#008 – Interview with Co-Founders of Lusty Chic, the trend-setting and reputable, one-stop online women’s clothing boutique shop

Esther and Julius Malik, Co-Founders of Lusty Chic shares how they got started in the business of women’s street style fashion with a shop in the London High Street and successfully transit that onto online business, that is able to stand toe to toe with some of the most well-known online fashion retailers. They share some useful tips on how to stay niche in the fashion and online retail business.

The Ecommerce Uncovered Podcast is a behind-the-scenes look at what makes ecommerce a success in today’s ever-growing and continually changing online world.

The podcasts look to uncover the secrets of ecommerce success, so you can learn and apply to your own online business.

Brought you by the Co-founders of Core Fulfilment, one of the UK’s leading ecommerce fulfilment service providers, Paul Burns and Jeremy Vernon.

Paul Burns: Hello and welcome to another episode of Ecommerce Uncovered with me, Paul Burns. Today guests are Esther and Julius Malik who are the Co-Founders of Lusty Chic. Lusty Chic is a women’s fashion site which sells a wide range of clothing such as jeans, leggings and shoes. Women’s fashion is notoriously a difficult sector typically with high returns and lots of competition. We’re going to cover a number of topics in today’s episode from traffic generation, multi-channels sales, systems and software, fashion specific issues like returns and sizing, customers service and marketing. So, once again, thanks for tuning in. I hope you’ll enjoy this episode.

Good afternoon, I’m here with Julius Malik and Esther from Lusty Chic. They’re one of our clients. We’ve been working with them for about maybe, 6 months now. We just want to have a chat with them about their experiences and their business. But I’ll let them do most of the talking. So, guys, could you give us a bit of the background about Lusty Chic and how you started, even how you started with the business.

Esther Malik: I have a shop in London High Street and based on our client requirements to go online, we decided that it’s time for it. We knew they were already popular in the High Street. Now, how do we transit that onto online business. So, we did a couple of research. We kind of knew roughly what our competitors were doing and how we can do it better. One of the first thing we found out was to be a little bit more unique than the rest of them. So, we need to kind of outsource our product and find suppliers that does a little bit more unique stuff one day.

Paul Burns: Do you really try and find stuff that other people didn’t have in your niche?

Esther Malik: Yes.

Julius Malik: We know it. But we actually knew the target market, because we gone from the High Street, we were able to reorganise who we’re going to sell to, what the target market is. I would say it is important to differentiate to offer uniqueness when it comes to style. But you’ve got to know where you’re doing as well. Okay, so experiment, yes. But still when going for a selection, think whether it’s going to sell to most or not. You have to just avoid disappointment. We had it easier, because we were on the High Street. So, our customers, they help us to pick. Well, if you’re about to start pure online…

Esther Malik: Yeah. You need to do more research.

Paul Burns: Yep. Well, as long as it’s most on online start-ups never have the experience of talking to a customer face-to-face either. So, that’s a big advantage I supposed in many ways. One of the few downsides of trading online is yeah, you might never actually get to meet your customers face-to-face.

Esther Malik: Yes.

Julius Malik: That’s it. That’s what it does. Thus, we’ve had online, set the website. We’re travelling too far. It’s too much to keep coming back in here. Then check from there. I said, okay let’s try it. We really didn’t really want to have gone online.

Paul Burns: Really?

Julius Malik: We didn’t think about it. We invest with them without the guy. We’ve tried a couple of pictures. We’ve thrown it on the web. They actually did sell all of it. But then we didn’t continue, because we were in that boat.

Esther Malik: Yeah.

Paul Burns: How did you start on your own website? Or, was it on eBay or…?

Esther Malik: We actually started on eBay. The website came afterwards. We sell on eBay, and kind of directed our customers directly to eBay. But we quickly sold that. We were becoming very popular on it. We started see there are a couple of other competitors were doing the same style. I mean roughly of what we were doing. The advantage that again that we had, was that, we had at a High Street store. We already knew what the trend was, because customers were telling us we want XYZ. We want this. We already know what will be popular, because we’ve got history and data. Well, if you’re in a new business, and you want to start online, what I would suggest and the best thing, is, to do your research, if you’re selling, I don’t know, wallpaper, check what sort of wallpaper are selling or what your other competitors are doing, and see. The next thing is to go to a supplier, is, can you get a better deal? Can you get the same deal? Can you get something more unique? If it’s going to be unique, who are your target? Is that enough target for that? Is there enough sales you’re going to make input to quire or…?

