Ethan Song, CEO of Frank And Oak
With 1.2 million members and two years of growth under its belt, Frank & Oak is now an upstart in spirit moreso than definition.
Clearly, the Montreal-based e-commerce clothing retailer has penetrated a customer niche that other companies were too comfortable to wade into.
After a minute on the phone with Ethan Song, CEO of Frank & Oak, it’s apparent he is not the frenetic type of business man who suggests frivolous ideas to appear dynamic. Instead, his direct answers convey a sense of focus and efficiency that steer the business clear of wasted time and effort.
“I’ve found that the customer has higher expectations of what we do, both from shipping, products and to online experience.”
“When you start a company, you don’t really know how it’s going to go,” Song said. “We felt that there was a true need in the market for that, and we’ve been able to package that with the right approach.”
Song will be speaking at Demac Media’s eCommerce Town Hall on June 24 about how Frank & Oak has managed its growth in both the online space and at its permanent and temporary brick-and-mortar shops.
“I would say that like any business or startup founder, I find that we could be moving faster. I think that there’s tremendous opportunity in our market and there’s a lot of innovation to come so I’m actually really impatient.”
Take it to the street
“The magazine is definitely in line with our vision of being an advisor to our customers.”
Last week marked the launch of its print magazine Oak Street, keeping with its strategy of being a resource and lifestyle guide for its customers.
“What happens when you’re positioning yourself, not just as a retailer, but also as an advisor, is that you want to be able to actually provide those kinds of advices about style, about inspiration, how to be a better man and content plays a big part,” Song said.
“The magazine is definitely in line with our vision of being an advisor to our customers,” Song said, but he later revealed the printed magazine was not the medium that was originally envisioned for Frank & Oak’s content. Still, he’s fond of the concept of creating a physical container for Frank & Oak’s content.
“There’s beauty and there’s strength in having the actual magazine in the hands of our customers to read and to keep, so that’s why we published it,” he added.
Getting the most out of pop-ups
Song said that there are some exciting announcements to come this summer from Frank & Oak, but confirmed that more pop-up shops were not a part of the plan. Frank & Oak runs a permanent retail location in Montreal, and had run a pop-up shop at the Drake Hotel in Toronto last summer and in Fall 2012 in New York City.
Frank & Oak uses pageviews and conversion data to tailor its collection to the preferences of its customers, Song said, but he doesn’t denigrate the customer insights that can be gained at pop-up shops.
“In e-commerce especially, there’s a strong emphasis on data, which I believe to be very important,” he said. “It’s also very powerful to get one-on-one meeting with your customers to get feedback on both the product and experience.”
The focus on becoming a trusted advisor in online and offline media has proven successful for Song and co-founder Hicham Ratnani, as they now count the growth of their company in hundreds of thousands.
The larger customer base comes with advantages other than new revenue, and also presents new challenges as demand grows.
“Some things are easier to do and some things are harder to do. Scale actually allows you to make better products, because if you have more volume, you can work with the best suppliers and that quantity allows you to make the product that you want, which you couldn’t necessarily do when you’re small.”
“The one thing that I’ve noticed that’s really different is that as a brand becomes more mass market – in the sense that there are more customers that know about the brand – I’ve found that the customer has higher expectations of what we do, both from shipping, products and to online experience,” he said.
The increased pressure from a larger customer base forces Song to focus on the fundamentals of the Frank & Oak premise.
“That’s why our number one focus is on delivering the best products with the best experience and we found that’s more important now than ever,” Song said.
The Demac Media eCommerce Townhall will be held on Tuesday June 24th from 6:00-8:30PM within the MaRS Discovery District and will feature speakers from Frank & Oak and eBay Enterprise.