In the lead up to Australia Post’s Online Retail Industry Awards (ORIAS), Power Retail chats to small alternative fashion retailer, Beserk about its 2017 People’s Choice win, and how the brand is developing its e-commerce offerings in time for the 2018 awards.
Beserk was founded back in 2000, expanding from a small operation to a multi-faceted online fashion business. In 2002, the store was operating from a basic HTML website, and by 2008, the alternative clothing and accessories brand was reportedly stocked by 50 stores across Australia.
“We were very early to the online retail game,” Fleur Brazier, the creator and owner of Beserk tells Power Retail.
However, the brand didn’t develop into the business it is today until after the Brisbane Floods, when the company’s head office was flooded, destroying all of its stock.
“We lost everything. The water hit the roof and all our stock and the computers; everything was lost. Fortunately, we were lucky and we had full insurance, so it was a good time for a fresh start,” Brazier says.
“We started the business again as Beserk and decided to not only sell our brand, but to also sell other brands that sell well alongside Beserk Clothing, so it was then that our online store really started!”
Beserk is a well-rounded online business that differentiates its offering by supplying consumers with products that aren’t readily available in mainstream stores. As such, the businesses approach to the e-commerce market has been developed to suit its specific needs and overall objectives.
Over the years, the company’s online systems have evolved substantially. According to Brazier, Beserk started out with an OsCommerce store, moving into Magento, and most recently, Shopify, which is a popular e-commerce platform among small online retailers.
“It has definitely been a huge challenge moving platform and we are very happy to be staying with Shopify now,” she says.
However, because Shopify lacks some essential features, the company does use complementary apps that allow it to manage stock levels and connect its eBay account to its main store.
Marketing and Social Media
The company’s marketing efforts have also evolved, fuelled by a system of trial and error, which has led the business to the same conclusion a lot of the online retail community is coming to – social media is a useful tool for customer engagement.
“We have tried many different marketing ideas. We have advertised in Tattoo Magazines, sponsored bands and roller derby teams, and we love being a part of these communities. But, definitely the biggest driving force of our marketing has been Facebook and Instagram; they are huge for us and reaching our perfect target market,” Brazier explains.
The company utilises its social channels for everything from product announcements to competitions, but due to rapid growth since winning the 2017 People’s Choice Award, the brand hasn’t focused enough on measuring ROI through these channels.
As well as social media marketing, Brazier says customer service has been a driving force in its e-commerce journey, as ensuring customers walk away with a purchase they love after a positive interaction with the Beserk team is a “number one priority”.
“Customer Service is the most important factor at Beserk, we treat every customer as a VIP and never want any customer to walk away from their interactions at Beserk unhappy,” she says.
Brazier also believes that this commitment to service is what helped the business win the People’s Choice Award at the 2017 ORIAS.
“We were so thankful to our customers for voting for us and feel honoured that they would take the time to vote.”
Key E-Commerce Challenges
Like any e-commerce business, Beserk has experienced its fair share of challenging situations. According to Brazier, one of the biggest ongoing headaches is remaining competitive with pricing in a small market that’s so far removed from its overseas suppliers.
“The high freight costs to Australia and import duties on orders being sent from our distributors can drive the prices up. But we always try to keep our retails costs down as much as we can and match overseas prices,” she says.
Like many other retailers, Brazier hopes that freight prices will become more affordable as the Australian market continues to grow and distribution options expand.
Beserk’s Plans for 2018 and Beyond
After a period of growth in the second half of 2017 and early 2018, Brazier is turning her attention to Beserk’s mobile strategy. As mobile search and indexing start to shift the way consumers shop online, and how Google is ranking websites, Brazier is keen to work on these aspects of her brand.
“We are finding that more and more of our customers use our site on their mobile. This is on our plans for 2018 to build a more mobile-friendly site, as it is hugely important.”
Expansion is also on the table, as the brand fights to keep up with increasing consumer demand and heightened operational requirements.
“We have just recently moved to a new, bigger and better warehouse and expanded our operations to cope with the extra orders and customers. [We’ve hired] more picking and packing staff and increased our incoming stock orders, while also expanding our range, which has been incredible,” Brazier says.
Brazier believes the possibilities in the online retail industry are unlimited, and she’s excited to see what the future of the industry holds.
“Unlike a bricks-and-mortar store where you only have a limited market and store size, online can be limitless and it is exciting that you can reach customers from all around the world. I think there will be big changes coming up very soon, especially with the advancement of virtual reality; I am looking forward to seeing how that will change online shopping.”
Voting for the ORIAS People’s Choice Award is now open, with polls closing on May 31. Entries for all other categories close on May 11.