We’re back again with another instalment of our People of Retail blog series. In this series, we will be talking with interesting people from all areas of retail, customer service, sales and marketing. We will be uncovering the tricks of the trade, how they overcame hurdles and their secrets unrivalled growth.
In this blog, we chatted with the remarkable Marcus Burgess, the Director of online perfume and beauty retailer Raw Beauty Studio. Anyway enough from me, let’s get into it!
Hey Marcus, Could you introduce yourself and Raw Beauty Studio?
Marcus: So my name is Marcus Burgess and I am the owner of Raw Beauty Studio, an online perfume and beauty website. We originally started in 2011 as Aussie Fragrance Mall and rebranded in 2015 to expand our range of products from just perfumes and colognes to beauty products, as well as body and bath products.
If you could describe Raw Beauty Studio as a car, cocktail and celebrity, what and who would you pick?
Marcus: I would say Raw Beauty Studio is like your Corolla of the 1980s, trustworthy and always got you to your destination without a lot of fuss. From a cocktail point of view, I see us as a Brandy Alexander, beautiful looking with a slight buzz of excitement as you enjoy the product. Lastly, as a celebrity, we’re definitely Jack Nicholson. Our products take on many different roles for our customers and yet always, please.
What were you doing before starting Raw Beauty Studio and what led you to want to start an online store?
Marcus: I was working in a sales/customer service call centre for a media company. I had already toyed with online selling while still working full time with little or no success. When I was forced to give up full-time work in 2011 due to ill health, I looked into it further, knowing it was something I could do from home at my own pace to fill in time. It started as a hobby, and now it’s a business.
In the early days what were the resources that you relied on to get everything set up and to get the sales coming in?
Marcus: I started with one eBay store like a lot of online retailers, grew to three stores and then consolidated the best performing one, and we went from there.
Business growth often comes down to the perfect cocktail of many factors. However, if you could pick just one thing that really kick-started your growth what would it be and why?
Marcus: Because we are in a very competitive space, I would say my sales/customer service background has been my biggest asset. I know how to sell a product, and I know how to back it up with great customer service. That’s not to say I haven’t made mistakes, but I have learned from most and that’s improved the business for the people that matter most, our customers.
And if you had to identify one ‘dead-weight’ that you had to remove in order to grow what would that be and why?
Marcus: Perfumes are classed as dangerous goods and therefore can only travel by road transport, this stops us being able to offer faster delivery services, especially in busy times like Christmas.
If it super challenging to be successful retailer online. You’ve got to master SEO, blogging, email, social, paid advertising and the list goes on and on. How have you gone about delegating these jobs and what have been the main challenges you’ve faced?
Marcus: Definitely one area of the business I still struggle with because things are constantly changing. Customers expectations also change, so I do the best I can to keep all the different facets of running. As a one-person operation, I focus on delivering the best products at a good price and with free fast delivery to keep the customers coming back. We have tried SEO, email marketing, social and blogging with varying degrees of success. We even did a TV commercial on 2016 on Foxtel.
You’re very active on social media, especially Instagram, how has this helped your brand grow and prosper?
Marcus: With Instagram, as like all social media, we have tried to present our products and services in a way that appeals to the wider public and by doing this as I previously said this has led to varying degrees of success. Every day I am learning something new to try with social media and this, in turn, grows brand awareness and hopefully converts into sales.
Hitwise’s Beauty Industry Report reveals rapid growth in the industry due largely to international luxury brands flooding the market. How have you seen consumer preference change over time and how do you cater to these changes?
Marcus: We haven’t seen a lot of change, to be honest. Sure customers are looking for bargains but we still work on the same adage of giving great service at a great price and the customer will come back.
I would prefer we sold something at $100 and have that customer return to us, then sell it at $150 to make more profit but never see that customer again.
Our customers also tend to like the higher priced items that you won’t always find in a lot of our competitors. Through our suppliers to offer some products that have been discontinued here in Australia and that brings us not only brand awareness but also new customers.
When selling in such a competitive market, what offerings and aspects of your customer service do you believe gives you the competitive advantage?
Marcus: Because we are a small company, we can react reasonably quickly if there is an issue. We also can offer new products quicker. Also as a purely online player, we don’t have the same costs or overheads of most other businesses. Whether that be staff wages or warehouse/bricks and mortar stores and therefore we can pass those cost savings on to customers.
If you could give three pieces of advice to other retailers getting started in the cosmetics industry what would it be?
Marcus: Don’t there is to many already lol! But seriously, do your homework about your products because it’s the first things customers test you on when they don’t know you or your business.
Never lie to a customer, it always comes back to bite you, and a bad review in 2018 is a business killer
Always manage the customer’s expectations the best you can. You won’t always get it right, but as long as you’ve done your best and the customer is satisfied, then that’s the best you can do.
And finally, because we believe in sharing the love, can you give a shout out to a ‘ballsy’ Australian retailer who you think is doing great things and really making an impact on the market?
Marcus: There is a few I like, and I will say I am very loyal to those companies. The one that sticks out for me is our hosting company, WP Hosting. They have outstanding customer service and prices, nothing is ever to much trouble for them.
If you missed the first blog where I chatted with Jen Geale from Mountain Bikes Direct, make sure you have a read.
I’m on the lookout for more people to interview for this series if you know someone, or wish to be interviewed yourself, let me know!