One in a Million: Q&A with Onceit

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 09 Oct 2019

Onceit is one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing online marketplaces. We sat down with Jay Goodey, Executive Director of Onceit to discuss online marketplaces, BNPL and business advice.

Jay Goodey, the Executive Director of OnceIt, was only 22 when he founded the site in 2010. Onceit is an online marketplace that provides membership-only discounts on apparel, homewares, menswear, furniture and everything in between. In nine years, it has rapidly grown and has since sold more than one million products, with 400 local and international brands on its site, including Sass, Ben Sherman and Stella McCartney.

What sparked the idea to launch Onceit? Were there any shining stars in the e-commerce space that inspired you to make the move?

Initially, I was just interested in the e-commerce space, so did a lot of reading about what others were doing. I loved the idea that you could launch something with fairly limited capital and reach a wide audience.

Then when I moved to Auckland I realised that a lot of the brands I liked had these family & friends sales, I thought it would be great if people who weren’t in the city had to access these sales online and after some research found a company from New York who was doing just that. The thought for Onceit was that this could work in New Zealand too.

Onceit has been around for nine years now – that’s quite a while! Looking back to when Onceit first started, what have been some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in the e-commerce industry? What have you learned from those challenges?

Yes, it feels like we have been around the block a few times and seen some things come and go. Fundamentally the same principles apply. I think the main difference I have noticed is customers have been getting educated on different ways they consume and receive products. Things like logistics are continuing to evolve and fit in with customers lifestyles. An interesting shift at Onceit we are seeing is the confidence to buy and receive larger items like sofas.

Fashion is one of the leading categories in e-commerce. With the rise in popularity for fast-fashion, how has Onceit continued to stay ahead of the game?

We are realistic in the areas that we can compete and what our customers want from us. For instance, there is not much point in us trying to compete with the speed to the fashion market with Zara as we wouldn’t be able to win. But I think we have a nice space in aspirational brands at great prices.

With your extensive background in e-commerce, you’d know a thing or two about retail. Which up and coming e-commerce trends do you think will take over the industry, and which do you think are just a fad?

There has been a lot of hype and growth in the direct to consumer model, think Away luggage, Dollar Shave Club and even Allbirds. It will be really interesting to see where that goes. I think the likes of Amazon will be trying to carve out some of that market with their own products. You are also seeing a lot of funding in secondary markets – particularly in players that are selling luxury goods. I think that space will continue to grow online as global logistics become more accessible.

A few years ago you saw a lot of subscription models pop up, there were subscriptions for everything, underwear, toothpaste etc. You could see some of those models weren’t going to be sustainable long term as the acquisition cost and churn were too great. However, wider platforms that have turned on a “set and forget” type model for consumable items seem to be doing quite well in that space.

Onceit offers BNPL – what effect has introducing this payment schedule platform had to your business? Have there been any unprecedented pros or cons?

Yeah, we are a few years in with Afterpay now, and I was very surprised on how quick the uptake was. It’s obviously a very popular payment solution with some customers, and we need to make sure we are giving them that option. For a retailer, the only really downside I see is the increase in merchant costs which makes sense since BNPL are offering finance. It’s hard to prove exactly like for like increase in orders/ new customers against traditional credit cards, but as I said, the percentage of sales means we need to be in that space.

If you were to look back and in time and give yourself business advice, what would it be? Would you change anything?

I was very fortunate to meet a very successful retailer named Simon West a few years back who became a mentor, then a shareholder and director of Onceit. Learning from someone with much greater width of experience fast-tracked a few lessons for me. I wish I had someone like that when I started the business to help navigate some of the more painful lessons.

The retail industry has changed more in the last five years than many expected. What predictions do you have for the future of e-commerce?

I think the big area for disruption is logistics. Delivery drones made a lot of headlines, but there are some other people doing interesting automation in this space. Also the new format marketplaces you are seeing popping up. It’s becoming a lot easier to market products which are fulfilled by outside suppliers. The company who I think has an interesting play in this space could be Shopify with the amount of merchants they have on their platform.

What’s next for Onceit? Should we mark our calendars for anything exciting?

In terms of exciting events, we have our “Once a Year” sale coming up on the 13th of November where most of our top suppliers go above and beyond with amazing offers. This day normally breaks some records for us and suppliers in terms of sales.

Also, we have been working hard to launch a new furniture brand that will offer like for like product as high-end showrooms for a fraction of the cost. Watch this space.

Learn more about Onceit as Jay Goodey discusses how to keep pace with the dynamic and ever-evolving e-commerce and social media platforms by attending the Online Retailer New Zealand Conference on November 7th, 2019. You can find tickets here

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