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Q&A with Adam Kron of Catch Group

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2018 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. See our previous Q&As here.

This week, we interviewed Adam Kron, executive general manager at Catch Group, one of Australia’s leading online-only retailers.

Ranking 14th in this year’s Top 50 People in E-Commerce, Kron joined the business in 2017 from Temple & Webster, where he was general manager of Milan Direct, following Temple & Webster’s acquisition of the furniture retailer.

Kron started started his career as a lawyer, but jumped ship to e-commerce after observing his friends grow Milan Direct from the ground up.

Keep reading to learn why Kron thinks e-commerce businesses have more flexibility to move into omnichannel than traditional retailers, and what retail trend he is keeping an eye on.

Heather McIlvaine: Your used to be a lawyer, so how did you make the leap to e-commerce?

Adam Kron: As a consultant then lawyer, I watched with awe as some friends I knew were leaving their city jobs to start their own businesses in emerging markets. Two of them were the founders of Milan Direct, and I was drawn to the excitement, risk and unpredictability inherent in building a start-up and taking on a market. The challenge was irresistible, and when I was approached by the founders to join and help grow a new e-commerce business, a new and emerging industry with a clear upside in the future, for me, the decision was a no-brainer. Fortunately, I have had many opportunities to use my legal training over the years as well and, hopefully, helped save some external legal fees along the way.

Adam Kron, executive general manager of Catch Group

HM: What do you think were the key reasons for Milan Direct’s success?

AK: Ultimately, all the pieces of the puzzle had to fall into place. However, I would say that the key reason would be our unrelenting competitive attitude and belief that we could be a category winner, which lead to us using our smarts to take the necessary risks. We didn’t have external investment, so our discipline in planning calculated risks and executing on them was self-imposed. If you don’t orient your business approach for aggressive growth and market leadership, you obviously won’t get there. In other words: fake it until you make it. One of my most satisfying professional achievements has been to grow Milan Direct with the founders to market leadership without any external investment.

HM: Your experience is primarily with pureplay e-commerce organisations. Given all the emphasis on omnichannel retail at the moment, do you think there’s a limit to what pureplay retailers can achieve?

AK: I think there are obvious limitations for pureplay with respect to simple retail. The best estimates still expect the majority of sales to be in stores for the foreseeable future. Without stores, you are missing out on some product sales. However it goes both ways. Retailers specialising in bricks-and-mortar also have significant limitations as compared to e-commerce players. The exciting part of pureplay is that growth and new opportunities can be found in a variety of innovative ways that are less available to retailers known for their stores. Online players have different skills to leverage for growth, such as digital technology and customer acquisition.

In my view, traditional retailers are more boxed into their specialty lanes than e-commerce groups, and we are seeing e-commerce groups diversifying and growing in unique ways that we haven’t seen before. Obvious examples are the merging of e-commerce with digital content and everyday services that can be sold online. So there are limits, but I would say there are fewer limits than other business models. Also, e-commerce players can always open up stores, if it’s an appropriate move for their brand, and become omnichannel players.

HM: What does your role as executive general manager at Catch entail?

AK: It is an ever-evolving role given all the exciting initiatives at Catch. Currently, my main role is to focus on strategies for growth, which can range from looking at potential mergers and acquisitions, through to launching new verticals. Essentially, I work with the managers in the business to both optimise and improve our current operations and to research, formulate, plan and execute new initiatives to grow the business and improve our offering.

One of the biggest changes over the last year has been the launch and growth of our marketplace, and the ongoing evolution and management of that business unit is sill one of my top priorities.

HM: What are your top priorities over the next 12 months?

AK: Over the next 12 months. we are very much focused on growing our customer base and our offering as we continue to transition from a deals site to a one-stop shop for all purchasing needs. We have recently launched new offers such as our mobile plan offer and our new New Zealand store, and merged Brands Exclusive and The Home into Catch, with more to come. So I expect to oscillate between pushing ahead with new initiatives, and reviewing and consolidating our gains on previous ones. Along with our wins, there will be lessons to learn and course corrections!

HM: What is your biggest challenge/pain point right now?

AK: My role renders me particularly susceptible to the pains associated with the relatively slow and deliberate process of building technology solutions. Ideas can come quick, and scoping a project can also be done relatively quickly, but ultimately most ideas require some technology development. Like many similar companies, our wish list of improvements and new ideas grows faster than the speed at which they can be built. I have a running joke with our developers, where I essentially ask them, “Is there any technical solution that would take a week?” The answer is almost always no.

HM: What new technology or trend are you interested in exploring?

AK: One of the trends I am interested in is the growth of global retailers. Traditionally, the biggest retailers in most markets were local players. That is changing, and we are seeing the growing emergence of global retailers particularly in e-commerce, but also with more and more fast fashion and grocery retailers setting up shop in Australia. The corresponding impact on local players and how this plays out interests me.

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