Amber Venz Box. Photo by Mindy Byrd

Amber Venz Box: Disrupting the Retail Landscape

‭How an online fashionista already sees the future

It has been an insane year for Amber Venz Box. In the course of 12 months, her online-shopping app, (owned by her Dallas-based company rewardStyle) has drummed up more traffic than Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter did in the same length of time.

“If you look at how long it took those platforms to reach 1 million users, we did it faster than all of them,” says Box, who began her career as a WordPress fashion blogger in 2010 and launched rewardStyle in 2011. She has since become a disrupter in the rapidly-changing retail landscape.

"You can be a creator just by the phone that you have in your hand. You have the platform to distribute your content now."

At last year’s SXSW Interactive, the Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur announced that rewardStyle was launching the app for online shopping. The app helps shoppers easily purchase products that catch their eye on social media. Just take a screenshot of the item, and you receive a push notification within seconds with information about the product and where to buy it.

Since the app’s launch, Box and her husband Baxter Box (who serves as company CEO) report that the number of shoppers using LTKI has more than tripled, while the number of influencers has more than doubled. There are also some 4,200 retailers on the platform that have more than a million brands.

Only four years ago, Box noted how social media was driving shopping and that “social shopping” — tastes and trends shaped by peers in social media — was growing. In 2014, her company started as a way for creators to make money when a follower made a purchase based on his or her post. Box had been a personal shopper herself and realized back in 2010 that even if her fans appreciated her style, she couldn’t get a commission from their purchases, as she would have in the days of offline personal shopping.

Amber Venz Box. Photo by Mindy Byrd

Amber Venz Box. Photo by Mindy Byrd


Fast forward to now. With more than 90 engineers and employees, rewardStyle and its offshoots are leading the charge in social media shopping.

“Last year alone, the app drove almost $300 million in retail sales to our partners. As a network, last year as a whole, rewardStyle drove $1.1 billion in retail sales,” Box says. “In 2014, when we first launched, about 23 percent of clicks were coming from mobile. Then you look at the 2017 stats, now it’s 67 percent. So you think about where to reach the consumer.” And that’s only from the consumer side, Box adds.

“Then think about the creator side,” she continues. “In 2014, we didn’t work with anybody who was an Instagram-only influencer. But last year, 2017, more than 60 percent of the influencer applications to rewardStyle were mobile-only. That means they run their entire business from their phones.”“All of this just has a massive impact,” Box explains. “It’s shown a shift over time of content creation and content consumption into the mobile device, and that has massive implications for incumbents. And what you see across the retail landscape is there are big winners and there are big losers.”

Box points out that now it’s not uncommon for a “multi-brand chain” to have more value in its real estate holdings than the business itself.

“If most content now lives inside of closed mobile social channels, you can’t index that content,” Box explains. “If you can’t search and find content within these social platforms, are you still relevant?”

All of this is disrupting “everyone from Google to WordPress to these multi-brand retailers to major media companies that were once too big to fail,” Box says. “And honestly, it all comes down to the handset. You can be a creator just by the phone that you have in your hand. You have the platform to distribute your content now. So you or I have an equal chance to distribute our work… Then you have rewardStyle, which gives you the means to wake up everyday and make money by doing it. It’s completely a revolution. There is no hierarchy anymore.”

Amber Venz Box was a part of the featured Startup & Tech Sectors track session “What Mobile Means for the World’s Biggest Brands” at SXSW 2018. Listen below:

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