Paul Burns: Yeah, having a very niche product is difficult. As much as it depends on how big your niche is I supposed. But if there’s some 100 people might wear that product, it might not work. I supposed it’s getting the balance of something that you don’t see everywhere, that enough people want to wear it.

Esther Malik: Yeah, enough people. exactly. If you’re doing it in very niche then you can’t really do too niche and be competitive with price, because then you’re not going to make anything yourself. If you’re going to be selling your own products, I don’t know, market for 100 people and sell it for £20 then you can’t, you really can’t work.

Julius Malik: There is a bit of balance here. The more niche you are, the more money you’ll need to spend on the marketing. Okay. The least niche you are, the more competitors you have.

Paul Burns: So, there’s a balance to be found in there. Yeah. Do you guys find, even know that you’re still trying to tread that line of what isn’t mainstream yet? What isn’t too niche? You still find that in your selection process?

Julius Malik: I think window shopping hubs, because we’re a browse company there’s where we would also go out and see what’s out there. We’re still communicate with the customers. We read every single message that comes with any sort of suggestion. So, that helps you to get it right.

Esther Malik: I think because I mean with fashion especially, there is so much niche in fashion, because a pair of jeans is just a pair of jeans. A pair of top, there’s so much ways you can get to a pair of top. So, even if we’re talking about niche unless you’re doing very much high fashion and you have created a fashion apart from it, there’s usually a client for you. But if you’re doing another part of your business, for example, something that is really, really niche then you really need to spend a lot of time, before you start online to do your research.

Paul Burns: Do you feel, I always have this feeling though that smaller brands are non-High Street brands? I think they’ve got more chance than ever to be successful. Because I think people want to be more different and individual than they ever had been before. I remember, when I was a kid, the last thing I wanted to do, was, stand out. You know, I wanted just to be fit in with everybody else. But now, I walk down the street, and everyone is dressed differently. I think individuality has become a really big thing.

Esther Malik: I think social media plays a huge part. In a way, social media is all being beyond celebrity and beyond personality and being different. For you to be successful in social media, you have to be unique. I think people kind of incorporating that into their style. Uniqueness seems to be, especially now, I think if you really want to open an online business, now is the key and now is the time to do it, because there’s a lot of opportunities out there.

Paul Burns: I think as well, if you think about how fashion is led maybe, 20 years ago. Magazines, television personalities. Actually, anybody can become popular online. You might have to work hard at it. You can create your own style. You’re not having to spend however, much it costs to get advert in a magazine. It’s much more, I think, getting in front of customers is easier than ever, but maybe harder to win them, because there are so many people out there.

Esther Malik: There will be something people are good at. It’s true.

Paul Burns: Do you guys do much on social media?

Esther Malik: We are very glare on social media. We post every day on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. So, you will have to be on social media if you would want to be on it.

Julius Malik: You have to be active. It is important. But then you also need to mind the advertising, because there’s a difference between being active on social media and carrying out strong campaigns. You got to do a lot when it comes to both. Having a belief that everything would go in an organic way.

Esther Malik: You could just open the website and expect it sell. That’s the least thing you do.

Julius Malik: Where you get on social media in a natural way. You get that strong social proof. You can prove the communication and become an income proof, the equality. You can improve being active, et cetera, et cetera. But then when it comes to reaching and getting new leads for your shop, that does take advertising. Okay, you get some go.

Esther Malik: Also, content, I mean creativity now is the key to online. I mean, if you have a creative mind online for you. Because by being creative on social media, you cannot have followers.

Paul Burns: But do you feel social media is more of a validation of your product than actually a sales generation channel?

Esther Malik: It’s a validation of your brand, which can then convert into sales. I think people buy into brand, and people buy into you. If the people understand your brand, they can in a way, understand what you’re all about on social media, is that one of the way that cannot get that out there.

Julius Malik: Put that across.

Esther Malik: Put that across out. Social media allows you to be very creative and to really get people to buy into what you’re trying to sell. While, if you just advertise, and you’re not really social proof, you can’t really put the same message across.

Paul Burns: It’s a bit of a cold relationship, I supposed. It’s just that we sell these clothes, come and buy. The end. Whereas, if you’re showing other people wearing it and that sharing your experiences, it’s about then becoming brand loyal, I supposed.

