Ecommerce Unboxed

Reaching £2M Online Sales in Year 1 with Brie Read

May 21, 2019 Florent Hacq Season 1 Episode 1
Ecommerce Unboxed
Reaching £2M Online Sales in Year 1 with Brie Read
Chapters
0:00
Intro
5:36
The genesis of Snag Tights
17:22
Why Snag killed e-mail marketing
20:26
Quality vs. quantity content on social media
24:00
The recipe behind Snag £2M sales in year 1
30:07
Why Snag doesn't sell on Amazon
32:18
The current state of Facebook
35:39
Should brands still invest in Facebook?
37:36
Upcoming Facebook trends: Facebook Watch
39:27
Facebook vs Google
41:45
Is e-commerce a force for good?
43:47
The state of diversity in e-commerce
Ecommerce Unboxed
Reaching £2M Online Sales in Year 1 with Brie Read
May 21, 2019 Season 1 Episode 1
Florent Hacq

About the episode:

For this first episode I sit down with Brie Read, a seasoned digital marketer and successful e-commerce entrepreneur. 

Former data analyst and CEO of Diet Chef, Brie ran a Facebook agency for several years. In April 2018, she co-founded Snag the “every-size and every-shape” tights company, a business which rose to £2.3M in online sales after only a year of trading thanks to a singular approach to e-commerce marketing.

Brie breaks down for us the recipe behind Snag Tights’ early success, their approach to e-commerce, social media marketing and creating a brand co-owned by customers as well as why they don't do any e-mail marketing and why they do NOT sell on Amazon!

More about Snag:

Website: snagtights.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/snagtights
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/snagtights
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SnagTights
Brie's article about e-mail marketing: https://buff.ly/2HzbnKX

Acknowledgements

Editing by Gonçalo Abrantes
Music “Vera Cruz” by Relly and produced by Snakehips
Artwork by Audrey Hacq

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

About the episode:

For this first episode I sit down with Brie Read, a seasoned digital marketer and successful e-commerce entrepreneur. 

Former data analyst and CEO of Diet Chef, Brie ran a Facebook agency for several years. In April 2018, she co-founded Snag the “every-size and every-shape” tights company, a business which rose to £2.3M in online sales after only a year of trading thanks to a singular approach to e-commerce marketing.

Brie breaks down for us the recipe behind Snag Tights’ early success, their approach to e-commerce, social media marketing and creating a brand co-owned by customers as well as why they don't do any e-mail marketing and why they do NOT sell on Amazon!

More about Snag:

Website: snagtights.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/snagtights
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/snagtights
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SnagTights
Brie's article about e-mail marketing: https://buff.ly/2HzbnKX

Acknowledgements

Editing by Gonçalo Abrantes
Music “Vera Cruz” by Relly and produced by Snakehips
Artwork by Audrey Hacq

Florent:

Welcome to E-commerce Unboxed. My name is Florent Hacq and I'm excited to have you here with me for our very first episode. E-commerce Unboxed is the podcast that let you in on conversations with the brightest minds in e-commerce. Every week for the next two months I'm going to be sitting down with successful ecommerce founders and marketers and we will break down a specific area of e-commerce marketing. The goal is to inspire you and give you insiders tips and techniques that you can add to your own ecommerce playbook so your brand is successful online. For our first episode, I'm sitting down with Brie Read who is the founder of Snag the "every size and every shape tights company. Brie is a seasoned marketer, before Snag she was running a Facebook agency for a couple of years, but what she's achieved with Snag is beyond marketers wildest dreams. I'm going to give you one number: Snag as reached, £2.3 million revenues after their first year of operation. And I need to add a little detail: they don't sell on Amazon! So that is only from sales on their website. How did they achieve this? Well that's basically what we'll talk about in the next 50 minutes or so. Brie is going to break it down for you: she'll talk about how they figured out their market from a very simple, but very real problem, how they talk to their customers and include them in all the decisions they make, how they market their products and some of the other bold decisions that they took and which seems to be paying off big time. So tune in. I hope you enjoy and I hope you learn as much as I did. And I'll see you on the other side. I'm here with a very special guest, which I'm very excited to introduce you to. Brie how are you doing?

Brie:

I'm good!

Florent:

This has been a long overdue catchup, we've tried to catch up few times before and I think the last time we saw each other was few years ago when we were both helping CRU Kafe. Just to give the listeners a little bit of context of how we met: we met at any e-commerce event, which was organized by Leon at Piper, an investment firm in West London. And this must have been four years ago. So you were presenting on Facebook and I was presenting on Amazon, then we went for drinks with the rest of the guys there and ended up, I think at Mcdonald's in the middle of the night. So You know, great bonding. How have you been since then?

Brie:

Gosh, so many things happened since then. It's been a really intense, 4 years. The whole Facebook thing has been so interesting in exploring how that's grown so much, but now is kind of in decline slightly as well, as it become more difficult for people, what it means post GPR and you've got less opportunity to target and it is harder to make it work for people. And then starting Snag and actually being on the other side again. So being on the agency side and now you are suddenly a founder and you've got a brand and you've got one thing you passionate about and you get to concentrate on doing just one thing has been really, really amazing.

