Q&A with founder and CEO of DisruptSports
Fresh from winning Best New Online Retailer at the 2016 ORIAS awards last week, Gary Elphick, the company’s CEO and founder spoke with Inside Retail about what winning the award meant for the burgeoning company and how retailers can connect to customers through mass customisation models.
Inside Retail: How has winning the award been received by the team? Is there a sense it shows you’ve made the right decisions for the business thus far?
Gary Elphick: I look at the team in a few dimensions.
Our customers – they come first and foremost, and we let them know before anyone else. The support has been amazing, they’re on this journey with us and are equally as passionate about quality sports equipment customisation. It’s legitimised the the risk they took with us at the start and gives them something to brag about to their friends on Instagram.
Our advisors – it’s an award that not only recognises the work from the team but that from our active advisors, this is much theirs as it is ours.
And finally our team. ‘You and your dream are nothing without your team.’ They are over the moon, it’s made their late nights and hard work worth it. It’s legitimised the decisions made everyday, phone calls and visits they made to local manufacturers, every designer they’ve had to help digitalise their artwork and all the ‘grey matter’ that goes on behind the scenes to make the customer experience more that just a product purchase.
IR: How has 2016 been for Disrupt?
GE: They say starting up is a roller coaster and I feel like we’ve been to Dreamworld more than our fair share. We’ve helped thousands of sports enthusiasts around the world design custom sports equipment, we were featured on Shark Tank and recently made deals with many of Australia’s top e-commerce providers to ensure ‘no one ever leaves their store through not finding the right size, shape or design sports equipment’ by leveraging our customisation capabilities.
We had my business partner deported form Australia and made lemonade from those lemons by opening a profitable business unit in Europe. We’ve lobbied government for changes to innovation policy and we’ve expanded our Disrupt family of athletes, manufactures and of course the legends at HQ that make it all happen. We’ve achieved a lot, learnt a lot and are more driven than ever for the year ahead.
IR: What are the major challenges for online retailers in today’s omnichannel environment?
GE: What an exciting time we live in?
There are not challenges, but opportunities I see for today’s retailers. This centres around choice and doing what you’re good at.
Firstly choice, I firmly believe in customisation as a solution that solves many pain points in the ecosystem – we refer to it as that as its about the sum of us. Customers get exactly what they want, retailers (on and offline) reduce their working capital and increase their customer base though increasing size and style options by 1000x.
Choice in delivery is a key topic at the moment — where, when, how and what kind of packaging — this seems to be a key point for many traditional retailers at the moment. Choice in how I access you, more mobile first solutions, a consistent brand and tone in retail, online and at every other touch point.
It’s also doing what you’re good at. One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to figure out what your core competency is and then partner with others to leverage each others strengths. This is a big market mentality that is prevalent overseas, if we all help grow the pie then there is more pie for everyone. In customisation and for Disruptsports.com that means getting athlete designers to create collections of designs, it means working with quality manufactures for are agile and hungry and it means working with the retail giants who still have 85 per cent of the retail market.
IR: How can retailers connect to customers through mass customisation?
GE: Retailers have some incredible assets – footfall, 85 per cent of the sales markets, strong retail brand names. For me it would be a question of how do we leverage our assets and integrate customisation? I firmly believe that the future is of retail as an experience, not a transaction place but discovery, engagement and enjoyment, the purchase is ambient to the experience.
Retailers have had success with partnerships with customisation companies – Shoes of Prey, Mon purse, TDE – by utilising the strengths of each other and partnering for the good of the customer experience the eco-system and really push the global industry.
GE: Distributed manufacturing isn’t for everyone but it can add a lot of value to your supply chain and expansion strategy. Distributed manufacturing is about creating custom goods as close to your customer base as possible, using (or making) industry standardisation processes and streamlining production. Instead of always having to go overseas and set up centralised manufacturing consider doing it in the country of sales. The benefits are that you can test and learn quicker on not only the customer side but also in creating an agile manufacturing supply chain, learn how to speed the process up and learn how to remove inefficiencies.
It allows scaling up by utilising a network of local manufacturers you unlock potential to service customers in countries all over the world by making and shipping direct to customers. This helped DisruptSports scale-up sales in the US and Europe. As customisation evolves, I want to be able to make and ship equipment to you within 24hrs and the best way to do that is make it in your city/suburb/street.
3D printing gives me goosebumps, not because of where it is at currently with plastic polymers at home but this is the birthplace of distributed manufacturing, the idea that you can download/buy a manufacturing file and send it a local shop or make it at home. Now supply chain is no longer shipping these from a distribution centre but making it as close as humanly possible.
IR: What’s on the horizon for DisruptSports?
GE: The year ahead is about staying focused. We look forward to the day where where everything is made on demand, and the trillions of dollars in working capital are reduced and where retail as an experience becomes the norm.
The exciting parts for us are working with an increased number of online retailers in AU and UK, helping increase their customer base, expanding our manufacturing integration capabilities and most excitingly implementing our new ‘Design Studio’ kiosks into bricks and motor retailers creating engaging instore customisation experiences. Fingers crossed at some point in the next couple of year we’ll be up for Best Omni-Channel Retailer!
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