CEO at 29, Travis Wright leverages tech for Tigerlily

Fresh leadership and a tech rethink have underpinned a significant turnaround for Tigerlily, the iconic Australian fashion brand that has survived significant turbulence in recent years. 

The shift came with Travis Wright’s appointment as CEO of the brand in 2021, bringing years of online retail, marketing and fashion experience to the role, as well as key lessons and experience from her own jewellery business, Travel by Travis. 

Wright’s appointment followed various challenges for the brand that came to a head during the early stages of the pandemic – holiday wardrobes are not the easiest sell during lockdowns and border closures. 

Still in her twenties at the time of her appointment, Wright injected youth into the brand that was initially launched in the year 2000, with her rise seeing her named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2022. 

Wright’s immediate objectives on arriving were to overhaul the brand’s operations including a new website and changing inventory management and financial systems. She also sought to streamline the disparate point-of-sale system that contributed to a disconnect between physical and online sales, resulting in fragmented data and putting hurdles in the way of creating great customer experiences. 

So far, the operational overhaul is working. Tigerlily experienced a 20% growth in store average order value over the past year, as well as a 23% rise in group revenue in FY23, compared to FY22. For the first time in the brand’s history, Tigerlily is a digital-first business with their online channel taking the top spot in revenue contribution over FY23.

Now, Tigerlily plans to go one step further: leveraging tech and AI to attract fresh customers and tap into new markets. 

“Our biggest opportunity right now is in the northern hemisphere,” Wright says.

“We launched our US website last year as a strategy to stabilise revenue, year-round. Market diversification is just as important as channel diversification.

“The US expansion is pivotal for the longevity of Tigerlily. This year was about laying the foundation, and next year is expanding that. 

“In the first year of our northern hemisphere pursuits, we generated the most international revenue in Tigerlily’s 23 years of existence and a growth of 336%.”

Tigerlilly is far from alone in having global ambitions. 

Recent research by Shopify found that 14% of senior retail leaders surveyed are investing in launching an international store over the next 12 months. 

Beyond geographic markets, brands are also exploring other market opportunities, with 27% of respondents saying they are investing in launching either a business-to-business (B2B) or direct-to-consumer (DTC) offering in the coming year, at 16% and 14% respectively. 

Through great tech, retail brands have opportunities to attract consumers like never before, particularly those who have never been part of their core target audience. 

Having arrived in Australia from the United States with $1000 in savings and nobody she actually knew in the country, Wright says her “intrepreneur”-like traits and constant push to consider “what comes next” have supported her leadership at Tigerlily. Such traits also underpinned her previous role at online women’s fashion retailer Esther & Co. where she rose through the ranks to become General Manager. 

Wright believes e-commerce businesses need to focus on managing their operational costs, and determine if the costs being outlaid are actually necessary. She also highlights the need to rethink certain costs to instead consider them as “investments”, especially when it comes to items like paid advertising. 

The focus on operations also saw Wright addressing Tigerlily’s POS system, seeing an opportunity to better unify sales across their online and 11 in-person stores to create a more seamless shopping experience. Tigerlily brought its POS system and e-commerce platform together through Shopify Plus. The brand also launched a loyalty program, installed a customer service helpdesk app, and was able to launch in-store pickup and ship-to-home-order fulfillment for certain products that were out of stock or unavailable. 

The changes mean Wright can, importantly, track progress. She accesses key data on how customers shop across all sales channels, enabling the brand to make the most of each touchpoint. She says that detailed customer profiles have also supported Tigerlily in providing more personalised recommendations to shoppers. 

In addressing the cohort that shops both in-store and online – which Wright says is around 20% of their customer base – they can also now facilitate a multi-channel shopping journey. 

Leveraging tech and addressing operations now gives Tigerlily the opportunity to broaden its ambitions, particularly in attracting new international markets. 

Check out more insights from Shopify Plus in The Australian Retail Report 2023, offering an industry deep dive on pathways to growth and shifting consumer behaviour.