Nathalie Gaveau (H.99)
London. Nathalie is what we can call a risk taker. Since her graduation in 1999, she has worked for 5 different companies, including 2 she co-founded, PriceMinister and Shopcade, her new baby. With the digitalization as the common thread of her career, Nathalie accepted to join the HEC Board to represent the alumni. She brings her knowhow and will help the school in it’s digitalization process. Meet a very modern working woman, who is creating the new way of shopping online. Don’t miss it!
Read full transcript…
HU: Hi Nathalie! Thank you for giving us a little bit of your time. We are going to start with our little Proust questionnaire. So, if you were a color?
N: Red, because it is the color of honor, the color that was reserved to emperors in Rome, but also because it’s the color of vitality and love.
HU: An animal?
N: I would be a bear. I like grizzlies. It’s a very clever, curious and protective animal that can survive in the tough winters of the Wild West.
HU: A meal?
N: Oh bah a steak-béarnaise! With fries! (laughs)
HU: A song?
N: Probably a Rock’n’Roll song…. (she takes a moment to choose one) Born to be Wild, from Steppenwolf.
HU: A movie?
N: La Grande Vadrouille, with Funès and Bourvil, my favorites.
HU: A sin?
N: Eating and drinking.
HU: AN object?
N: A smartphone.
HU: A sport or a game?
N: Chess, because it’s never ending and it’s fun to play.
HU: A book?
N: The Mémoires of Général de Gaulle, to be very inspiring for France.
HU: A bad habit you would like to get rid of?
N: I check my phone and my emails when I wake up. I hate doing that, I should start my day and do this later!
HU: A (super)hero?
N: I am trying to fin a superwoman…
HU: I can also be someone who existed, like Mother Teresa…
N: A yes, Mother Teresa!
HU: No, you can’t do that! (laughs)
N: I can do that! (laughs) She was so wonderful and brave! She dedicated her life for her cause and I think we need more people like this today.
“We are trying to build a new media online in the fashion and beauty space. We are a marketplace where 400 merchants meet 1.4 million users.”
HU: Now, can you sum up your professional background in just 30 seconds?
N: I graduated from HEC Entrepreneurs in 1999. I started in finance at Lazard but not for long and I built my first company by co-founding PriceMinister, a major e-commerce player in France with Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet. Then I moved to Asia, where I built the digital units of ClubMed and then TBWA. I moved to the UK 7 years ago and I started Shopcade, which is a commerce and content platform. So I have been an entrepreneur in the digital space.
HU: How would you present Shopcade to a 5-year-old kid?
N: I would tell him or her that you used to have paper magazines and that Shopcade is the new way of browsing through fashion and beauty news. It’s an interactive platform where users can watch multiple pictures or videos, read articles, but they can also like and save them in their profile as well as purchase from this. Shopcade is like a book or a magazine, with a shop attached to it.
HU: What is Shopcade’s strategy? What are you trying to achieve with this?
N: We are trying to build a new media online in the fashion and beauty space. We are trying to create exciting content to grow our audience and our merchant base. We are a marketplace where 400 merchants meet 1.4 million users. The objectives are to grow the engagement and the sales though the platform.
HU: What’s really original is that Shopcade is an e-commerce platform with a strong emphasis on content. How do the two work together?
N: Content is a driver, because we get engagement through the content, but different contents have different levels of conversion in terms of Sales. There is news-based content that is meant to make people come back, there is purely commercial content, like new collections from brands or specific content on trends – when we see that something is starting to sell, we create a content – and finally there is the social content that is created by our users and influencers (bloggers and youtubers) when they publish their own looks or articles.
But if content is a driver, you obviously need to optimize it to get more Sales.
“At the moment, musicians have a very strong impact on what people buy in fashion”
HU: This social content means that a user can create content directly on Shopcade?
N: They can post a content, like in a blog. A user can create a profile, then he can create wish lists of different products he likes, he can share them – it can be quite useful for birthdays or summer – and he can also upload some pictures, articles, product reviews… Usually, when users like something they bought, they share it and they say why they like it or they ask questions like: “Should I buy this or that?”. It’s a social magazine.
When we see that a specific content is popular, we put it in the main newsfeed, the editorial newsfeed.
HU: What are you best sellers?
N: When you work in the e-commerce field, you know that content related to special offers or exclusive offers is always going to work. When a popular brand is launching an offer, you know that it’s going to convert.
However, it can’t be the only content, because you need to drive your margins up. The other kind of content that works well is when a big celebrity is endorsing a brand or wearing a brand. If Clara Delevingne is wearing a specific T-shirt, if we sell this T-shirt on Shopcade and if we target well, it works.
HU: So price and celebrity are good drivers…
N: Yes, price and celebrity are classic but efficient drivers: Marilyn Monroe was wearing Chanel No.5, Brigitte Bardot was wearing Vichy dresses… At the moment, musicians have a very strong impact on what people buy in fashion.
HU: How do you see Shopcade in 10 years from now?
N: At the moment we are present in 4 markets: the UK, the US, India and France. I would like to see Shopcade in more markets, with specific content for each market thanks to dedicated influencers.
I would also like Shopcade to become mostly a marketplace, as well as an aggregated feed of influencers from around the world. We have a growing network of influencers and they are going to be the ones driving the best content.
