Musings on books, technology, entrepreneurship, nonprofits and umm.. everything else …

The A to Z of One Kings Lane

Last weekend we had Ali Pincus, co-Founder at One Kings Lane, and Greg Fant, their Chief Marketing Officer, stop by our Strategic Brand Management class and speak about their brand and how they built it over time and where they plan to take it next. It was fascinating to hear about the origins of the company – how Susan Feldman met with Pincus and founded the company based on her own frustrations with purchasing home furnishings after moving to LA from New York. At the depths of the recession in early 2009, they raised money and went about building a brand around a flash sales site with a name that stood for a street address that people could identify with. They rode the wave of flash sales growth for the next couple of years. With over $100MM in sales in 2011 , they are now a name to reckon with in the curated home-decor space, and are rapidly growing.

It was interesting to hear from Greg how they surveyed their customer base, followed around some of their key customers and held focus groups with a difference (at art museums around candle-lit get-togethers) to understand what motivates their core base. We also got an exclusive look into their new national branding and awareness campaign that got launched last month with a cool ad campaign along with Wieden+Kennedy. Greg has the perfect mix of branding background from the mother of all brands (Coca Cola) and digital marketing (eBay) and walked us through their customer life cycle as they tracked them from teenage years to old age, and showed us how their new brand campaign will try to appeal to each of these customer segments. It was also pretty cool to see how despite a huge bounce rate on their home page thanks to a sign-in requirement, they are still able to generate such impressive growth fueled by repurchase rates among existing customers. The key would be to see how they can open up the site to folks without the sign-in requirement to generate one-off purchases from less loyal customers, but increase their customer base to a much larger number. Not surprisingly, we had a few classmates who raved about their experiences with the site and how loyal they were as customers :).

With the growth of sites like Pinterest, the expectations for traditional e-tailer sites to have a visually enriching shopping experience is only going to increase. At the same time, designer brands that offer selective inventory to sites like OKL might want to offer these from their own portals as well, not to mention launching showrooms to experience more lucrative products such as furniture, which is still a less-than-perfect shopping experience online. Add to that the travails of adding free-returns to these bulky items like the other popular sites such as Zappos and Warby Parker who sell lighter items, OKL has its work cut out for itself for 2013 as they try to grow towards profitability. What they have going for them is a strong brand that their core base strongly identifies with, a unique curated shopping experience, and a hope based on customer surveys that the brand is elastic enough to grow into several adjacent customer segments and attract newer customers.

Here’s wishing them the very best as they launch this new branding campaign and scale new heights!

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