Cooma (map link) is not Silicon Valley, but someone forgot to tell Jane Cay, owner of the highly successful Birds Nest online fashion powerhouse. In 4 years, her business has transformed from a small high-street outfitters employing 4 people, to a significant Australian eCommerce player supporting 80 jobs and a destination warehouse that is rapidly becoming a fashion mecca for females from Canberra in the North to the Sapphire Coast in the South.
For such a unique achievement, Jane Cay, the mastermind behind Birds Nest, has been lauded widely in the national media. Her incredible success has been hailed as the template that regional retailers everywhere should seek to follow. And it’s not hard to understand why!
One of the the key ingredients of Birds Nest’s success appears to be its happy marriage of clever marketing and software smarts. Rather than using an off-the-shelf software solution, Birds Nest recruited it’s own tech team, headed by Joel Plane, and invested time money and energy into ensuring the software mapped directly to the business requirements.
The Birds Nest vision of thinking harder about how it’s customers ‘actually shop’, meant offering different interaction modes on the website such as shopping by personality, for a specific occasion, or by body shape. Their customers love it. But it is not a static thing – and that is why having a software team close at hand to alter and amend the web shopping experience allows Bird’s Nest to punch above it’s weight and trump many of it’s large corporate competitors.
The software also supports the complex warehouse operation and linked Point of Sale (POS) systems underpinning the business. The company often has to ship as much as 1000 units per day.
As well as it’s marketing and software strengths, Birds Nest has a lot more to recommend it. The company culture around the treatment of its staff and strong connection to the local community are innovative and go a long way towards high staff retention rates. Jane Cay is particularly proud of the ‘everything for the customer’ attitude that she finds comes very naturally to Cooma people working in the business. This, she posits, is another strong argument as to why digital economy businesses in regional areas can succeed.
Current focusses for Birds Nest include revamping its mobile presence, and adopting to the new competitive trends in the marketplace. Inconceivable as it may sound, the online retail industry seems to be driving relentlessly towards universal ‘free shipping’, and a punishing 365 day returns policy. These are the new pressures emerging in a dynamic sector that burns up any players which cannot contend with such highly complex demands.
Birds Nest is a shining example of what can be achieved in regional Australian areas with strong will-power, good decision-making, and a smart relationship with technology. Bricks and mortar retailers in the Sapphire Coast struggling to embrace the Digital Economy can take great heart from what has been achieved by Jane Cay and her team in Cooma.