HU: How do you make influencers come to your platform?
N: If you want to work with influencers, you have to talk their talk and walk their walk, so you need to understand what their objectives are. You obviously need to explain them some rules but you have to give them a certain level of freedom. They have a digital brand and you have to respect that digital brand, so you adapt to make it work.
In terms of contract, we have pure editors and we have influencers only working during precise campaigns, but it mainly depend on what they want to do.
HU: Where do your revenues come from?
N: 60% of our revenues come from native advertising, that is to say from brands promoting their products on our platform and the rest comes essentially from commissions we are making on Sales.
“You don’t really manage people, you can give them as many objectives as you want, but when people are excited by the job, they manage themselves”
HU: How do you deal with competition between brands?
N: Competition is good because when a brand sees that one of its competitors is getting more shares on our platform it motivates them to do more campaigns.
That being said, we try to segment our user base by creating categories of interests for users. If we know someone is following a brand, we are going to promote this brand to this user. It’s like in the real world so we have the same approach in the digital world: people have a set of brands they like and we are here to give them more from this brand but also to make them discover other brands or products they may like.
HU: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?
N: To see that there are people using my platform, coming back, posting looks, asking questions… What is important when you launch a company is to have recurring business, because it means that you are building user satisfaction, which is quite exciting. I also like working with my team.
HU: Have you coped with a difficult choice in your professional life?
N: The first move into entrepreneurship was difficult. I left a steady job to start something completely new. It was as exciting as scary. Other difficult choices happened when I had to hire people, which is never easy. Sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes people decline your offers, so it’s not always smooth. I learnt to adjust my management style and I became more objective-driven in order to let people come up with a solution to meet the objective. You don’t really manage people, you can give them as many objectives as you want, but when people are excited by the job, they manage themselves, they come to work every morning with the drive to make it happen.
HU: The digitalization has been the thread of your career and it’s not crazy to say that you are a pioneer of the digital tranformation and the e-commerce. Do you think the digitalization has reached its potential or do you think it is just the beginning?
N: The digital transformation is a major one, for sure, and it’s far from being over. The main change the digitalization brought is that all companies have to rethink its products and its services from the point of view of the user. You cannot just bank on your assets and keep on doing business the way you used to.
The digital transformation allows users to access you services and products in a very different way and you can be disrupted by a new player very fast. The big evolution is also social, because the major social platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat are the new access points to new customers. They now have access to all the services, products and information available instantaneously, which completely changes the relationship between companies and customers. Therefor, you have to use new ways to communicate, like native ads instead of traditional ads, customized content or content created and shared by users themselves.
The business models are evolving too and companies now need to understand how to use a network or a community of customers as opposed to traditional points of sales.
The customer experience is completely changing and it has become very hard to track when are people really engaging or disengaging with your services, especially with mobile. People have the world in their pocket now!
It’s only the beginning and companies need to adapt faster and faster, because all the native digital players, like us, are in their environment and traditional companies need to be very agile.
HU: Just to have little precisions, what do you call native ads?
N: Native advertising is advertising that is in the form of a content. For example, if you go on Facebook, you have “sponsored posts” that are neither pop-ups nor traditional ads. They are part of a defined content and identified as a sponsor, but they are native into that content. You have the same thing on Instagram and on most social platforms.
“You feel free here: people are very respectful and they accept others with their differences, their behavior or their look. It’s quite unique.”
HU: Concerning the difficulty of tracking users, does the problem come from the fact that customers use different devices to browse and buy?
N: Yes, but the other reason why it’s difficult to track customers is that they go online to check information before and after going into a store. There are many more signals and data you can get to improve your services and products.
The real challenge is actually to understand your customers more than tracking them. There are ways to track your customers through the multi-device tracking, but the offline user experience is obviously hard to collect and to attach to the online user experience. Retailers are struggling to do that and it requires massive investments.
But the main challenge is to understand how they purchase, through the analysis of huge amounts of data coming from different channels. This is as complex as it is crucial, because you need to adapt to the customers’ behaviours: what they want, how you match the demand and on which channel do people want do interact with you, because just trying to push them into one channel is not working anymore! If they want to buy online, they should be able to buy online. If they want a real shop, they should be able to find one easily. Understanding that through more complex channels is very hard.
Let’s take banking for example. When is the last time you went into a bank office? Do you actually need to go into a bank office? People are now interacting on their app and they can change very easily if the services are not good enough. You can have a similar approach when looking at car sharing or hotel booking. Air BnB is starting to impact hotel bookings, because people now need more flexibility, they like the fact that it’s a community and that it’s less expensive: it corresponds to a new behavior! It’s one app, super easy! How do you react if you are managing hotels?
HU: Let’s talk about London now. You have been living here for 7 years, so where do you hang out on Sunday afternoons?
N: I like to go to a club on Sunday afternoons. I play tennis and I swim there. I like to go out of London and recharge on Sundays.
HU: If you had only 24 hours lfet to live in London, what would you do?
N: I would go to nice restaurants and spend some times meeting my friends. I would love to book the Shard, a restaurant that is on top of a tower. I never managed to go there because you need to book well in advance.
… or pick a category…
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