Partnering with zulily – A Facebook Perspective

During F8, Facebook’s global developer conference (March 25-26, 2015), Facebook announced a new program with zulily as one of the launch partners: Messenger for Business. Just a month later, the service was live and in production! We on the zulily engineering team truly enjoyed the partnership with Facebook on this exciting product launch. It’s been a few months since the launch and we reached out to Rob Daniel, senior Product Manager at Messenger, to share his team’s experience on collaborating with zulily.

Here’s what Rob had to say:

How Messenger for Business Started

Messenger serves over 700 million active people with the mission of reinventing and improving everyday communication. We invest in performance, reliability, and the core aspects of a trusted and fast communication tool. Furthermore, we build features that allow people to better express themselves to their friends and contacts, including through stickers, free video and voice calling, GIFs, and other rich media content. We build the product to be as inclusive as possible – even supporting people that prefer to register for Messenger without a Facebook account – because we know that the most important feature of a messaging app is that all your friends and anyone you’d want to speak with is reachable, instantly.

In that vein, we found that some of people’s most important interactions are not just with friends and family, but with businesses they care about and interact with almost every day. However, until recently Messenger didn’t fully support a robust channel for communicating with these businesses. And when we looked at how people interact with businesses today – email, phone (typically…IVR phone trees), text – there were obvious drawbacks. Either the channels were nosiy (email), or lacked richeness (text), or were just really heavyweight and inefficient (voice).

Reinventing How People Communicate with Businesses

When we started talking with zulily about a partnership to reinvent how people communicate with businesses, under the mission of creating a delightful and high utility experience, we found we met an incredible match.

Why? Simply put, zulily thinks about Mom first. That’s the same people-centric approach to building products that’s at the heart of Messenger. And along the way, as we scoped out the interactions for launch, it was evident that we had the same mindset: build a product with incredible utility and value to people, establish a relationship and build trust, and over time build interactions that pay dividends via higher customer loyalty and lifetime value. And despite time pressures and the many opportunities to put business values over people values, we collectively held the line that people were first, business was second.

We also found that “zulily Speed” was no joke, and matched the Facebook mantra of “Move Fast.” Up and through our announcement at F8 (Facebook’s two-day developer conference) and launch later the next month, our two teams moved in sync at incredible speed. As an example, late one evening an issue was spotted by a Messenger engineer and by 10:00 am the next morning the problem had been identified, fixed and pushed to production. That kind of turn around time and coordination is just unheard of between companies at zulily and Facebook’s scale.

Speaking to the strength of the individual engineers on both sides, team sizes were small. This led to quick decision making and efficient, frequent communications between teams, forming a unique bond of trust and transparency. Despite the distance between Seattle and Menlo Park, we rarely had timing miscues and latency was incredibly low.

This Journey is 1% Finished

At Facebook we say “this journey is 1% finished,” highlighting that regardless of our past accomplishments we have a long journey ahead, and that we owe people that use our services so much more. And in that same spirit, we respect that Messenger is only beginning to provide zulily and other businesses the communication capabilities they need to form lasting, trusted, and valuable relationships with their customers. But we’re thrilled to be teamed up with a company, like zulily, that has the commitment and vision alignment to help shape the experience along the way and see the opportunity along the path ahead.

Meet a zulily developer: Bala

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Who are you, and what do you do at zulily?

I am Bala, a Software Engineer on the EMS (Event Management Systems) Team. We create and operate the tools that help other teams launch and manage sales and deals. Our goal is to minimize the time it takes to get deals on zulily by providing efficient and easy to use tools.

When did you join zulily?

I started in October of 2013, so it has been a year.

What was it like in the early days?  Tell us a crazy story.

Although I officially joined at the end of October, I did not come to work for a week after my hire date. I had asked for a vacation for a week and I got one 🙂 I had very little work experience prior to zulily and was scared about the work culture in a start-up (which zulily was at that time). The first impression I have of zulily: this is a company I want to work for who cares about the employees.

On my actual first day of work at zulily, my manager greeted me and introduced me to the team. Luckily on the very first day we had “All Hands” meeting. It was a small auditorium and everyone was gathered there and the host started calling out people who joined that week. All the new hires gathered on the dais and there was a grand welcome for us. They asked us a question: “Which Christmas Carol movie do you like the best?” Everyone was answering the question with their most liked movie name. People were shouting and clapping all the time. When it was my turn, they asked my what mine was. I wanted to steal others’ ideas as I have not seen many Christmas Carol movies. So, I made up my mind and said “I have not seen any Christmas Carol movies but I like Iron Man.” I thought people would be laughing, but it was another round of applause and screams. I loved the energy of people at zulily. This is small but something I cherish working here.

One week later zulily went public and we celebrated that day in the Auditorium. I never had a chance before to experience the vibe when the company you work for goes public. It was epic. There was a countdown and people were cheering and later we heard Darrell’s (the CEO) live speech from the NASDAQ office. What a day it was!

Later I was involved in talking to a lot of people from the business. I was told about the fast-paced environment at zulily and “zulily time.” I didn’t really understand it until I released a new feature for vendors called “Vendor Inventory Update Automation” in my first few weeks at zulily. After that I never turned back….

What is different now?

zulily has grown a lot. But zulily still moves very fast and is very aggressive. The tech team has doubled in size, there are more people you would be able to work with and the development vision has changed from “Get it out now. We can think of the future later.” to “We need to do it right and make it useful for the future.” We also have PMs to help us to define the priorities and let us code more and attend fewer meetings.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I get into the office around 10am. By the time I come in most folks are here. I check my mail, look at my calendar and plan my day. I will be so engrossed in coding that I forget to eat sometimes. I generally keep reminders for that! I keep coding and attend meetings. I go back home when I feel that I have completed something concrete. I bike and bus to the office and I take the time on the bike to catch-up with what’s going on in this world. I go back home and spend some time with my family and then if I get some time I read something or else I go to bed… repeat.

What gets you excited about working about working at zulily?

I agree with everyone about how much of an impact your changes and work have on the routine of the people at zulily. As I work on internal tools for zulily employees I get a chance to meet my customers directly, talk to them, get accurate requirements and build tools that cater to their needs. This kind of customer interaction is something I love about working at zulily. Also, I own what I build and I support it, which motivates me to code better. Most importantly: all the people I work with are awesome.