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E-commerce

Q&A with Bradley Carr and James Patten of RY

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. See our previous Q&As here

This week, editor Heather McIlvaine speaks to Bradley Carr and James Patten, co-founders of RY (Recreate Yourself), an online and bricks-and-mortar retail business that stocks over 12,000 skin, hair and beauty products. Carr, CEO, and Patten, MD, started the company in 2007.

Short on time? Here are three key takeaways from the interview:

  • There is no silver bullet in digital marketing, it’s about doing 101 different things well.
  • Australia has a shortage of skilled, experienced digital marketers, and changes to the 457 visa will make the gap even worse.
  • RY plans to expand its physical footprint from 3 to 12 stores by the end of 2018.

Heather McIlvaine: RY has been bootstrapped up to now. Do you have any plans to take on investors?

James Patten: I think we’re quite comfortable with where we are at the moment. We’re at the scale now where there’s a little bit of cash in the business. We have a much better relationship with the banks than we would have had 10 years ago.

Bradley Carr: Not to say that we wouldn’t look at investment, but at this stage, we can continue to grow in our own right. In terms of our strategy and growth plan, we can dead fund it.

HM: Where are you at in terms of growth?

JP: We’re now serving 350,000 customers across Australia and we have 50 per cent year on year growth in the business.

BC: Our strategy is to maintain that growth, and I think we can definitely achieve that.

HM: How are you acquiring new customers?

BC: A hundred and one different ways. That’s the secret sauce.

JP: There isn’t a silver bullet in online marketing. We’ve been to that many conferences and every time there’s a new idea…mobile apps, geotargeting.

BC: New services and platforms are always coming out. We get emails every day from someone who’s got the greatest new platform that’s going to find us thousands of new customers with the lowest CPA you’ve ever seen. But ultimately, there’s no one thing. We’re all looking for it, but it’s a trap. It’s really doing a hundred things really well all at the same time and consistently that gets you growth.

HM: A lot of that is about having the right team in place. Is it hard to find skilled and experience digital marketers in Australia?

BC: I think experience is key. You can go along to conferences and see people talk, but the reality of putting it in place and trying to achieve an ROI is quite different. It’s a complex spiderweb of tools and it’s very data-driven. There are a lot of marketers and retail people coming into e-commerce, but I think IT people also need to be coming into e-commerce from a data analysis and analytics side, so they really understand the numbers.

HM: Do you think changes to the 457 visa will make finding experienced digital marketers even harder? 

JP: We’ve got two team members on 457 visas [in IT and graphic design, crossing over to UX and usability]. We didn’t hire them because we thought it would be more efficient to bring them over to Australia – it wasn’t – but because there was a skills shortage and an experience shortage.

HM: You recently launched the MUA Shop, which stocks 20 brands curated by Jasmine Hand, an influencer in the beauty space. Do you often work with influencers?

JP: Not on this scale. We have a policy of picking social influencers very carefully. We want them to be relevant. We ask whether the influencer would be buying from us if we didn’t work with them? Or are we just paying cash for comment. I think that’s getting out of hand. From a marketing side, I would like to see that industry cleaned up. In a way, it has kind of replaced the fluffy digital marketing of the past. The ROI on these social influencers is very gray.

HM: You’ve also launched the first product in your private label line. How’s that going?

BC: We acquired the makeup brush company Lulu & Lipstick late last year and we’re working on growing and developing it in the market. Every retail business will look at private label eventually, but you can’t underestimate how big you need to be to support private label. You don’t realise how much work it takes to get a brand get traction. Your product has to be absolutely on point, or all your efforts are down the drain. We’re working on making sure the product is absolutely right, the price point, the range and what we’re going up against, more than the timing.

HM: RY has a few bricks-and-mortar stores in addition to the website. What’s your omnichannel strategy?  

JP: We have three stores currently; the plan is to have 12 by the end of next year. We’ve always been bricks-and-mortar and online. It’s cliché, but the customer chooses where and how they buy. Whether it’s mobile, desktop or bricks and mortar, who knows how customers will be buying in five years. When we started, the iPhone didn’t exist.

Bradley Carr and James Patten were named to Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce, which can be downloaded here.

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