Running ahead of the crowd

stylerunnerThree year old Australian online retailer sees 600 per cent growth year on year, shipping to more than 85 countries, and stocking more than 40 brands.

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Stylerunner was founded by twin sisters, Julie and Sali Stevanja in October 2012, who quit their jobs on a whim to start what they wanted to be “the Net-A-Porter of activewear”.

Almost three years on, the online retailer has seen 600 per cent year on year growth, ships to more than 85 countries, stocks more than 40 brands including the likes of Nike, Adidas, and Le Coq Sportif, and last year became the first global online retail partner for Canadian athletic apparel retailer, Lululemon.

Outside of Australia, Stylerunner’s largest market is the US, and yet the online pureplay hasn’t spent a single dollar on international marketing. Stylerunner’s market dominance has been largely lead by its social presence, mainly Instagram, which the co-founders say is its number one marketing channel, with more than 250,000 followers. On the photo sharing app there are almost 25,000 Instagram images that feature the Stylerunner hashtag.

Speaking in Sydney this week, Sali Stevanja said that while Stylerunner’s customers remain at the heart of the fast growing business (that’s preparing to announce a strategic partnership in the coming weeks which will take it from 25 employees to 100 by the of 2015), the brand has always referred to itself as a tech company.

“We didn’t launch as an online store we actually launched our business as a tech company and the reason we say that it is a tech company is because everything we do, whilst it’s customer centric, it’s always about tech. How can we make the business more efficient? How do we make it easier to use? How do we make it friendlier? Everything relates back to tech for us,” Stevanja said.

Despite its successes, Stevanja admits the company has identified “huge” problems with its website, such as user friendliness and mobile optimisation, which are currently been worked on, however, she advises that by retailers focusing on the customer experience and offering add on services, such as Stylerunner’s Runway Blog that offers editorial content on fashion trends, nutrition advice, and fitness regimes, customers will still continue to spend.

“They’re [services] related around people who could potentially be our consumer, but we’re not doing the hard sell. We’re creating a platform that attracts people to come and visit, and through that they’re reading our content and next thing you know they’re shopping on our pages and they’re transacting.

“We have customers paying a $100 shipping fee internationally and they still pay that fee rather than pay $30 from another company or free from Asos, simply because they want to be a part of the Stylerunner experience and want to get the box,” Stevanja said.

The physical touchpoint for Stylerunner is its coveted packaging, which has become just as popular as its products.

“When we launched, we launched wanting to be the Net-A-Porter of activewear. With Net-A-Porter, [customers] fall in love with the box more than the actual purchase, and [customers] Instagram the box more than a purchase, so we wanted to create that for activewear.”

An area of focus for Stylerunner is improving its mobile site. Stevanja says Stylerunner’s customers visiting the site on mobile are using their devices to make an an instant transaction.

“They know what they want, go straight to the page, and they transact, where people on the desktop on average are looking at eight page views per visit so they’re browsing and want to know what the content is. For us, when we start rebuilding our mobile site, we’ll build it with the mindset that it’s a totally different user experience.

“It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s something that will suit people that are time poor, whereas the desktop offering there will be so much more content and allows people to browse. I think the two offerings need to be different because they’re actually targeting different people.”

This story first appeared in Inside Retail PREMIUM issue 2041. To subscribe, click here.

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