King of the Castle
One Kings Lane
E -commerce vet Doug Mack heads One Kings Lane, a curated, online sales site featuring high-end home décor, furnishings, accessories and gifts at prices up to 70 percent below retail. Mack joined the company a year after its 2009 founding by Susan Feldman and Alison Pincus.
Mack began his career at General Electric and later joined McKinsey & Company as a strategy consultant for tech companies. He served as CEO and director of Scene7, a rich media platform provider for the e-commerce industry, supporting websites for Nike, QVC, Macy’s and Lands’ End. Mack was also CEO and co-founder of Goodhome.com, one of the first online home decor sites; prior to that, he drove the growth of leading consumer technology properties as executive vice president of the home productivity division for Broderbund Software.
Can you give us a snapshot of the home décor/furnishings business and how One Kings Lane fits in?
We know $150 billion is spent annually on home décor and … that the vast majority is still happening at bricks-and-mortar. Right now, the online channel is between 10 and 15 percent of that spend, so the remainder is either stores or catalogs. But we also know customers are much more comfortable shopping online for things beyond basics and commodities. ...
So the revolution that we’re driving at One Kings Lane is for people in the comfort of their own home — on their laptop, tablet or mobile device — to end up with a better result when making home decorating decisions ...
For us, there is no ceiling on what our customers will buy. They’ll buy anything from a great $150 lamp to a $30 pillow, or they’ll buy a $20,000 collector’s piece of art ... A good day for us is about $1 million in sales. We’re doing about $300 million annually and have our sights set on building a billion dollar brand that’s very profitable.
What can you tell us about your target customer since you’ve grown to more than eight million members?
Our customer base is 96 percent female. When we think about our customer, prior to One Kings Lane her choices were to work with an interior designer or … a mass-market retailer where typically there’s a very narrow selection and very narrow point of view and what you’d get would also be in millions of other homes.
We orient our offering to any consumer, whether they want to do some small improvements to their home and get a lot for their money or … make substantial investments in renovation. … We can serve anyone from the person who is living in their dream home and has a second home to somebody who is getting their first apartment in a city and wants it to look and feel more special than your average first apartment.
Our target customer is anybody who wants a unique and beautiful home that reflects his or her own personality. By bringing a breadth of selection with a common thread — that everything is tightly curated and incredibly tasteful and a great value — we can appeal to this broad audience and … really let our customers get something that they can’t get from traditional retail options right now, which is both taste and uniqueness.
That brings us to big data. Can you share insights into gathering customer data and leveraging it?
As an online-only company, we can gather lots of information about customers’ needs, tastes and preferences and use that to inform what we offer ... Use of data is on the top three list of what new companies can do to fundamentally reinvent industries and markets. The way to accelerate your growth and relevance is [to] have better information, to make better decisions faster.
We use data in every inch of our business and it’s been key in getting us where we are. It’s all in the spirit of giving our customer what she wants every day of the week. We use data in our marketing strategy, in our site experience … in our sourcing strategy and in our customer service teams ... The company who learns how to harness and make better decisions using data will have a strong advantage.
You once said One Kings Lane had already “evolved well beyond flash sales with the variety of merchandise we offer — along with the content we integrate into the experience.” Where do you stand today?
One Kings Lane is a leading lifestyle brand for the home and not a flash sale site. We’re building a company for customers who want to create a beautiful home ... And we’re making it easily accessible — they just need to come to our website and we will give them great ideas every day.
It’s the idea of content married with commerce — a combination of their favorite shelter magazine and their favorite boutique every single day of the week. … We communicate with our customers through the mail – we send look books and preview books ... Recently, we mailed our top customers a printed “magalog” to really get them thinking about decorating for the next season.
Can you see a future with bricks-and-mortar stores?
As a lifestyle brand, unquestionably, offline presence is an available strategy to us. …we’ve also extended our presence to broadcast with HGTV — one of our investors is Scripps Network, which is the parent company of HGTV. In that case, we’ve been present on air in their programming. So down the road … would we evaluate pop-up shops or in-store shops? Absolutely.
About two years ago you invested in new hires on the tech side of your business. What talent are you looking to hire today?
We do think of ourselves as a tech company, but we have a major operation in New York and it’s the center of our merchandising and creative teams. Right now we’re looking to build our merchandising team leadership. We have a number of [divisional merchandise manager] positions that we’re looking to fill with the industry’s best talent.