Esther Malik: That’s it.

Paul Burns: That’s one of the other things I wanted to talk about was, do you guys see a lot of repeat business from the same customers?

Esther Malik: Yes. Well, I mean, the beauty about, and there’s a difference between coming to your online store and through the marketplace, that it seems to, when it comes to online store, customers seem to be more loyal than to marketplaces. The thing with marketplaces, people just type in some keywords, say, I’m looking for high waisted jeans. I went to type in high waisted jeans in there. Then if they don’t show up then customers can’t probably not remember where they bought the last product from. While it is important to have your own website as well, because then you can direct them to the website. But I guess when you’re new online, the first place you want to do is marketplaces.

Julius Malik: Marketplaces, oh yeah. They’re fun. You may benefit when you learn eBay or Amazon and put your products in. But it will boost your sales and then most definitely, it will help you to stand on your legs. That is clear. There is a couple of things to consider when it comes to getting on the marketplace. Firstly, there’s a lot of competitors, okay, that play their game, whether it’s quality or price, or both. So, when starting up, make sure that you put a good margin on your products, and also not to compromise on the quality. That would be need to come first as you’re thinking to remind the business for over a year, and get it a couple of years, 3 years, 5, 10. People will come back and then buy quality products. If you don’t have that, it would be one off.

Esther Malik: It is very important that with online. I think it’s easy for people to think, okay, I can, I have a product that I buy, I don’t know, let’s say £3 or £4. I can sell it for £6, £7 online, and I can make £2 profit and sell thousands of it. What you have to put into consideration is though how many returns are you going to give back. Who is going to pay for those returns?

Paul Burns: The true cost of saving, isn’t it?

Esther Malik: It is the true cost of saving. You’re going to have think what is the cost what eBay fees is going to be. So, if you kind of think of all the fees and all the costs that comes out of it, and postage and everything, what really is on margin, you’re actually making minus.

Julius Malik: If you go low quality and low price, your returns will be high. That means no sales actually costs instead of profits. So, you make mistakes when breaking it down on paper. You think I’m going to go down with the price. I’m going to get something cheap out there, it might actually kill you right at the start. When you buy or get your stock, and think I’m going to select my products and put my selection out there, don’t even hope for a second that everything will sell.

Paul Burns: It’s unrealistic.

Julius Malik: So, you need to include the cost of stuff that don’t sell into your costs. If you skip on that, that can put you off as well.

Paul Burns: Look at all the big guys out there. They are all having an end of season sale, don’t they? Because some stuff just didn’t work and they have been doing it for however long.

Esther Malik: Exactly.

Paul Burns: I think marketplace definitely have a place online. I think maybe 5 or 6 years ago, I felt that everybody that we spoke to that was starting a business was just going to sell in a marketplace. I think now people realise it’s one of many channels as opposed to the only channel you can sell through, because sure enough, somebody will come with a very similar product. We will be willing to sell 50p less. So, sometimes it’s more of a short term way of generating business. But if you want to build a brand like you guys have, you have your own shop and drive people to it. That’s where people become brand wild again. I mean I shop at all the marketplaces, but it’s purely for convenience, and it’s for stuff that probably I can get anywhere. Pens for work, but never clothing actually. I never buy clothing on Amazon.

Esther Malik: Why don’t you?

Paul Burns: I don’t know why. I don’t think it sets up really well for it.

Esther Malik: I mean there is a lot of people that have the same idea, the same vision of fashion. They can buy computers online. They can buy a lot of things. But when it comes to fashion, they say, no.

Paul Burns: I buy nearly all my fashion online, just not from Amazon. I don’t know why. It’s weird. Okay, so you mentioned returns there. We’ve spoke to some fashion guys, and their experience of sort of 25 to 30 percent return rates. How do you guys deal with that?

Julius Malik: I think we’re between 5 to 7 percent.

Esther Malik: One of the returns and the reason why we quite low when it comes to 10 percent in returns is both quality however, we can’t guarantee every single quality. Usually what we do get if a customer returns an item because of quality, the chances of us purchasing the same product in from the suppliers is slim, because it’s no point bringing out the same product again when the quality is jeopardised. We have to sell off what we have no choice. But we wouldn’t repurchased those products. So, it’s important for the customer’s feedback, because customer’s feedback, they are the ones trying the product. So, we don’t know sometimes if the product has a different quality. It could be just as simple as colouring, which you wouldn’t know if you’re buying the purchase or if you’re buying the product. But if your customer says, you know what? The bottom came off. Another person says the bottom came off.