Florent:

So before we really jump into the conversation, I want to say why I'm excited to have you on the show. There are three reasons. The first one is you mentioned Facebook, you are a Facebook marketing genius. I know for a fact that my listeners want to hear everything about tips, advise and how you can use Facebook to promote your brand. But also I want to get your opinion on the platform in the light of everything which is happening and the sort of bad press they are getting. The second reason is because you recently co-founded a business called Snag and you guys are doing incredibly well. I want to hear about the genesis of the project and also, I feel like you built a great product and you have a very authentic marketing strategy and way of talking about the product. So I want to hear about this. And the, the last reason why I'm really excited to have you on the show is because I feel like you're really embracing your own way of doing things. So we've known each other for about 4 years and we've been working on different things and I follow, what you're up to on Linkedin and so on. And I really feel like you have your own style and it's very authentic and you're not afraid of being yourself, if that makes sense.

Brie:

No, that's really true. I really try and live by it and everything I try and do, I do differently from the start because I don't think you get better results by doing things in the same way they've always been done. If you want exceptional results, you need to do things differently. And that's my kind of my baseline.

Florent:

I think that's super inspiring. Honestly, because I think that's the way forward. Just you know, be yourself, find whatever you are really passionate about, what you like do it well and move forward. So it's inspiring and refreshing. But yeah, that was kind of my intro. Maybe we can start talking about snag. So can you tell listeners about snag and why you started this company?

Brie:

Yeah, sure. So Snag was basically started because I couldn't find tights that actually fit and neither could any of my friends. So we discovered there was actually a baseline broken market where all of these people wanted to buy tights that actually fitted them and everything they were buying were uncomfortable, fell down, didn't fit properly. And everybody had this horrible feeling, they call it the tight dread. So every morning before you get up and have to put your tights on and you're going "oh, I don't want to have to put them on, I don't want to have to do this". And you just thinking it shouldn't be like that in this day and age, you know, this is a simple problem and we should be able to fix it. So we started by actually fixing the problem, which was apparently all tights were the same width, they just varied in length. So even if you extra, extra small, extra, extra, extra large, you were really trying to fit in the same size tights, which was crazy.

Florent:

So there was no different size, no sizes of tights in the whole market?

Brie:

There was no different sizes. So we basically, we started making different size types. So we've got very small ones and we took some machines out of retirement that we use in the 1950s to make those. And then we do them in really big sizes as well. And we had to actually innovate and create machines that would be able to make it that size. And we now offer six different sizes of tights that fit everyone from size 6 to size 36.

Florent:

Okay. Why do you think no one figured this out before?

Brie:

I think it's really easy to blame the Patriarchy for this. I think in some ways that is true. So tights were traditionally being made by men and bought in a very throwaway ways so nobody gives you feedback about whether or not they work or not. So I don't think the industry knew they had as much of a problem as they did because they weren't listening to what customers think. And they're not using the products themselves and listening to what customers think is central to absolutely everything I think you should ever do as a business. And you know when you listen to women and we actually went out and we did a survey and 90% of women said that tights didn't fit; 90% that's ridiculous! And then we asked them if having tights that fit would make their lives fundamentally better, 70% of them agreed with that; making their lives fundamentally better!This is just super, super strong. And when we saw those numbers we were like, okay, this, you know, we have to fix this for women and we have to do this.

Florent:

How did you come up with the name?

Brie:

So we tried lots of different names and in the end I was looking for something that people would remember. So for me, the worst thing you can do when you run the company is having name that's forgettable. So I wanted something that was instantly associated with tights and tight snagging is a bad thing. But snag is a word that you can't disassociate from tights, they're so synonymous. And that's something that I wanted in a really strong way. And for me in a way, the inspiration was Graze, right? So Graze is not a good thing, to graze on your snacks is not good cause you eat all day then. But Graze and snacks are so synonymous and they changed the word into something positive over time. So actually I was thinking, you know, you snag yourself a bargain, you snag yourself a good deal. There's lots of positives around that as well. So we'll take that word and we'll own it and we'll make that space work.

Florent:

That's great. How did you find your suppliers? Because it's very important. As you said, you started with a real problem that you needed to fix so you needed the right products. How did you go about this?

Brie:

It took 2 years to find the right supplier. So I talked to everyone in the tight market first it turned out very difficult to find anyone that would talki to you about tights and then I talked to people in China and Japan and Poland, Italy and all sorts of different places to eventually find someone who was passionate about the problem because most people were just like "we make tights, they're fine. We sell the tights, why we you want to do anything else?" And it was actually working with the supplier that was as passionate about solving that as an issue as we were. And when we found them, it was like "you're the right fit". From a strategy point of view, we keep our prices really low. We operate the business on a relatively low margin so that we can sell our products at affordable price and also so we can pay our supplier what the product is worth. And that's very important to me as well. So they're not the cheapest tights that you can buy, they're actually probably the most expensive that we could purchase from. But it's all about the quality for the customer.

Florent:

Okay. And where are the producers based?

Brie:

They are produced in Italy.

Florent:

So you decided not to go for, say China or a place where you can get the cheapest products but rather focusing on the quality first and pay the right price.

