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Taking Flossie abroad: Inside the insight that helped our business enter a new global market

Jenene Crossan is the founder of Flossie, a business that helps to create smarter tools for retailing hair and beauty services. Here, she shares her experience of beating the pavements and acting as a customer in her own business, and how that led to a breakthrough insight that led her remodeling the company to launch in new market (the UK) in a new way.

In the past three months, we have entirely changed the Flossie business model. The marketplace (via the Flossie iOS and Android apps), where New Zealand women enjoy booking hair and beauty appointments in under 30 seconds remains a bedrock of our business, giving us a continuous and important testing ground for exceptional user experience. 

The international opportunity takes what we’ve built under it and scales that to solve major industry pain points.

What does that mean? Inadvertently, we stumbled across an insight. I did this by being present in market as the consumer. I speak often about the need to “travel your customer journey” – too often as business owners, start-up founders and senior management we are removed from the actual customer process. 

Too often it is seen as other people’s problems, when in fact, it’s the lifeblood of our businesses. Knowing intimately the customer by being a customer provides insights that you’d never get by simply studying research and data points. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you need data too (and more than just my own viewpoint) – but almost unilaterally, every time we have moved strategically with Flossie, it has come via truly understanding the customer experience.

I’d been travelling up to London and Paris for about 18 months, taking as many meetings as I could, expanding my network and hoping to find the needle in the haystack, whereby I could get the right 'in' for our market entry. I was still sold on bringing Flossie to London as a next-generation premium market place, offering a level of personalization and integration lacking in the sector. Though seemingly cluttered in appearance, most incumbents are operating beauty marketing businesses, not actual beauty tech or real innovation. However, the perception existed and the push-back on investment and sector support was pretty substantial. That wasn’t to be our approach.

In order to work out how to get around this, I committed to staying longer on my next trip – six weeks. With a family at home, this was never going to be a popular option, but nonetheless, an important one that we agreed together that I needed to go and do.  Support within your personal network is so vital when taking up challenges like these, and I feel very grateful for having a fellow entrepreneur (Scottie Chapman of Spring Sheep Milk Co) alongside me in my personal life (though you can also imagine how challenging this is too!)

I pounded the pavement. I showed up. I booked in appointments, spoke to retailers, asked questions of friends. I walked all of London, many, many times. I spied with my little eye, something beginning with H.  Hard, it was all still too hard. Every form I filled out was long and cumbersome. Every time I walked into a salon the process of checking in and checking out wasted vast quantities of my and their time. Payment was clunky, with millions of dollars being wasted. I even turned up to one appointment a month early! How? An incredibly simple user experience and interface fail that nobody at the booking form creation end had bothered to trial themselves and five years later still hadn’t fixed.

And then I had a breakthrough. I met with a potential client, a large-scale chain salon business, who was experiencing all of the above and realising that online bookings were no longer a “nice to offer”, but a critical revenue generator and current source of massive revenue inefficiency and leakage. This led to another, and then another, and then crazily another brand and chain business approaching us, having heard that we were solving deeply complex problems they’d been staring at with hands up in frustration for some time now. 

Whilst busy making a solution for New Zealand women to make bookings faster, we’d actually built a world-class piece of software that had a massive opportunity to become a global player – with the right combination of luck, timing, support and connectivity to help secure it.

The best part about being from New Zealand, I believe, is our in-built nimbleness and willingness to adapt and evolve. From my team, to my co-founder, my shareholders and closest advisors, they’ve all come on this journey, recognizing that our vision for what Powered by Flossie could be, and the value in the tools we have created to date, but most importantly the necessity to evolve how we go about it – and super quickly. 

In the space of a few short months we have radically changed our business, setting it up to thrive in a new market, in a new way, whilst running a successful New Zealand operation, giving us a thriving and fertile testing ground for new ideas to scale through the world. 

I never did an OE – I was too busy creating my first digital business, as a baby of the emerging tech industry in New Zealand. 

I feel incredibly fortunate, near on 20 years later, to be afforded the opportunity to take my experience, lessons and couple it with the support of an exceptional team (and their investment both personally and financially) and seriously cool technology to scale New Zealand-derived innovation to the rest of the world, in ways that nobody (including us!) saw coming.

A bit about us

Hailing from New Zealand, Powered by Flossie is the brain-child of experienced entrepreneurs and tech founders, Jenene Crossan and Steven Torrance, who have been building customer-focused platforms since 1999.

Since late 2011 co-founders Steve Torrance and Jenene Crossan have been building to a vision; to help create smarter tools for retailing hair and beauty services. They’ve always believed they could lead the revolution of how services are marketed. With customers becoming increasingly last-minute and temptation led, and function becoming secondary to form, experience and desire, the exponential revenue and growth opportunity can be captured, we can now take the lessons taught by the great fashion ecommerce giants of the world and apply them to the service industry. 

The business started in web, shifted to mobile-only and over a number of years built a huge base in New Zealand, and now Australia, of raving fans who like to book via the Flossie apps in under 30 seconds.  They can boast such speedy conversions due to the smart integration tool they’ve built that works with the existing calendar management systems (pulling data and merchandising it in real-time) and an iterative approach to user experience with substantial consideration to smarter retailing.  

More than $6 million has been invested in seed funding, with the support of 42 investors (including Sir Stephen Tindall, Theresa Gattung, Rob Campbell), and together they have built a huge technology asset base – acknowledging from day one that this would be a journey that evolved, as the industry, platforms and consumer all progressed their online booking behaviour. This was never going to be an over-night success.  From day one Steve and Jenene knew they were on a long journey, but first to market, but with a number of substantial and non-trivial pivots ahead in order to reach their desired outcome.

This month they launch customer front-end software platform Powered by Flossie, a simple plug-in that enterprise salons and product companies can use to enhance the user interface of their own websites.

The user interfaces of most existing salon management systems haven’t been updated in years, mostly due to their “B2B” focus with little development time committed to the front-end customer experience.  Although nearly 70% of bookings are now coming through the online channel in the UK, it’s usually too hard and expensive for big salon chains to just replace these systems (with sometimes thousands of employees to re-train), however, the inefficiencies can no longer be ignored.  Cart abandonment rates for the hair and beauty services sector (where customers give up on hard-to-use and slow booking processes - where it takes as many as 34 clicks to make an appointment) are almost double that of traditional ecommerce businesses.  The leakage is costing businesses millions and millions of dollars.

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