Focus a bigger part of your marketing budget on digital advertising platforms. It makes sense that as more people are spending more time working from home and purchasing via online platforms, the most effective marketing to capture sales is via targeted digital adverting methods.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anesley Clarke. As the Founder & CEO of B2C Furniture, Anesley possess a deep desire to inspire and transform the way in which the furniture industry gravitates towards the future.
When he began his venture, he quickly recognized a fatal flaw in the industry, whereby majority of retailers exploit what B2C Furniture likes to call ‘fast furniture’ to promote recurring revenue.
Anesley’s pledge to bestow a furniture range that not only encompasses substance and style, but is affordable to the environmentally conscious consumer is glaringly obvious in the manner which he conducts himself and his business. With a clear direction, centered around three essential cornerstones at the soul of its existence, he has built his business from the ground up, focusing on Hardwood Furniture that is Sustainable and Affordable. The folks at B2C Furniture have a profound distaste for ‘fast furniture’, which is doomed to ultimately end up in landfill and contribute to our detrimental climate control crisis.
Prior to founding B2C Furniture, Anesley was the founder and director of Engagis Pty Ltd which is Australia’s leading digital media solutions provider. He has a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering from Royal Melbourne University of Technology (RMIT) and loves being a dad.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for taking the time to spend with me. What a great way to kick-off.
I grew up in a time where climate change and its consequences were first starting to be discussed. From the early onset of its blast into the spotlight, it seemed to hit a soft spot with me but like most teenagers, I found my attention was distracted by the challenges of keeping good grades and more often the cute girl next door.
Fast forward 30 years. I’m now in my forties and we are experiencing its adverse effects.
It is erroneous to think that the threat of global warming lies in the distant future, so we need not care.
When my daughter was born, I suddenly saw the world in a new light; the awe-inspiring feeling of pure love, the enormous gratitude of being blessed with a life so precious; the overwhelming feeling of wanting to protect her and her future.
The notion of leaving her a broken planet due to our wasteful, negligent lifestyle cut me to the core. What am I supposed to say when she grows up and asks, “How could you know this was going to happen and not do anything about it?”
This monumental shake up changed my thinking in my personal life, but also my professional. Not only was I a new father, but I had just started a new business venture, and it was right then and there that I made a conscious decision to focus on sustainable hardwood timber as the foundations of the B2C Furniture brand.
I continue to drive a strong business model that imparts premium quality products, whilst empowering our community with sustainable consumer habits and reducing the damage “fast furniture” has on our precious planet.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I was working as a graduate engineer at GM and was out to dinner with a friend one night, when we had one of those ‘why hasn’t anyone ever come up with this’ moments. Not long after, I took a leap of faith — left my stable, well-paying job and established a technology business to pursue our idea.
Of course, I soon discovered that I would need money to sustain it. So, I decided to attend several venture capital firms to raise funds, each endeavor was met with a polite NO. The rejection was hard to swallow.
Eventually, my perseverance prevailed, and I met an entrepreneur one afternoon, who had heard my pitch.
We met for coffee and whilst explaining my business idea to him, I began to realise that he did not understand the technical nature of the business model. Instinctively, I began to feel despondent and lose hope. When I had wrapped up my pitch, he asked me how much money I needed. I was taken back for a minute as I’d never been asked this question before. Of course, I had an answer, and it was a million dollars, but I stammered to get the seven figures out of my mouth.
Long story short, I received the funding from this individual and he remains a mentor and close friend of mine to this day. Years later, I asked him why he agreed to invest in my business idea when it was painfully obvious to him that I had no experience in running a business. I will never forget his response and I still carry these words close to my heart.
“I didn’t invest in the business idea, I invested in you”.
I now understand the wisdom of his words. I wholeheartedly believe that it is the people in a business that will make it a success more so than the actual business idea itself.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
Several years ago, during a trip to Malaysia to meet with our suppliers, I was invited to a night out at a karaoke bar. Initially, I was overwhelmed with excitement as I knew that this was a sign I had been accepted into their inner circle and they were comfortable to put their trust in me. But then the overwhelming fear kicked in. I have no musical bone in my body. So, I decided to stay in my hotel for half a day and practiced the hell out of “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton. It’s my all-time favourite.
