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Q&A with Gabrielle Hase

CEO, Soleberry Advisory

Having accelerated the growth of ecommerce giants such as TXMaxx.com, LK Bennett, The Fragrance Shop, Browns Fashion, Harvey Nichols and Sweaty Betty, what would you say are the biggest mistakes that brands make when trying to grow their online presence and ecommerce capability? 

The idea that ‘if you build it, they will come’.  The beauty of online is that you can serve a global audience incredibly easily; but the downside to that is that it’s at the same time incredibly difficult to build an audience quickly and cheaply.  There is a lot of competition in almost every sector, and building a brand takes time and effort regardless of which distribution channel is used.  The stories of brands going viral, while true, are still pretty rare.

Brands have made mistakes when not investing enough in serving the customer.  Some brands that are creatively led tend to put a big premium on how the website looks, and not enough on investing in last mile capabilities, such as customer service, superior delivery and return capability, etc.  

Finally, a mistake I’ve seen happen more often than not is an underinvestment in the channel as a whole – where brands don’t commit fully to online as the growth engine that it is, and tend to put more resources behind things they might have more of a history with – whether that’s physical stores, wholesale channels or franchise relationships. Ecommerce has the potential to be any brand’s biggest channel, so the investment needs to reflect that.

Do you think we will see any long-term changes in how consumers purchase following Covid-19?

Yes. There’s been a huge increase in the number of people shopping online, and I think we will see that continue; I think dwell times in stores will decrease as people have safety concerns about being in close proximity with other people; consumers will do even more research online before going into store, and I think we will see consumers spending their money with brands and retailers whose values most closely align with theirs. The need for brands to create ever more useful and meaningful content is only going to grow. 

For brands who have successfully taken their products online in the UK, what are the key considerations they need to think about when looking to take it international?

Ensuring the customer experience is solid – this means, when someone overseas buys a product from your website, is the price competitive or punitive?  How long does it take to get the delivery? Are the returns options localised?  Are the right units of measurement used? Again, the devil is in the detail, and it requires reviewing every single interaction a prospect or customer has with your brand to identify where the experience can be personalised and localised.  And again, in many cases this is in the very unsexy but incredibly important area where you can win or lose customers for life.

Brands also need to think about what functions to centralise vs localise.  Starting out, I find it very useful to have some marketing help on the ground; someone who really understands the nuances of the promotional calendar and the customs / norms that could make or break your marketing efforts. 

What online brands do you think are doing a great job just now and what makes them stand out?

Brands who create a community, who live their values and who offer a really compelling reason not only to buy but to engage on a broader level.  Some of these brands are huge, like Nike, who have done a brilliant job of creating content that is meaningful and useful to my lifestyle as a runner, and so they mean more to me than simply a place where I can buy running kit; on the smaller end of the scale are brands like Thrift. Plus which is a second-hand clothing marketplace that supports my personal charities and which adds gamification elements to the process of donating and selling clothes. Its user experience is brilliant, and they’ve thought of every single little detail.

On a personal level, where do you find inspiration?

Talking to my network of smart friends. Ideas come from lots of different places, and it’s a matter of listening to a variety of points of view and then synthesising them into something useful and meaningful for me. I also get inspired talking to my husband, who never fails to make me think of things I never ordinarily would have. 

If you had to recommend one ‘business’ book, website or social channel, which would it be?

I follow Scott Galloway, who is a marketing professor at NYU and entrepreneur who has started a handful of companies and sold a few along the way. He is getting a bit overexposed at the moment but that aside, he’s a great writer and strategic thinker, but also incredibly practical.  I always learn something after having listened to his podcast.


Gabrielle is joining us for this years' Digital Day 2020 - Join us!

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