Paul Burns: There’s a pattern there.

Esther Malik: There’s a pattern going on here. Why does the bottom keep coming off? It’s those little things that you have to put into considerations. So, if customers are complaining about products, I will not advice you to continue to restock that product, because then you’re returning 25 to 30 percent. Sizing is a huge issue in fashion. So, if your manufacturers are making their clothes very tiny and you’re putting a size chart saying this is standard size 8, when it’s clearly not.

Paul Burns: They are going to come back every time.

Esther Malik: They are going to go come. There’s going to be high return. So, it’s very important where you’re creating your purchase, putting those as a forefront question before you actually make those purchase.

Paul Burns: In fact, I’ve noticed that working with you guys, that the level of detail that you want on your returns is far in a way the most out of any kind that we deal with. Now, we don’t do a whole lot of fashion. But I think you’re right. I never really thought from that perspective. If you’ve got the same supplier that has the issues all the time, they are costing you money.

Esther Malik: Exactly.

Paul Burns: It could be the best price in the world for a product that looks good. But if you have the same quality over and over again, all you’re doing is refunding, paying for returns. So, it’s very short lived I suppose.

Esther Malik: So, it’s important to know what the issues are, and be detailed as much. Because we can’t improve if we don’t have those information. That information therefore allows you, okay, the supplier, what’s going on with your product? They reply, I don’t know. If the issue becomes so widespread, we might have to just take the product back and just return it back to the supplier. If it’s just 1 or 2 out of 10, then we can roughly say, we know we’re stocking but we’re going to move off from this product.

Paul Burns: Yeah, I feel in saying that Julius is a fan of detail.

Julius Malik: I don’t know, because I believe if you do your homework, if you put some effort into your homework right before you start something, you will safe time and money. When it comes to saving time, we’ve gone through a period when we had to spread our attention and give a lot of time to the operation for example. Then we couldn’t focus on sales as well. We couldn’t focus on picking the right product just as much as we would wish. Okay, there were other issues taking our attention, everything else but sales. This is why we were going to you guys, because when you have it all under control, you allow us to focus on what we talk about right now. We can focus on the product. We can focus on the market. We can focus on sales. We can analyse returns, because you let us and allow us to focus on what we are supposed to do.

Paul Burns: It’s being a retailer.

Esther Malik: I think it’s very important when choosing a fulfilment that with calls, you tick all the boxes, which means that in terms of, I mean when you start a business. You’re still a baby. Usually you will start with doing the communication yourself, probably doing it at the back of your house, listing and all of that.

Julius Malik: That’s how we started. We started with £5,000 of investment when it comes to the online part of a business. Put the shop aside. We started this mostly separate.

Esther Malik: Most people will probably do with less, maybe even £1,000, when you start.

Julius Malik: When you start small, I expect that you do pretty well and grow very fast. You have to think, okay, how am I going to process the whole thing time wise. How much time will I actually have? How much of experience am I going to have? How well am I going to do within the field I’m not prepared to step into? With housing, with equipment, with hazard and safety, staff turning up and not turning up to work, etc. The whole thing plus then shipping, negotiating with shipping prices and similar things even though it’s small, and you speak directly to the carriers that never gives you the price that the fulfilment they could offer. Okay, so cost, cost. But most importantly, time. The more time you manage or save, the more you can spend on sales and marketing.

Paul Burns: I think that’s a lot of mistakes a lot of people make is that if you don’t value your own time like that, then all you end up doing is wasting it. You spend 8 hours a day in your garage or your warehouse, picking and packing orders which is great. But that’s now what you started out your business to do. You want it to be a retailer. You very quickly get consumed by doing the day to day stuff. As you mentioned, are you bringing a whole load of other headache in terms of having people staffing it, and systems and carriers. That all takes time. Ultimately, in some ways, getting those orders out everyday is the most important thing you’ll do, because your customers paid for it. You don’t want to disappoint them. You want them to shop again. When it stops, you’re spending your time looking for new products, refining your marketing strategies, posting on social. So, I think there definitely comes a time when it’s time to make that jump I think to fulfilment.