Brie:

And that's for us all about repeat purchase. So one of the things that we found is in our first month of trading, I went back recently to look at how many people have repurchased with us since our first month of trading. And it was 60% of people that bought in the first month of come back to us since then. And I think that's all about the quality.

Florent:

That is huge to work with many clients and I think 60% purchase repurchase rate especially because you haven't been going on for that long.

Brie:

It's only been 10 months

Florent:

It is quite incredible. Nice! What do you enjoy the most about Snag? As a founder and so both about the company, what you're doing and about your role?

Brie:

The thing I like about my role I guess is getting to talk to customers. So we do something called the social conversation. So we converse with our customers all the time. So we have, 288 comments across the Instagram and Facebook and Twitter every day. And that's excluding the emails that we get. So we talk to our customers all of the time. We have an ongoing social conversation with them, which I am the biggest part of, and I love doing that so we get immediate feedback or something goes wrong or something goes right or what people want in the future, what they love, what problems they have and we talk about that with all the time. And that's amazing. I absolutely love that.

Florent:

It's really interesting. Sorry to interrupt you. It's really interesting because a lot of founders will probably think straight away "I don't want to be in customer service because this is going to take a lot of my time and my time will be better invested in other areas". So you, you're taking a different approach.

Brie:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think is most important place can be is talking to our customers as much as I possibly can. And it's, it's just great to get to see the difference itmakes people in people's lives. You know, we get these beautiful emails from people, people take send us pictures of them in their tights, there's so many wedding days that we've already been part of like amazing. You are just making people's lives better. And then from a business point of view, it's made my life better. So we've run Snag completely virtually. So we've got no start time or end time for any of our employees. We take as much holidays as we want it, and we run everything completely virtually. So we run effectively off what's app. So we've got about 10 employees. Everyone's in whatsapp chat and we'd run from that. Everyone works wherever they are. We've had people be on holiday in Bali, we've got some people who are in Barcelona, we've got some people that are up in the top of Scotland in Inverness and it all runs in this kind of beautiful virtual way. And as long as the work is done and you've got coverage, if you want to go away, that's absolutely fine. If you're out, that's fine as well. But I love the way that runs because it means I can spend my time being where I want it to be. Everybody else is happy as well. And you pull together just this amazing team, which has been completely inspirational me to see the difference working like that makes to people.

Florent:

Yeah. Lifestyle wise, it's incredible what you can offer your employee. How do you create a culture or make sure the culture remains aligned and relevant when everyone is in different locations?

Brie:

So what we do is we try and bring everyone together every month or every couple of months and we do just really fun stuff. We always think about it as breaking bread together: we spend time and we eat with people and we drink with people and we talk to them and we understand who they are as people. So those points aren't about working but more about connecting.

Florent:

And sorry, how often do you do this?

Brie:

We do this about once a month and we can get everyone in one place then we'll go do something. We have an amazing meal, we have like great drinks afterwards, we chill together. We've done all sorts of things. We did axe throwing once.

Florent:

That's an interesting one! No one was hurt?

Brie:

No one was hurt and everyone was very competitive towards the end of it. Which was good as well, but we do, yeah all sorts of crazy stuff like that.

Florent:

I've read somewhere that you describe Snag as a co-owned brand between the customers and yourselves. What does this mean?

Brie:

That basically means that we listen to what our customers say and their opinions about what we do are as important as ours. Our customers have been telling us that they want more colors and we give them more colors and we give them the colors that they've asked for and we talk to them about what they want so we understand what their problems are and what solutions they want. Recently we did a new marketing campaign and rather than come up with the ideas ourselves, we went out to our customers and we're like "what would have made you buy? What do you think is the main selling points for Snag? How would you sell it?" They gave us all their amazing ideas and those became the adverts and we wasked them "would you like to feature in them?" And so many people said "yes, yes, yes, yes put me in your ads, put me in your ads" and then they become, you know, the faces of our brand as well. So all of those decisions we made together. It's a good thing and sometimes it's a difficult thing. So when things go badly we had some issues with the delivery company and we had one batch of tights that had issues in the factory production. And so when that stuff happens as well, we come out publicly and we go, you know, guys, this happened and we're really, really sorry and this is what we're going to do to make it right. And, we do it publicly, we do it in front of everyone and that means that they can continue to be part of that process. And when we changed mail supplier, we were like, we're going to change to my Hermes. And everyone was like "don't, don't, don't, don't do it" so we were like "okay, okay, okay, what do you guys want?" And they told us what they wanted instead. And that's what we did.

Florent:

So I worked at Amazon few years ago, well was a while ago now, it seems at least, and I remember there was an internal myth that Jeff Bezos will always have in his meeting an empty chair and it will say this was the customer because we always needed to think about the customer when we were making decisions and it feels like you are doing this but almost pushing it further because you're always talking to them. And so it's almost like they're part of the meeting in a way. Or maybe you guys discuss things and say, okay, we're going to do this. And then you put it up. Yeah. How do you have an efficient process in place so you can speak to customers and get the right input?

