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Hip to be square: Web agency changing the world of online shopping

A couple of web guys reckoned they could teach the fashion industry a thing or two about e-commerce, so they quit their day jobs and set up a specialist digital agency.

Clicking the pay now button takes a certain amount of bravery.

The excitement of filling up the online cart is gone, and the reality of separating with those dollars has arrived.

Any system failure or difficulty traversing the site is likely to lead the mouse straight to the top right of the tab. 

Founders of fashion-focused digital agency Pocket Square know this.

The company has set up website design and strategic planning services aimed at helping New Zealand fashion industry businesses sell more products online.

Managing director Lance O’Grady says the New Zealand fashion industry is lagging behind its international counterparts in terms of e-commerce – both on the ideas and technological fronts.

Recent research conducted by Google New Zealand and InternetNZ shows Kiwi businesses could add $34 billion to the economy if they made better use of the internet.

O’Grady and business partner Ryan Fredericks quit their jobs just over a year ago to go full-time with Pocket Square and clients include Juliet Hogan, New Zealand Fashion Week, Mr Vintage, Trish Peng, Thousand Piece Puzzle and online fashion outlet store Superette.

Pocket Square’s Britt Manning, Lance O’Grady, Victoria Carran and Ryan Fredericks

“We approached Superette on a whim,” O’Grady says.

 “They are an online heavyweight in New Zealand; they’ve done a lot more than most other companies have.”

Pocket Square have been working with Superette for over 12 months managing and maintaining the website, after having made initial changes to improve site navigation and ease of use, and reduce the bounce rate.

“We went through and reviewed all of those key pages just making really small tweaks in some cases, or really large tweaks.”

Pocket Square was also New Zealand Fashion Week’s digital partner, rebuilding the website, ticketing system and seating module and running the back end processes.

But starting out was no walk in the park, with Pocket Square literally coming from O’Grady and Fredericks’ pockets.

After meeting through work the two found they were both interested in digital innovation and, fortuitously, fashion.

They started Pocket Square in early 2013, working mainly with small businesses and hotdesking at shared spaces in Auckland.

In July 2013 they quit their day jobs, set up an office in Parnell, and ramped up the business for New Zealand Fashion Week.

O’Grady says they believed there was a market for the product, but it was terrifying having no funding and no real idea of interest levels.

“It wasn’t until we actually started to get feedback from people that we started to go ‘great, that’s good people are interested’. Until then it was kind of just our best guess.”

Twelve months on Pocket Square is growing strongly and making a profit. It now has a team of freelance developers and four fulltime staff, who have the option of investing in the company in a share scheme arrangement.

O’Grady says the share scheme means they have to be transparent about the finances, and increases the accountability of Fredericks and himself.

He says the company operates a flat structure, with all staff pitching ideas and being involved in key decisions, such as how to pitch for jobs, what clients to take on and what approach to take.

“We know that as a service based company the most important part is the people that work here so we wanted to work out a way that keeps them wanting to come to work every day.

“Although money is important, it is not the only thing that keeps people in a job.”

O’Grady says he and Fredericks realised early on it was better to work with clients on a per-project basis, rather than use hourly rates.

“From a strategic point of view it’s really hard for people to get their ideas and want to talk to you if they know they’re going to have to pay for every second.

“We don’t want them pick up the phone and go ‘Oh s*** I don’t want to have to pay them’.”

Although there are plans for growth into Australia and maybe even further afield, that is all longer term, O’Grady says.

More immediate plans are to introduce New Zealand fashion industry companies to some of the exciting new technology available overseas.

“We’re looking at inventory management systems that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.

“You can have a complete inventory stocktake completed by waving a little machine around your store, and it will count your stock for you in a matter of minutes.”

This sort of technology is new to New Zealand, but it is already on the way from Norway and America.

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