The night came; I mustered up the liquid courage and I stood up and gave it all I had. It was a disaster. I could literally hear glass shattering, but not nearly loud enough to drown out the deafening sound of the conspicuous giggles around me.
Looking back, I genuinely believe this moment of humiliation, cemented our relationship, and developed a strong bond forged by laughter.
Just goes to show, you never know what can happen unless you have the courage to face your fears.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We’re currently focusing on the marketing of our brand and its identity. During this journey we’ve discovered a kink in the industry that is troubling to us. Whilst we understand it is important for us to do the right thing, we also think there is great value in empowering our peers to follow suit.
Sustainability seems to be a bit of a hot topic right now, but it’s no longer just a buzz word. It is an integral part of our lives and a necessary way forward to future-proof our planet.
We strongly believe that being green and sustainable is not only good for the planet but also good for business, so we’ve decided to invest some time into a study to demonstrate the strength of this knowledge.
For example, “Couriers Please” recently conducted a survey which found that:
- 46% of shoppers under 30 would be willing to purchase an ethical & sustainably sourced product at a higher price point
- 87% of consumers are concerned about the environment and request greater transparency from retailers
- 9 out 10 consumers are more likely to purchase ethical and sustainable products if they had the option
Once compiled, we’ll leverage these stats to further educate supplier networks around the evident change in sentiment from consumers towards ethical and sustainable products and practices. The objective being to empower suppliers to rethink and resort to sustainable materials in the manufacturing & packaging of furniture.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I learned the hard way that you cannot be everything to everyone. I spent the better part of 5 years, working days and nights on end and was often too mentally and physically drained to notice pivotal moments of my little girls’ early life.
What I now know, is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and it is most definitely ok to leverage and learn from those that do.
Build relationships with trusted teammates and associates. Bringing together a network of experts in their field allows you to learn the ropes firsthand, without burning yourself out trying to figure it out as you go.
I touched on earlier about your team being your greatest asset and it echoes true here.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This question requires that I bare my soul, so here goes…
Throughout my career, I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to keep company with many intelligent entrepreneurs from an early age. My life has been enriched with guidance and advice from these kind, knowledgeable individuals. These associations have enabled me to navigate the many challenges and obstacles I have faced both personally and professionally.
But without a doubt, the single most influential person in my life is an individual who was not educated, never worked, and devoted her entire life to her family — my mother.
I am who I am, because of the power of her love and guidance that has defined me.
I was the youngest of seven siblings and grew up in a very humble family. That is to say that we were extremely poor. My first memories as a child was living in a house where my parents slept in one room and all seven kids slept on the floor in the living room. But our lives were filled with an abundance of love, laughter, and happiness, which stemmed from a strong woman that protected, nurtured, and unequivocally loved us.
On numerous occasions, my mother willingly sacrificed her comforts to ensure her family benefited. She instilled strong values of love, kindness, respect, and resilience in all seven of her children. She never actually spoke of these traits, they were taught to us by her actions, which has a profound strength to it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At B2C Furniture, we believe that furniture should not cost the Earth…nor should it cost our Earth its survival.
Our mission is to provide furniture using sustainable hardwood timber. Thus, empowering our community with sustainable consumer habits and reducing the damage “fast furniture” has on our precious planet.
We strongly believe if we can work together in the furniture industry to adopt sustainable and ethical practices, there will be a significant decrease in greenhouse gases and landfill, and an increased awareness towards recycling. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of thoughtful world we should we be living?
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
It is a fact that the COVID-19 Pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns has forced us all to be driven towards a way of life where shopping online is considered to be safe and convenient.
I strongly feel this trend will continue to grow post COVID-19 and lead to greater proportions of the population gaining a sense of confidence with shopping online. Five examples of how large retail outlets are adapting to the new realities created by the Pandemic include;
- Your website is now your shop window. The first impression from a consumer is crucial and the emphasis of quality should be evident at the click of a mouse. High quality imagery showcasing the entire product range, alongside in-depth descriptions are imperative.