Esther Malik: I mean it’s quick that you can roughly know the time scale, because when you’re starting out, you can do all that yourself. But when you’re getting to the point, especially if you’re successful online where you’re beginning to have less and less time to probably list your product or be attentive to customers, customer service, then I think it’s time for you to find a fulfilment.

Julius Malik: If your idea is to start an online business, ideally all you like is a laptop. You would like to have your laptop, then you take it to the beach or you take it to a coffee shop or you’re going to Malta. We’ve spent the last winter skiing. I mean we spent 4 months in the mountains skiing. We could work in the meantime.

Esther Malik: It didn’t come in full. It came in after hard work at first. You don’t do that in the beginning.

Julius Malik: Yes, of course.

Esther Malik: You have to put your energy into it. This is the result you get from the hard work you’ve put in over the year, or 2, or 3. It depends because we can’t easily say that as soon as you build an online business, you’re going to go skiing. Then you’re going to go downhill pretty fast.

Julius Malik: What I’m trying to say is if that’s what you want, why would you start your own operation? Why do you even think to get a warehouse, and stuff it with stock, and put like 30,000 pieces of a clothing that you need to manage and then employ all these people to dispatch them?

Esther Malik: We’ve done it on the doorsteps. If we knew what we knew at the beginning, and I think it is a learning for whoever wants to start online. If we knew what we know now, we would have probably done it first. We wouldn’t waste time, effort and energy.

Julius Malik: We didn’t go to fulfilment centres.

Esther Malik: Because we didn’t know about it.

Julius Malik: Right, we didn’t know about it. If we knew that,

Esther Malik: We would have done that first. We wouldn’t have hired a warehouse, have recruitments or staff and all the headaches that comes with it. That would have been our first choice, no fail.

Paul Burns: Yeah, we will deal with all the headaches.

Esther Malik: All the headaches. We’re at this stage now.

Julius Malik: Some people say, you don’t know what you don’t know. I mean you’re not aware of what’s behind the corner. You have yet to discover it while you’re in progress. When you are thinking marketplace, put the price up and see where your products sells. If you start with a lower price, you can’t really reduce it. Okay, if you have to drop a price a little bit from a higher, down to a lower, you can check it in a promotion. But pricing it down right from the start, don’t prepare you from all the hidden costs in the way.

Paul Burns: Yeah, you’ve got to get burned nowadays.

Esther Malik: It is very important to note where you’re starting online especially. Are you probably stuck with marketplaces, because that is the easiest way to land your feet on the ground, because the advertising is done for you automatically unless you have a good experience to advertise in your marketplace, in your website. You will always find people cheaper, if they are selling good services and products. Because Amazon and eBay is the open platform, which you have people from China, from all over. They all come and buy this product online, they come and they look at your picture, and make it half of the cost.

Julius Malik: This will guard other people buy something on the marketplace just do that. This will guard the prices. Just stick what you need.

Paul Burns: I have a bit of a thing on a marketplace, especially more on eBay, I’ll rarely buy the cheapest one of the thing I want, because I almost don’t trust it.

Esther Malik: Yes.

Paul Burns: It can’t be any good if it’s £1. I nearly always go for the one that is sort of in the middle. Because just psychologically you’re thinking, who can do that for £1.

Julius Malik: It’s too good to be true.

Paul Burns: It’s too good to be true, absolutely. Okay, service, in terms of the service that you deliver to your customers, where would you rank that in importance? So, you’ve got them onto a website and they like looking at your product, how important is that offering of cost, speed and ease of returns in particular in fashion.

Esther Malik: Speed is key. This is the beauty of fulfilment centres. Once the product comes in, it gets dispatched straightaway. Customer service I think, I mean back in the days, I would say, you can take 20 hours to answer a customer’s message. In this case, you should try to do within 3 or 4 hours of them answering, of someone sending a message, obviously.

Paul Burns: A day is an eternity now. They will cancel and go somewhere else.

Esther Malik: That’s it, and they move on. So, it’s very important that your customer service is really on point. I mean usually I would always say, that’s the hard part of online business is the communication, because you’re constantly communicating with your customers. It’s easy for the other side to be frustrated because maybe they receive the size that they thought wasn’t going to fit, anything like that. So, you have to be very good at putting yourself into the customer’s shoes and go, okay, I understand. How much is it going to cost me to get that loyal customer back? Then you just say, you know what? I’m going to show you up because I don’t think you’re right. That’s not how you work online in the world and think you have to be prepared to lose a couple of pounds.

