Taking Home E-Commerce Giant One Kings Lane to Mobile

Doug Mack, CEO, One Kings Lane

If there was one thing to take from One Kings Lane CEO Doug Mack’s recent soapbox, it was that you have to learn about your product. Oh, and mobile matters … a lot.

We had a lot of fun at Doug’s soapbox, the last in our current digs. What impressed us the most was how in-depth he went into the importance of mobile in the E-commerce space. He even brought two of his chief designers along with him to really dissect how the home furnishing retailer is going mobile.

He gave great insight into why it's important to have a device-based strategy when it comes to mobile. Feel free to listen to the podcast as you read through the summary of the event below.

Feel free to listen to the podcast as you read through the summary of the event below.

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Know Your Product

When Doug Mack was 12 years old, he worked for free at a local computer store in his home town. About the experience he joked:

I had to work for free because you weren’t allowed to be paid. I would’ve gladly been paid.

What actually happened was that Doug and his father went to the shop and couldn’t get help for about 15 minutes. After awhile, Doug’s dad said, "This is for the birds." His dad then went up to the shopkeeper, telling him that Doug knows a lot about computers and would be happy to work there.

Doug learned the ins and outs of salesmanship. Because customers had many questions about the products, Doug went about studying the features. He even took them out of the packaging to do so, then carefully shrink wrapped them again.

No BS. You had to learn about the product.

He carried that tenacity throughout his career. As he put it:

[I] always wanted to work for companies where I love the products.

In other words, you have to be your own ultimate consumer.

Before he was hired as CEO of One Kings Lane, Doug used the online retailer as a shopper. He thought it was a cool concept, and saw the opportunity that help build a better product, better company.

A Soul to the Company

While that early experience helped shape Doug’s approach to One Kings Lane, what also impressed him was that there was more to the company than just selling furniture.

Something that he discovered after meeting the founders, Susan Feldman and Alison Pincus.

There’s a soul to this company.

Doug said every brand needs a soul. And here was a company that not only had a soul, but a strong mission on which great things could be built upon.

A Forum for Connectivity

When you think about it, Doug said, there hasn’t been a lot of new concepts introduced and achieved scale when it comes to E-commerce. It’s the same original players, such as Amazon, which took the offline catalog and put it online.

Doug said there's a front-end opportunity — to use the internet as a forum for connectivity. A place where you can connect directly to customers and get feedback. Something he saw with One Kings Lane.

In a mobile-future where everyone might try to access you from five different devices during the day, to have a universal profile of your customers was interesting.

Doug first felt the oncoming storm of mobile when the iPad was released. He sensed that single device was going to revolutionize commerce.

Best of Breed

When it comes to E-commerce, mobile is helping change the way in which we shop. Companies with a vertical focus will win out, such as One Kings Lane, which is serving the underserved home consumer. A customer base that Amazon can’t serve too well.

We’re seeing that now, as Doug pointed out. We’re seeing more best of breeds, such as eyeglass-only retailer Warby Parker, rather than one-stop shops like Amazon.

Rise of a vertical commerce is interesting. I don’t think it’s a challenge. I think it’s the only way to win the next generation.

To survive, however, companies need to constantly innovate. Take TIVO, for example, which built this great product with a great UI and spectacular customer service. But it had no follow up.

No act two. They rested on their laurels of their first really good thing.

One Kings Lane has constantly added new features to stay ahead, even putting customers in touch with such top-notch decorators like Michael Smith, who's outfitted the White House.

The only thing that matters is to stay ahead is continious innovation.

Your Business Strategy Includes Mobile or It Doesn't

Doug also believes to stay ahead is hiring top talent. He's managed to snag talent from Intuit, Skype and Amazon. As we began talking more about mobile, Doug brought in some of that top talent to join our conversation.

Jonathan Liberman, Director of User Experience, was the lead product designer at Mint. And Sarah Oppelt, Design Director, comes from Benefit.

Doug said that sales on mobile have shot up in the past year. It went from 0% to 25% in 2012. During the Thanksgiving holiday, they saw a 40% spike from the usual holiday traffic. A spike that carried them through the Christmas season.

He even had a mobile moment during the Black Friday, typically the cornerstone sales day of Brick-and-Mortar shops. He saw a huge spike, someone even bought a $25,000 clutch. Which Doug imagined the shopper sitting in a cafe with her friends and subcumbing to peer encouragment to buy it.

With that, One Kings Lane is fast working on its iPad app and retrofitting its iPhone app. When it comes to mobile, Doug said:

Your business model either leans mobile or it doesn't on some levels.

Reduce Friction

There are still challenges with mobile. As Doug put it:

Great design is even harder on mobile.

Storytelling is an important component of One Kings Lane, which is why they use high-quality photography. There's even suggestions for how a product can be used as well as videos. But on mobile, pictures become deadly important. That's because you may have five minutes to capture someone's attention.

Make sure those five minutes are the most interesting five minutes.

In other words, you have to reduce friction, remove barriers for the customer. Jonathan said you have to design with clarity, context and confidence in mind.

It forces you to think of storytelling in different ways, said Doug. Nevertheless, you have to still have that additional text or videos available. That content, however, has to be hidden and readily available should a user want to see it.

Our conversation with Doug, Jonathan and Sara continued as they took questions from the audience. We want to thank them for stopping by and sharing their insights into how mobile is shaping E-commerce.

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