hub for everything you buy online. Orders are synced automatically, so you don’t have to worry about juggling various tracking numbers. You get real-time information about your package’s location, and you can also deal with lost, stolen, or damaged packages in the app.
As for small fashion brands like The Bright Side (pictured above), Route helps them reach new shoppers through the Discovery portion of the app, where users can scroll through over 10,000 merchants.
It also helps those brands build customer loyalty, as shoppers like knowing the location of their order at every step of the process. And a satisfied customer will keep coming back. The numbers indicate as much: Since launching in 2018, Route has built a network of more than 1.75 million app users and growing.
Ahead, Walker talks to Bustle about the best career advice he’s ever received, the small businesses Route is helping, and how technological advancements will impact the future of fashion.
How is Route especially useful for those smaller brands and businesses that are just trying to get off the ground?
We have a product inside Route called Discover. We take those small brands of the world, help them create content, and surface those brands to new consumers.
What feedback have you been hearing from users? What are they most enjoying?
We’re answering this question of, “Where is your order after purchase?” That solution of what we call “visual tracking” — opening up the app, seeing everything you ordered on a visual map — it has been this huge customer value prop. That’s been a big feedback case for us.
When it comes to fashion and technology working together, how do you see that relationship evolving from where it is today to where it could potentially be in the future?
We look at it as closing the gap between in-person buying and e-commerce buying. COVID has definitely spiked e-commerce demand. Even before that, e-commerce has been closing the gap in terms of the percentage of people shopping online. But the experience really hasn’t.
If you look at our app today, we shoot content. We actually bought a production company that can film very quick product vignettes, product textures, and features of the product. So it starts to really close in that gap. Obviously, nothing’s ever going to replace in-person. But the closer we get to that is really where technology should be driven toward.
As a founder, what’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Build around the consumer. We look at building everything around consumer experience first, even to the sacrifice of profit, revenue, or margin. It served us well over the past couple years in building the company. Our biggest growth lever, probably after hiring really good people, has been to build everything around the consumer experience and optimize around that. If you build around that, there’s always room for a new business to spin up if you have the best customer experience in your category.
How can this app potentially transform the fashion industry?
So many brands want to sell direct-to-consumer now. Selling on huge marketplaces has just been really dilutive for the brand experience, especially in fashion: very high affinity products, very visual products that need experience to drive through that brand.
The first thing we do is provide communication for that brand and that merchant after purchase. In the fashion space, for instance, the communication of returns and the biggest question by far is, “Where’s my stuff after purchase?” We help answer that.