Paul Burns: I remember there was a time maybe 7 or 8 years ago, where we were saying, we would respond within 2 to 3 days to customers. That now people wouldn’t take that. It’s so easy for them. But then back in those days we were probably dealing with 70 percent phone calls, 30 percent email. Where I think now that’s turned on its head if not even more, I’d say 80 percent of the contacts that we handle for customers are email. The problem is if you don’t go back quick, you get another one going, you haven’t responded to my email. It’s kind of downward spiral then of we’re never getting back to anybody. Do you guys do live chat or anything yet on the website?

Esther Malik: We add a live chat. I think it’s something we can actually go back on. We didn’t have a live chat. It really worked great. It was an opportunity for customers to kind of have a one to one with the customers. I don’t know how much difference it makes, if they made any difference. I mean it was convenient for customers I guess, but because we really do reply to customer messages so quickly, usually from time within 20 minutes.

Paul Burns: You weren’t having any problems.

Esther Malik: We weren’t having any problems. We didn’t want it to be distracting the customers with that live chat pop up, especially when it comes to fashion. But certain things like if you’re selling other aspects of, I don’t know, let’s say computers, then I believe the live chats are a key, because people need more technical information.

Paul Burns: Specs, what’s the memory.

Esther Malik: That’s it. I think live chat becomes more of a value app or whatever you call it to use on your website. But when it comes to fashion, details are already on the description.

Julius Malik: Make sure that you write on the description spot on, pictures, videos. We do that first class. You won’t need a live chat. When it comes to messages, emails…

Esther Malik: Be quick on it.

Paul Burns: I saw yesterday ASOS have now got a new thing on their website where they are asking their customers to rate the fitting of their products. It will tell you at the bottom 85 percent of the people who bought this thought it was the right size. That’s simple but really effective I think.

Julius Malik: That’s how you replace stuff like live chat, because there needs to be a social proof of particular information.

Paul Burns: You’re giving them all the information upfront. They’ve got all that stuff to look at.

Julius Malik: Exactly.

Esther Malik: With fashion, like this. I don’t know how it works with other things, but when it comes to fashion, this is a really good idea when it comes to fitting, because people want to know how it is. But I mean with fashion, it is very good to be very descriptive, even little things like the stretch of the pants, because you want to make sure that you want to reduce your return. If you’re very lenient with your description, then there’s a chance that somebody is going to buy the wrong item, and they are going to resend or return. So, you will be having 20 to 25 return rates if that’s the case. So, you have to be informative and be accurate, because it’s easy to be copy and paste, something like here, this is what it is when it’s not. So, you have to be very, very opportunistic.

Paul Burns: That’s the stuff we’re doing with the poster, isn’t it? Validating the measurements that your suppliers said, because you know though, sometimes they will get it wrong. So, it’s a lot of people involvement. Somebody can make a mistake somewhere along the way.

Julius Malik: Double check.

Paul Burns: Okay, so the one big thing I always get if I was starting an online store, the thing that would scare me the most is how to generate traffic. As you said before, there’s loads of different competitors out there selling similar products. How do you guys start driving traffic to your own website?

Julius Malik: There are 2 things that I can think of. Not only are you driving traffic, but having it converted as well, because you may get a lot of traffic, okay.

Paul Burns: It has to be quality traffic, doesn’t it?

Julius Malik: Not just that, that too. But you need to make an effort into getting conversion back.

Esther Malik: So, really starts to be successful in your own website, it has to start with the website, the visual of the website. The meta text of the website, the backend of the website, because it’s easy to open a website, and you don’t focus on the visual aspect, because if your website is not working properly, then nobody is going to convert.

Paul Burns: Say if it takes 3 to 4 seconds to load each page, people are going before you even start.

Esther Malik: Exactly.

Julius Malik: This is the side thing. If you focus lots on visual and you got high quality images and you put a lot of them on your homepage, you actually lose the traffic that you’ve directed to it with the loading time being so long by traffic.

Esther Malik: Yeah, it’s more speed now, that’s the key. I mean especially now, 70 percent of customers shop on mobile.

Paul Burns: Really, is it that high?

Esther Malik: It’s literally that high. I mean in most cases, it’s more 10, 15 percent desktop, and then many on tablets and stuff like this, especially on fashion. Because when it comes to conveniency, you’re using your mobile most of the time. You’re going to click away. So, what you don’t want to do is go to a website and you have that kind of waiting.