Brie:

So we mainly do it through Facebook and Instagram because that's where people spend a lot of their time. That's where they want to communicate with us. Again, we don't do any outbound email because customers don't want it. When we asked them, they were like, we're sick of getting emails from people. So we just don't send any, so the only time we'll email a customer is if they email us a query, then we'll email them back in a customer service capacity. But we don't do any mass customer emails. We don't hold people's data in that way because that's not how they want to communicate with us. So we communicate through Instagram, through Facebook and that's really about it.

Florent:

Okay. I saw you wrote an article titled "why we killed email" or something like this, which is exactly what you're talking about. Do you think it's because your audience is not interested in e-mail? Would you say it's a more general thing where people just don't want to communicate by email.

Brie:

I think it's a really general thing. If I look at the way I behave with email or I look at the way my friends behave with email, I check my personal email in the morning and I'll check it before I go to bed. And that's it. And don't read any of the emails that brand send me, not unless it's a 70% offer and then I might click on it. And you're in that situation where you're not actually conversing with someone. An email isn't a conversation, an email is you just shouting at someone and not listening to what they have to say back to you. And that's not a conversation, which is why we don't do it.

Florent:

Okay. It's very interesting. I think it's a little bit controversial because I know a lot of companies who still use email as a big part of their retention and acquisition strategy. I agree with you though, I think sometime we keep doing things because we've always done it this way or at least in the past few years and we should switch it up. I guess the only sort of counter argument I have to this is that there are two emails that I actually read. So I was thinking when you were talking, I was thinking, do I actually read email from brands? There are two emails which I read and they're not actually from brands per se. They're from individuals. So one is Scott Galloway. I don't know if you know him, he's a NYU professor I'm a big fan and every week he has this newsletter which is a great piece of content. He sends it on Friday afternoon, like around five or six UK time and pretty much every week I read it consistently. And the second one is an author call Mark Manson. I like reading his stuff as well. So maybe that's an alternative. If you have really interesting contents then, but then that's not a marketing e-mail.

Brie:

Yeah, that's not a sales email. And I think again, with any content that you put out content on Instagram, content on Facebook, if that content isn't going to make a difference to somebody's life, if it's not going to make them think or it's not going to make their life a little bit better or it's not going to make them laugh or it's not going to make them happy, then you shouldn't communicate that. You're communicating just for communication sake. And that's not going to do anything. So I think the quality of communication is always really, really important as well.

Florent:

And it's all, it starts with amazing content, or really good quality content.

Brie:

And you're right, actually when you said that, that email that I actually read is the Agatha Christie newsletter because I'm a massive Agatha Christie fan. So she was a like a newsletter that goes out once a month with like what's happening and things like that. I read it absolutely every time it comes through but that's the only one.

Florent:

Okay I have a question about just about what you were saying around content and Instagram in specific. So Instagram seems to be the big channel at the moment. It feels to me that Instagram, almost prefer quantity over quality or at least incentivize people to post a lot. And this to me creates potentially an issue with the quality of content because, for you to optimize your content on the channel, if you need to post say three or four times a day or more, it becomes really hard potentially to have relevant content. What are your thoughts about this?

Brie:

We actually tested it. We looked at posting three times a day, which is always what people recommend on Instagram versus only posting when you have good content and actually the results of only posting when you had good content were much superior over time posting than three times a day. So in my opinion, looking at the data that I've seen, it's a myth and we post only when we've got something to say something new to say, something interesting to say.

Florent:

So you don't post once a day, you don't have metrics around posting?

Brie:

Nope. So we post probably once every three days, sometimes a little bit less often than that but it's when we have something really interesting to say. Facebook is different. I think Facebook's algorithm change that happened recently means that you should be trying to post on Facebook every day to help your ad performance. So they're now adding on organic engagement to your ad performance, so you do have to make a link around that. So it's important to be posting on Facebook really regularly, perhaps every day. But again, it doesn't need to be a quality post. You could, put an article that was interesting for people. You know, it doesn't need to be brand new, brand led content. It's just about making sure people engage: reshare a link or big somebody else up or share a customer comment or something like that. You can keep it very simple. But you should try and keep that page a little bit more active because I think a lot of people have gone "Instagram's where it's and I'm going to post three times a day on Instagram, nobody looks at my Facebook page anyway and now I've got my Facebook advertising" but i's now important just to do a little bit of engagement around your page. But within Instagram, we only post when we've got something interesting to say that will make a difference to people.

Florent:

Okay. So I have a $1 million question for you both on Facebook and Instagram. And the answer might be different for the two channels. What is the right split between organic content and paid, and how do you approach it?

Brie:

I think you cannot ever guarantee to get any sales through organic content. So for me it's something that everything you get from that is a bonus. That you don't want to rely on that as your core strategy. So your core strategy, day in day out sales that you could predict, that you can build into the future, should be on paid. And then what you do on your organic stuff is a nice extra where you get it but you can't rely on it. If you start to rely on it, you'll just come to a bad end somewhere down the line when it doesn't work in the same way for you.

Florent:

As a brand, if I have amazing content, should I put it through organic or paid or organic and then push it with sponsored ads.

