Summit Speaker Spotlight: Bill Keefe of Julianna Rae Talks Mobile Strategy

The 2017 Summit is right around the corner, but let’s take a quick trip back in time. Remember when CD’s, books, and electronics were the only things anyone would dare buy on the internet? I still remember the first online purchase my family ever made around 2003. My mom ordered a CD for my sister’s birthday.

I remember my mom watching anxiously in the mail for her credit card statement to arrive afterward. She had to make sure there were no fraudulent charges on it after she typed the numbers into the dangerous Amazon abyss!

A Little Bit of Background

This distrust of the online world seems so far removed from our culture today. For ecommerce pioneers like Bill Keefe of Julianna Rae, a 2017 Summit speaker, that distrust was replaced with an innate sense of anticipatory entrepreneurship. He and Julie Lee, one of the other company founders, knew that the internet would soon be completely normalized (for example, my mom bought all but one of her Christmas gifts online this year!) They anticipated the trajectory and knew they couldn’t afford to ignore it.

The ROI Revolution Events Team had the pleasure of interviewing Bill. We wanted to give our Summit attendees a glimpse into the valuable experience he will be bringing to the stage. Just the story of the company’s origins alone is incredible. Bill co-founded the company with his former coworker Julie Lee. They had a passion for creating luxury intimate apparel for women who wanted a more classic, established look. They focused on those who had no choice but to shop at Victoria’s Secret or small sections of department stores for those products.

Instead of starting with a product and finding the niche market, she went in complete reverse. Since women knew what they DON’T like, what DO they want? She conducted detailed research and eventually created the Julianna Rae brand.

“The interesting thing about Julianna Rae  as a startup is it was built with the idea of what this customer might want that wasn’t being provided. So it wasn’t a product pushed on  the customer; it was, ‘Let me determine if there’s a need and I think we can design for this need.’ That’s what she set out to do,” Bill recalls about their initial goals for the company.

The Focus on Ecommerce

In addition to this proactive approach to the women’s clothing industry, Julie and Bill had a premonition about ecommerce that was radical at the time. They predicted the explosion of online sales and speculated that one day, no type of product would be off-limits for ecommerce (I mean, we’re in the day and age in which people pay $1350 for a Cornflake shaped like Illinois. Seriously. Read about it here). To keep all of their bases covered, they sold their brand both in resort gift shops and on their website.

“Being carried by the Four Seasons, Pebble Beach Golf Club, Pinehurst, places like that, we began to get a good reputation in the resort and leisure business. We learned about positioning the product and got a lot of publicity in terms of people like Katie Couric doing the ‘Got milk’ commercials in our stuff, and tv shows and movies that picked us up.” Yep, true story: Here she is!

But physical stores and publicity were not quite as evergreen of a strategy as they had hoped. Not surprisingly, thanks to their acute foresight, they were prepared for this nosedive with a solid ecommerce presence that needed to be recalibrated as their central business model. “2008 came along and had all of us learn how to grow up a little bit. That year was a big hit on the leisure business and on the luxury businesses initially as well, so we turned our sights on doing only internet. Rebuilding the company from the ground up. Then it became a matter of optimizing what we do on the internet.”

Julianna Rae has a knack for finding out what their customers want and designing an experience for them accordingly. Most recently, Bill has spearheaded mobile advancements through that lens, which he will discuss at length at the Summit.

Embracing the Mobile Revolution

“We will address anyone who is wondering how far and how fast to go with mobile,” Bill says. For ecommerce businesses that were startups around the same time as Julianna Rae, they required a major paradigm shift to start with mobile instead of merely making it an add-on strategy. Customers want images, and they want fast load times. “We do these things because our customers tell us that’s what we should be doing. That’s why we started the business.”

Bill adds, “Mobile overturns everything strategically startups think of today. All  the sudden I’m in a business where I actually have to have my Google Shopping ads more important than my text ads because those are the things at the top of the page. By the time you see my text ads, you will have picked someone else’s pictures.”

A shift in advertising strategy simply isn’t enough. You have to start thinking about the limited time mobile users spend on the average website. “Probably because they’re driving!” Bill adds with a laugh. “But for whatever reason, we have noticed our engagement time on the website decreasing steadily as mobile devices increase. So we have to make the most of the little time they’re on the site. Basically, we’re taking a look at every step along the browse, shop, buy confirm path and saying, ‘How do we make this best for the phone?’”

We’re looking forward to Bill’s tips for making the most of mobile as your central strategy. We’re also interested in how Julianna Rae is one step ahead since the beginning of the ecommerce explosion. Bill recalls:

“The most interesting point to me is how so much of what has gone on since we started this company has validated that initial idea Julie had. Back when we started, apparel wasn’t even in the top 5 product categories of items purchased on the internet. I can’t tell you the number of people who said people will never buy luxury goods on the internet. But our customers buy our products to look and feel better. We didn’t know if it was going to work, but so far it is working, and works better every year.”

We recommend you join us at the Summit and get on board with Bill’s mobile strategy while you can! Join us as a retailer guest today!