Paul Burns: Or it doesn’t render correctly, on small things.

Julius Malik: So, before you’re thinking traffic. Traffic often means big cost. You go to other places which will get you traffic. Bear in mind a couple of things, loading time, and see how your shopping cart works, and focus on those two. How fast your website loads? How good the product look? How easily is it to browse? How easy it is to find a product that your offerings would market your own website? How easy it is to click, buy now, and fill everything in and close? Then I can think, okay, I’m ready. I can start investing in advertising and get that traffic in, and then see whatever I thought would sell will sell.

Esther Malik: I mean there’s a lot of ways of advertising. You have Google. You have Facebook that works really great. There’s so many ways of doing it.

Julius Malik: Instagram advertising.

Esther Malik: Instagram as well. Social media, we’ve mentioned that. That also helps. So, you see people tend to be very active on social media, because you would probably be advertising most of your products on social media, through Facebook and things like this. I mean again, traffic at the beginning, be prepared to lose some money, because we’re not always going to get it right. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be prepared to make a loss to learn to then make again.

Paul Burns: Even sites that are converting well, if you’re getting anywhere between 4 to 7 percent conversion on your website, I think you’re doing really well.

Esther Malik: That is really, really high.

Paul Burns: You say that’s really high, yeah.

Esther Malik: That’s really good if you’re doing that. It depends on the industry as well, because for example, fashion industry, I mean the average is 2 to 3 percent. Because a lot of you may call it window shopping, where people want to see, but no money, maybe not.

Paul Burns: Wait till pay day.

Esther Malik: That’s right, and then come back. Whereas if your computer for example the technical stuff, you kind of roughly have a mindset of what you want. Then you go into websites, cannot find that specific one. That’s when you put in a search, conversion rate is usually higher with the percentage.

Paul Burns: We have protein. Those guys, they run out of their protein. They want it the next day. They are generally brand loyal. The conversion at certain times in the day is really high, because they can’t wait another 3 or 4 days. They want it tomorrow.

Esther Malik: Exactly.

Paul Burns: But they are already fully invested in that product and that brand, whereas fashion is much more impulsive I would think. The weather goes nice and you think, oh do you know what? I need some tops for the summer. I’ll have a look around. But you might look 3 to 4 times.

Esther Malik: Yeah, fashion is a little bit. It’s different when it comes to conversion. I think it’s obviously the cost for the market of the industry. Fashion is the easiest/hardest thing to do. There’s a lot of people doing it. So, you have to be ready to be competitive, and be knowledgeable in it as well.

Julius Malik: It does take time, and it takes effort. You’ve got to learn how to ask questions as well. Ask yourself and find the answer in our lives. If it works, then fine. If it doesn’t, try something else. It’s about what can you do wrong? To trust something you’ve just read or heard and do it without testing it, set it, leave it. Hope that you’re okay for another month or two.

Paul Burns: Do you guys do any AB test around like that?

Esther Malik: Yeah, we do. We did. It’s important with the AB testing, because then it kind of roughly gives you an idea what the customer wants. Because it’s easy to think this is what I want, and be fixed while the AB testing is the B works better than A or the A works better than B.

Paul Burns: A lot of it is trial and error. You will never get it right first time. Just while we’re on that systems, you guys use Shopify for your platform. Is that right?

Julius Malik: Yeah.

Paul Burns: How did you guys site systems again? What the people I speak, write nowadays are asking me, who would you go with now?

Julius Malik: Okay, I’ll tell you why Shopify. We pretty much entered it the first time, because it offered the most features, because it just did. But you can get really advanced with. This is pretty complicated too. So, we went that route. Simplicity is the key. Simplicity is the key. The more complex something, the more it takes.

Esther Malik: The more likely to break as well.

Julius Malik: You have a budget to invest perhaps, why not? But get your team recruited to look after it at all times.

Paul Burns: Simple.

Julius Malik: Otherwise, go simple, which is to find the platform that works for you and doesn’t need you to spend a lot of time on maintaining and fixing stuff that falls apart. In a way, this same rule applied to picking a fulfilment centre, when we came to it. We didn’t want to be constantly around and keep coming back and checking everything is fine and where it wasn’t. We didn’t want battle people who wouldn’t take our advice. First time, it works, it works. Go forward more simplified and use that. Focus on sales. That’s the key. Focus on what you want to be doing. If selling a product is what you want to do, then focus on that and make everything works, but work around it.