Brie:

I would do both. If you've got fantastic content but put it in both locations and really with paid you're just guaranteeing more people see your content. That's effectively what you're doing. So if your content is great, put money behind it and get even more people to say it.

Florent:

I was reading somewhere, because I think you were featured in some press at the end of last year, and I read that you were on your way to make £2 million revenue for your first year of trading. Yes. Is that correct?

:

Yes, that's correct.

Florent:

This is nuts. Those numbers are nuts. So I guess my question is, what's your secret with customer acquisition? How did you get up to those numbers so quickly?

Brie:

So there's lots of parts to it. I mean, one, so our conversion on our website is 10% and I've spent a long time in e-commerce and I've really never seen a standard conversion rate above 3%. And I think we do that because we are very conscious of how we engage in people through the entire journey. So you know when somebody is new to your brand, the first part is making sure your social proof is out there. So all of the people that use your product and love your product or talking about you, and that helps when people are in that kind of first phase of the relationship, that kind of stalker phase where you're like "I'm going to find everything else about them". At that point the potential customer isn't going to ask you anything directly. They can go to their friends "Oh, have you heard of Snag tights? Do you use them?" If somebody goes, yeah, I love them, they'd be like, okay that's good. You know, and then they'll have a look on your social media. And they go, oh well I like this. And I like that. And they'll do a whole lot of research before they even get to coming to your website and starting talking to you directly. You see, you need to make sure that first part is well catered to. Then when they first start to engage with you, like any new relationship, it's lots of talking. They want to ask you questions: what size will fit me best? What heaviness of tight should I have? What colors work, how do I wash them? How do I do this? People actually want to talk to you about those things. So you could just have a website that has all that information on and just go, well, it's all on the website or you can talk to them, engage with them and they want to have those kinds of questions answered. And then when they finally get their products, then they want to tell us about it. They take pictures of it as they arrived through the door and they want to show us the outfits they put together with the colors. We want to respond to that as well and go "Oh My God, that's amazing. We never thought about wearing it in that way! You know? That's brilliant." And it's engaging with them in that way. So I think a huge amount of why we have such good conversion and why our acquisition has worked so well is how we look after our customers through that journey and how we don't do things in the easiest way. We do things in the way that's best for that person.

Florent:

Prior to the purchase. Where do people want to engage on social or on the website?

Brie:

Mainly on social. So all of our advertising is on social. We push people to the website, but we do finally do a lot of that kind of due diligence stuff on our social channels and customers ask us questions on social.

Florent:

Because I see a lot of brands now who have this thing on the website, when you go on their website, something pops up which says "Hey, you want to talk? Blah Blah Blah" but no one really uses it. I don't know, it's almost like in a shop when, someone comes to you and say "Hey, can I help you?"

Brie:

Sometimes it's way too full on? So I find that about popups: every website I go to at the moment has a pop up that says you get 10% on your order if you give me your email address and I'm like "I haven't seen your products why would I give you my email address?" So again, all of that is very full on. So we wait until the customer comes to us to ask a question and then we're there for them. But we're not pushing them into that. It's all about them coming to us and them wanting to start that conversation and then we're there for them.

Florent:

What's your website? What does power your website?

Brie:

It's a Shopify website. My business partner built it in 2 hours in a pub.

Florent:

Okay. It helps in a pub! It's amazing, I encourage the listeners to go on the website to check it out. It's a really simple website but it's easy to navigate. Everything is there and there's no waste. It works.

Brie:

It's an interesting thing, my business partner's background is in technology and lean and agile and the whole purpose of the way they look at things then is that you only add things in when you really need them. So when he built the website, he went "I'm only going to put on it what you actually need to function a website" . Untill people ask us for more features and lots of people ask us for those and we know it's a genuine demand, we won't put those additional pages in. So rather than having a big about us section, rather than having all of these massive parts that you spend so long building on your website, if no one's going to read them or engage with them, why should they be that? They're just making it more complicated to purchase and you make it more difficult to get to p roducts are more difficult to get to that point. So we add stuff onto the website when people want it rather than, you know, it's a website. So it should have all of these things.

Florent:

It makes sense right? Because the about us section for instance, you can have that in your social, and people, as you said do their due diligence and they don't really trust the about us section on the website. They're going to go to tTruspilot and check reviews, and go on social. That's a really good point. I want to talk about other things and I'm just mindful of time. So before we jump into another subject, where do you want snag to be in say five, 10 years?

Brie:

Euh Making tights for everyone all over the world. Okay. It's impossible to know where you're going to be in five or 10 years but I would really love to be able to take the success we've had in the UK and be able to internationalize it as much as we could. Okay. We see so many people asking us from different countries having the same problem, you know, can I buy your tights? When can I buy them here? And I'd really like to be able to do that for people.

Florent:

Do you sell on Amazon?

Brie:

We don't sell on Amazon.

Florent:

Interesting. Why if there's a reason or is it just time?

Brie:

There is a reason and our reason is about customer ownership. When you sell something on Amazon, you're buying that product from Amazon and Amazon owns that relationship with the customer. And that's not something we wanted for snag. We wanted to be able to own the relationship with them. We knew as well it was likely to be an item that people bought many times if they liked the first one, they'll buy it across their lifetime. So we wanted to be able to have that relationship with them rather than Amazon having that relationship with them. So we made a very conscious effort not to go on Amazon and own that brand ourselves, which is again, a super controversial decision. And everyone looks at me and goes, "you realize you could really be making a lot more money if you were on Amazon right?" And I'm like, yeah, I know.

