An interview with Joe Browns founder, Simon Brown in which he discussed their journey as a business and views of the market today.
Lifestyle and clothing brand, Joe Browns, has had its fair share of Ecommerce providers over the years but soon realised it needed a strong website which could cope with the ever-demanding online shopper. As a result, Joe Browns chose to work in collaboration with Maginus to provide a significant upgrade to their Ecommerce platform.
Back in 1998, Joe Browns started life as a mail-order business but was quick to realise the potential of going online. As an early adopter of Ecommerce at the end of the 1990’s, Joe Browns’ website has always been a significant part of its retail strategy. From the start, their Ecommerce operation was handling just below 20% of retail orders. Since then they’ve grown into a £40m turnover business - with a substantial 90% of their revenue taken via the web.
A rare success in the current climate, the company is currently enjoying strong growth, over 15% in the last year alone. They have decided that now is the right time to upgrade their online infrastructure to cope with growing volumes of business and increasing customer expectations.
Over the next 5 months, we’ll be working in partnership to implement a brand-new website for joebrowns.co.uk. Built on Magento, the new site will help to drive revenue in the UK, as well as improve their international selling capabilities.
In Essential Retail’s interview with Simon Brown, Founder, Brown describes how a stressful Christmas in 2018, reinforced the fact that their Ecommerce site needed an upgrade. Explaining how 3,500 shoppers were forced into an online queue to purchase items – the website was clearly buckling under the pressure.
“I was in South Africa and went online to check a few things and even I had to join the queue to get on the website, and then I had to join a queue to the call centre to speak to our Financial Director – it doesn’t get much more hectic than that.”
Despite its website – in the words of Brown – being a bit “clunky and slow”, Joe Browns as a business has been doing well with its Autumn/Winter 2018 collection reporting a 24% growth in revenue, while sales for January 2019 have grown over 25% year-on-year. They also launched their first store in Meadowhall at the end of 2017, with a few more shops in the pipeline.
It’s this success which has allowed the retailer to invest so significantly in its Ecommerce site, which Brown says has been the biggest investment in information technology “by a country mile”.
“It might be the biggest investment the company has ever made,” he adds, noting how the website has undergone four weeks of build, with a live date expected in May 2019. He says while Maginus were not the cheapest provider, he knew the internal team from previous projects and trusted they would deliver the spec perfectly.
And it is safe to say Brown has high expectations from his investment.
“We want a better brand experience,” he says. “We’re quite a spontaneous company – we’ll have an idea on a Monday and it might have taken a few weeks to implement, but with the upgrade we can have it done on a Tuesday.”
Brown has also been promised a significant reduction in bounce rates, higher conversion, speedier loading pages and faster download times, which will improve average order values.
“I’m absolutely assured that the pay back on this is about 18 months. It was a huge investment. And we don’t borrow money, so it was shelling out of our own back pocket which is a lot more real. When we get that payback after that the profits will come tumbling in,” he explains.
Simon Weeks, CEO at Maginus, describes how customer expectations are rising and demanding more and more from retailers. “They have more choice and they really expect all serious retailers to have similar functionality to the biggest retailers. Magento has an incredible amount of functionality for a mid-market price bracket. And it is scalable too.”
Is online killing the high street?
For a retailer making a significant investment in online while also in the process of establishing its presence on the high street, is Brown concerned about the future of bricks and mortar?
“I think if you look at shopping centres there’s far less empty shops than on the high street – the high street isn’t dead,” he insists, describing how the decision to launch stores was due to customers crying out for a physical touchpoint. “But people aren’t spending the way they were spending because there are so many different ways to spend money and abroad is so accessible online. UK retail isn’t just competing with people in the UK but around the whole world.”
Brown says this is why the company tries to create a strong brand. “Everyone can sell clothes, but we have a brand behind what we’re doing and we focus on the brand as much as the product.”
Indeed, soon after the launch of the first store, they reported that its physical presence was significantly driving more regional traffic to their website.
“Having a store was the final piece of the jigsaw being a multichannel retailer – we’ve crystallised our brand in a physical state.”
This article was largely based on Joe Browns’ Interview with Caroline Baldwin, Editor, Essential Retail. You can view the original source here.
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