Esther Malik: I think now especially, and this is more now than it was 4, 5 years ago, you have a lot of platforms that you can use that it doesn’t have to be. That can be sold as well. You have WooCommerce. There’s so many other platforms.

Julius Malik: E-commerce,

Paul Burns: Workspace, Open Cart, yeah, there’s so many. It becomes really confusing. Because our businesses have a lot experience with Shopify, I always tend to push people towards it. I’ve built a couple of sites myself. If I can do it, it really is that easy. Like putting promos on yourself, like Magento. Again you need to change up your scrolling banners or something. You need a developer again to do it. I think sales are so good.

Esther Malik: So often, the beauty of Magento, we had that at the beginning, the beauty of Magento is that it has the flexibility of you creating almost anything you want to create, and visually, it’s great.

Paul Burns: But that can be overkill, can’t it?

Esther Malik: It can and that is an overkill, because the problem is you have to have a developer on site to constantly keep fix it.

Julius Malik: What are you going to do when you get your developer fired? The other one would need to come and check, spend time on perhaps fixing it all.

Esther Malik: We can also source this. That’s not the problem. But what the issue with a lot of people, there is a way. I mean you must start with Shopify, and they maybe might have to progress to Magento depending on how much of sales.

Paul Burns: I think that’s always a great comment to have. If you’re doing 2 million quid worth of sales, and you’ve got to upgrade, then big deal.

Esther Malik: So, start with that.

Julius Malik: If you go for Shopify, it might be expensive, because with Shopify, many people get overexcited. They will look through the application. They will say, I want this, I want this, I want that, that, that, that, that, because they believe that they needed it all. Then they build that would go for 1,100 – 1,200 a month.

Paul Burns: Really.

Julius Malik: So, just check free application first. Go for all those extensions that you’re not going to use right now to start. Maintain the costs low, because money that’s spent on subscriptions could be spent on stock or adverts.

Esther Malik: Adverts, definitely. I think the key really, if you’re starting online is to be prepared to spend money on advertising, because it’s easy to be like, I’m going to build a website, and I’m going to create a website, and hopefully it’s going to start converting. If people comes, it’s not on the haches they still have, there is footpath. Your footpath is you directing people to come to you.

Paul Burns: It’s like the rent on your shop, on a back alley, or having your shop in Westfield.

Esther Malik: It makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?

Paul Burns: That’s the difference. You pay a lot more to be in Westfield.

Esther Malik: You pay a lot more to be in Westfield.

Paul Burns: They are old fashioned rules. People don’t like spending time on advertising, but that’s how you generate business.

Esther Malik: That’s how you generate business. You have to be prepared to spend.

Julius Malik: To get them at that site. Unless time is spent on checking how your website actually works, the more money you’re going to spend on advertising that didn’t convert. It’s important to ask the question, because first of all, every single website that starts from scratch will not convert. So, you have two options here. Either say, it doesn’t convert, so I’m going to put it down. I’m not doing it anymore. Or you ask yourself, right, why doesn’t it convert, and find the answer, and then constantly search and find ways to improve the conversion and work on it and check it again, and push yourself, you don’t have to waste money on advertising that doesn’t convert.

Paul Burns: Yeah, and you do all that through Google Analytics?

Julius Malik: You may benefit from distant reports where it comes to you on the backend of the website. You will have a benefit from Google Analytics, because that will analyse everything that’s on its way to it.

Esther Malik: It goes on your page.

Julius Malik: Then everything happens. There’s one more thing that’s called Mouseflow. It helps you to see what your customer actually does with your page, and where they drop.

Esther Malik: There’s other apps that do that.

Julius Malik: There’s lots of software that you can use. I think you need to give it time to actually perform, to focus on doing and not just setting up the website and you go out to the pub thinking that’s made it. First 2, 3 years, you need it to perform.

Esther Malik: Yeah, you can see a picture, and be like yes, I’m online now. That’s the lifestyle that I want. I don’t have to put the effort in it. It doesn’t work that way. It will become that way after…

Julius Malik: Once you added value.

Paul Burns: If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it.

Esther Malik: Everyone would do it, exactly.

Paul Burns: Okay, that’s great, guys. I really appreciate your time. Thanks for having me downstairs. Thanks for answering all my questions.

Esther Malik: Thank you.

Julius Malik: Pleasure.

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