Florent:

So 100%. I actually love this. As I said, I used to work for Amazon and they're doing great things, but also they have such a dominant position in the industry, I'm always happy to hear people who find alternatives. Now again, I worked for Amazon, I do a lot of work with brands on Amazon and I know the potential so I'm thinking, and I'm probably biased, but it could be a nice avenue for you. That's also a way you can potentially reach new customers. How do you mitigate the fact that, when it comes to logistic at least, Amazon is probably one of the best. How do you mitigate this? Do you think that your customers don't necessarily need the product next day?

Brie:

Actually we're, we're considering when we move into the States using Amazon fulfillment, but not actually selling on Amazon. So you know, the fulfillment and the logistics part of it. we are massive fans off in the way Amazon does that. But it's selling on the platform that we don't want for our brand. So we would absolutely consider using the logistics part of that, but not the platform.

Florent:

So Facebook. Prior to snag you co-founded a Facebook agency. And as I said at the beginning of the show, you are a marketing genius and about Facebook in specific, so I'm really curious to hear your opinion about the company now and in the light of everything which has happened in the news, what do you think about Facebook? Can we fix it?

Brie:

It's an interesting one. So I think Facebook isn't going anywhere because it's such a fundamental part of people's lives. So, you know, when emails started, you use to keep in touch with your friends by email: your mom and dad would email you, you'd email them, you'd email your friends and then you have kind of texting overtook them. And now actually when you keep in touch with your family and your friends in different places, a lot of that happens on Facebook or Facebook platforms. Right? So it's happening on Facebook messenger, whatsapp, Instagram. That's how you connected to the world. I think that's not going to change and I think people are quite wedded into that. Even on the Facebook platform, for instance the 10 year challenge that happened recently, where are you going to go to find a photo of yourself 10 years ago? You can go on Facebook, right? Cause that's the only place you're going to have that and it's going to tell you that it was 10 years ago and you have a way to document your life that is easy to access, easy to share with people.

Florent:

Maybe I'm a little bit of a freak on pictures, but I have everything into a hardware with dates, moments and stuff. But I think Facebook is great for events as well and I completely get what you're saying. The thing with email is that it's a technology and then you have different providers. Facebook is a brand and it feels like lately the the brand has taken a lot of damange in term of trust and how people see it. Do you think is this just temporary?

Brie:

I think it's a major knock, I mean, even the way I feel about Facebook has changed and when you look at some of the practices, particularly the data sharing with Amazon for example, and all of those types of things where you're looking at that and you're going "why did you ever think that was a good idea? Or why did you ever think that was, you know, that was a safe thing to do". It feels to me like they have, you know, not thought through the way that they're going to manage that data and the way that they're going to protect people's privacy in a good way. And if you think about that, from the time Mark made Facebook in his bedroom and Harvard to now it hasn't really been down. Nobody had time to really put a lot of strategy around how you're going to make those things work. I understand why it's in a situation that it's in. And I think a lot of it must be technically challenging to unravel in the way that it works because it's been so organic in the way it's been built.

Florent:

To be fair, a lot of those questions are new and they are the first one to face them. So it's not easy.

Brie:

It isn't easy and I appreciate it from their side. I don't think that they ever intended to be on the wrong side of this. It's just the way that things happened. But that said, I think it has made people a little bit more cautious about Facebook, about what they share on Facebook, how they use Facebook. And I think it's made brands very conscious about how they advertise on Facebook, how much money they're prepared to put into the platform. And also I've seen a big change in performance in that sense. At Snag we use Facebook as our primary platform. You know, I still believe it is a great platform. You can make a huge amount of sales on it, we get 10 times ROI on it, which is absolutely brilliant. I'm not knocking it as an advertising platform because it's still really, really works, but it is a lot more flaky than it used to be. It's a lot harder to get to work and it's a lot harder to keep things working on it then it has been historically. I mean when I started working on Facebook, you put few ads on, you put some money on it and people buy stuff and you'd be like, this is great.

Florent:

I remember four or five years ago, everyone was like, this is crazy, especially compared to Google at the time which was the big avenue for advertising.

Brie:

Yes and then you went down a kind of funnel route. You did your funnel and suddenly it was working better. And now you're in a situation where ads will work for two weeks and then they won't work for two weeks and then something will happen. And you know, it looks like you've had a billion views and you haven't, and all of this stuff, which you're looking at the platform and you're going, that feels quite shaky to me. But that said, if you're looking at it every day, if you're running with the differences in it, if you're not letting it carry you away and you're making these changes all the time, you can still get it to really work for you. But it requires a lot of attention and a lot of care and a lot of focus on it in a way that historically it didn't really need.

Florent:

Okay. What will be the new things that Facebook as a company, so across the different channels will implement in the next three, five years, where do you think there going to go?