- Increasing the eCommerce offering and enhancing the online shopping experience for the consumer. Ensuring your website is intuitive, fast and easy to navigate. Focus on optimizing for mobile-first shopping experiences.
- Provide fast nationwide delivery. Amazon Prime proves how effective this strategy is for converting sales online.
- Maintaining an exceptional level of customer support. In a competitive industry where most retail transactions are emotionless, providing an outstanding consumer experience that inspires strong feedback is a great strategy to build brand loyalty.
- Focus a bigger part of your marketing budget on digital advertising platforms. It makes sense that as more people are spending more time working from home and purchasing via online platforms, the most effective marketing to capture sales is via targeted digital adverting methods.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
In my opinion, I feel the global domination of the ‘online store’ will remain post pandemic. It will be essential that businesses review and refine their logistics channels to facilitate speedy delivery options, in order to stay in the game and compete with the likes of Amazon.
The pandemic has forced people of all ages and from all walks of life into shopping on the online platform. This has brought on the building of trust, along with the realisation towards the benefits of convenient purchasing, competitive pricing, fast home delivery, no crowds, and no sales pressure. It will be a hard ask to back track on this idyllic experience.
That being said, I do believe that there will still be a place for retail stores and malls with a change to the dynamic and its function in the retail space post pandemic. What I mean by this, is that the physical store will need to be redefined to offer a unique customer experience which online stores cannot offer, and it needs to be aligned to its brand story.
For example, Apple receives majority of its revenue online, but it has signature physical stores in prime locations to provide customers with specific experiences, human connection, and engagement via “touch and feel” of its products. This methodology builds a certain level of trust and elevates the consumer brand experience which cannot be replicated in a digital space.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
With the huge surge of retail in the digital space, it is more important than ever to be present and ensure your business has adopted an omni-channel marketing strategy.
We’re all well aware that the growth in online retail prior to COVID-19 was explosive, and its safe to say the trend will continue post pandemic.
But it’s foolish to believe there is a single road to success. Everyone shops differently and to capitalize on that, you need to cater to it.
A common misassumption is that, as online sales increase, in-store sales decrease. This is far from the truth. Each has its place and if positioned correctly, it can really elevate your reach.
Retailers such as Lululemon, Kroger and Costco understand this strategy and by having a physical retail presence as well as an online store they’re able to provide their customers the ability to click and collect at their convenience, ‘touch and feel’ prior to purchase, and expedite the returns process.
By mastering the art of catering to the broader market, they have captured the consumer that appreciates a personal experience, as well as the consumer who prefers convenience. Why not have both?
This has led to continued sales increases across both platforms, as well as increased market share as they have mastered the art of catering to the broader market.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Build a strong brand!!
Think of your business as a human with an identity.
- What are you truly passionate about?
- What are your brand values and beliefs?
- How is what I make, sell, or do, adding value to people’s lives?
The modern-day consumer wants more than just a tap and go transaction. They want to feel engaged and awakened by the connection to your brand. They want a meaningful experience, that ignites a rewarding feeling by association with you.
Liken it to that ‘finding yourself’ phase in your life. It is only after you really discover the essence of who you are, what you want out of life, and what you stand for, that everything else falls into place and you attract a like-minded community that support the same notions and values that you do.
Building a strong brand identity is the only strategy to inoculate you from the “direct-to-consumer” business model who will undercut you on price.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
By nature, I’m a bit of a dreamer, so it is a very intriguing question to me…
From a personal perspective, what’s most precious to me is my six-year-old daughter. Her well-being and the well-being of all our children who are so precious is something that occupies my mind constantly.
Watching the news and seeing the leaders of our world ignore the basic principles of our humanity is very troubling to me.
If I had the opportunity to start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people it would be to empower human beings, especially our children, to treat each other with love, kindness, respect, empathy & tolerance.
I strongly believe that our lives should be guided by our values. Educating our children with the right values now will solve the most unimaginable problems that we have no answers to presently.
I like to conclude with three of my favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi….
- A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave
- The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others
- An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind
How can our readers further follow your work?
Blogs | https://b2cfurniture.com.au/blog
Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/B2Cfurniture
Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/b2cfurniture/
LinkedIn | https://linkedin.com/in/anesleyclarke/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!