Brie:

Well, I think with Facebook video is becoming a really interesting place and video's been hot for a long time, but more and more now I'm finding myself clicking on videos on Facebook and then going into their kind of video stream. They're doing a very good job of selecting multiple videos that are interesting to you. And I find that I've watched six or seven videos before I'm like "what am I even doing here? Why am I doing this?"

Florent:

So is that live Facebook videos?

Brie:

Not just live ones, just Facebook video stream and I can see them using that to great advantage. Facebook Watch in the US is very kind of soft at the moment, but I think that's something that they'll start to harden up and do more around that space.

Florent:

Can you remind the listeners of what Facebook Watch is?

Brie:

So Facebook watch is just supposed to be effectively like a mini youtube. So it's a mix of curated content and content that people put up themselves. And this is kind of 15 minutes long. It's not quite like Netflix but you get some interesting content through there and it's free.

Florent:

They don't seem to want to go the subscription way, which I find interesting because Youtube is now trying to do this with their premium & ad free offers. But it feels like Facebook wants to stay free forever. Which part of it I think is great because it means it's accessible. but the other part is that there has to be digital advertising behind and sharing of data and some of the issues we talked about before. What do you think about free and digital advertising model versus subscription based?

Brie:

Facebook is essentially an advertising platform. I mean that's really what it is. So its entire nature is meant to take advertising payment and that's the way that it functions well and you don't think it's going to change. I think also Facebook where they've been very strong is their commitment to advertising prices. It costs pretty much the same now to reach a thousand people on Facebook than it costs five years ago and they're very committed to keeping those prices the same. But that does mean they constantly need to find new spaces to advertise on Facebook because you need the inventory to be able to keep that price the same. But that was a very strong response to what happened with Google adwords. I used to work in the dieting industry and the word Diet on adwords, just for one click would cost me £30!

Florent:

I had heard crazy stories about, services when you are locked outside of your house and you need to do something to open the door. The cost per click was like £90 but £30 for diet...

Brie:

£30 at that time when it was highly contested. I think very quickly people pulled out of putting a huge amount of money into adwords and a lot of the Google advertising channels because they got so expensive so quickly. It's a very clever decision of Facebook to keep it affordable. It's still an affordable channel to reach a thousand people, it's how good is targeting, which is the best that you've got on top of that. But you know, I think that is a really good thing that Facebook's done

Florent:

So Facebook is great for advertisers, which are, their main customer actually. The problem might be around the users and some of the things we talked about with data and privacy.

Brie:

Although I think that they're very committed to making the changes to keep customers engaged. They're very focused on how engaged customers are with Facebook. So when something doesn't work, what I like about them as a brand is that they're quick to roll it back so they make a change and they go "customers don't seem to be liking that, it's not working well" and they'll just retract it and they'll put things back to how it was. And I think that's a really clever way to be. They want customers to be happy on the platform and engage with the platform as much as they can.

Florent:

There are more and more structural concerns being raised about big tech and ecommerce in general. So Facebook is just one of them, but they're also concerns being raised about Google, Amazon and about the industry in general. How do we make sure e-commerce remains open, fair and overall a positive force for society?

Brie:

It's a really interesting question. I think most exciting things for me about that is that that's what people want so that it's not just what we want as people in e-commerce industry. That's what the population wants. So when you look at things like people wanting no plastic packaging and people wanting to buy from local retailers and people wanting to buy retailers in their country and people wanting to buy homemade things and all of these things. I think actually the population is dictating that they want the opportunity to buy from people that aren't just Amazon or Google or Facebook. And I think it's about giving people ways of doing that. Platforms like Shopify make it very easy to sell on a small or a big level outside of something like Amazon. And it's more difficult I think, to reach people or to advertise in a way that doesn't include Google or Facebook. And I think that's very much feels like a strong monopoly over advertising right now. But again, I think the part of it that's good about is you can be a tiny brand or a massive brand and you'd have the same challenges. So it's very easy to be a challenger and a major market and still be a tiny company where when you used to have to pay £200,000 a month to be on television or you know £50,000 outdoor campaign. Now you can start on Google with £30 pounds per week and see where you get to. And I think that is, it gives it a kind of democracy, which is really, really valid.

Florent:

I have a final question around the industry in terms of diversity. And I'd love to have your perspective as a woman in an industry which is still very men focused / men driven. Where do you think we are with ecommerce today and where should we be going? What's next in term of diversity on all levels, I'm talking gender, race, where companies are based as well. I mean your companies are based in Edinburgh. It feels to me maybe because I'm in London but that most startups and brands all based in London so you know, what do you think about that?

Brie:

I think you've got a lot of startup culture all over the UK and I think one of the interesting things is that it's very cool now to found a startup and you have kids in school growing up and going "I want it to be an entrepreneur" which I also have a problem with because I think it's not a job. You should have an idea before you become a entrepreneur. I think people going around going "I want to be an entrepreneur looking for ideas are perhaps in a frustrating space where I think it should be driven kind of the other way round". If you like startups and you like that culture, you should want to work in a startup rather than being in the person that wanders around going "I just don't have an idea yet" because I think people get trapped in that as a silo of thinking were actually working for a startup and understanding what startup life is like as a brilliant experience for anyone. And actually, you know, when you get the idea then you can go off and do it by yourself. But you know, you seem to get this group of people now, which feel like they should be entrepreneurs but don't have an idea and don't want to work for another startup. And that's a weird kind of space that seems to be growing.

Florent:

I agree, I hear this a lot. People looking for ideas. And at the same time I grew up with my dad having his own company and he was an entrepreneurial, so I maybe was bias but I grew up thinking that's what I want to do. And I think there's something around the lifestyle and maybe it's a little bit romanced as well.

Brie:

You work a lot, you might be able to work flexibly but you work a lot. And I think as well, that's where it becomes a really positive force for everyone. You get a much better balance of life and if you want kids, male or female, if you want to be there for them. Startup life is a great way to do that. You can structure your life around school runs, you can do that. Again I'm very equal opportunities in the sense that men have as much right to sit at home with their children as women do. It's very much about being able to facilitate that life. But I think startup culture allows that in a really great way. And it also allows people to create the level of life that they want. So some people go "what I want my business to be massive" and some people are like "I just need this and I just need this amount to come in every month". What we can do in e-commerce is both of those things are completely valid so if you just want enough and you're happy with that, then you can do that. And it does mean that you have all sorts of people that are coming into that area and doing all sorts of different things and it is very inclusive then which I love.

Florent:

Do you think there's enough diversity? So you said in the UK overall it's good like we've got a healthy industry of startups.

Brie:

I think we do. I read some stats a couple of weeks ago that said about 70% of entrepreneurs are men. For me it is slightly worrying that feels very high, I would have expected it to be near a 50 / 50. Certainly when I talk to people, I see lots of women as well and it doesn't feel to me like it's is that strong a split but you would hope to see it be a very equal thing because it is a very equal opportunities is, there's all sorts of things that you can do is extremely flexible. So you would want it to be as equal as possible

Florent:

In term of opportunities as well there might be bias. Another podcast which I really like called Techish and in one of the episodes they speak about the bias with VCs and the fact that VCs tend to invest more in male entrepreneurs and white male entrepreneurs and so on. And there there's a need for investing in more diverse founders.

Brie:

Yeah I think that's very true. And I think in e-commerce in general, you find a lot of equality but I'm also part of two tech businesses as well which are a much more masculine: everyone that you talk to about is male, all of the developpers is male, all the VCS is male, everyone that wants to invest is male it's super, super, super male. And I definitely see in that space, it's much less female friendly. But I think that's changing when you look at the actual stats around girls and coding. It's all coming in the right place. I think it's much more a marker of time than it is how it will be in the future. But yeah sometimes I'm aware that I'm the only girl in a room full of me.

Florent:

As men we're not very good at noticing this. And that's just the normal thing around privilege really, where you don't realize it and you think it's the normal thing. But yeah it's important I think that men start realizing this.

Brie:

And I think it's just dominant group privilege. Those are the people that have historically been in those positions. I don't think any men in Tech are out there saying "girls are terrible in Tech, we shouldn't let them in". I don't think that's happening at all. I think it's just the dominant culture and it will change over time, but I don't think there's any active discrimination. It's just the way that it's historically been set up.

Florent:

Cool, we've talked about a lot of things. I'm just mindful of the time. Is there anything that you want to talk about that we haven't addressed? A question I should have asked?

Brie:

Gosh, no, I think we talked about absolutely everything didn't we?

Florent:

Yeah, well it was great. Thanks again for your time. It's been really, really good conversation and hopefully the listeners enjoyed as much as I enjoyed having the conversation. Where can people find you and Snag? Can you tell us about the links and social?

Brie:

Yes so snagtights.com, snag tights on Instagram, snag tights on Facebook and now finally after me saying we'd never do Twitter. Apparently we had loads of people talking about us having a Twitter account as well. So our tights are on Twitter too now regardless how much I didn't want to do it. We have one now.

Florent:

That's really funny. Same thing for me is I've never really been on Twitter but I'm thinking now with the show like I'm going to have to be there cause you know a lot of the conversation is there a but thanks again. I'll put the links in the show notes anyway. Uh, it was great to have you.

Brie:

Lovely. So nice to catch up.

Florent:

Well that's it. This was the first episode of ecommerce unboxed with Brie read. I hope you enjoyed, I hope you learned and I hope you got inspired from the conversation. If you'd like the show, if you like what we're doing, please feel free to share it with your network or the people you care about. You can also leave us a review on Spotify or Apple podcast so other people can discover the show. And in next week's episode I will be speaking to Kara Rosen the founder of Plenish. Plenish is a plant based drinks company that is doing incredibly well. So hopefully there'll be plenty more ecommerce insights for you guys. In the meantime, keep doing what makes your heart happy and I'll see you soon.

Intro
The genesis of Snag Tights
Why Snag killed e-mail marketing
Quality vs. quantity content on social media
The recipe behind Snag £2M sales in year 1
Why Snag doesn't sell on Amazon
The current state of Facebook
Should brands still invest in Facebook?
Upcoming Facebook trends: Facebook Watch
Facebook vs Google
Is e-commerce a force for good?
The state of diversity in e-commerce