01 Jun 2014
A Look at Olook
Fashion startup taps Brazil’s burgeoning e-commerce marketby Dan MorrellTopics:
André Beisert's olook targets a very particular part of Brazil's new consumer market. "Our brand has a persona," Beisert (MBA 2009) says in his white brick office, which sits atop a small warehouse in the Vila Nova Conceição neighborhood in south São Paulo. "Her name is Carol. She's 28 years old. She just graduated from college a few years ago. She's middle class. She drives a Fiat Uno. She's very socially active. And she loves social networks. And she's into fashion blogs," says Beisert. "We sell to everybody in practice, but everything we do, we target this girl."
Beisert started olook in July 2011, after a year-and-a-half at McKinsey and about six months as the cofounder of Dafiti, which he calls a "Zappos clone"—a kind of Brazilian knockoff of the famous American online shoe seller. Olook sells its own brand as well as 30 or so others, including items produced by codesigned partnerships with everyone from fashion designer André Lima to Princess Paola d'Orléans-Bragança, a descendant of Brazil's colonial royal family.
Online retail has proved to be a healthy market. Brazilian research firm e-bit estimates that e-commerce in Brazil grew by 25 percent in 2012 and 28 percent in 2013—even as the national economy stalled. And fashion is one of its hottest sectors, according to e-bit, responsible for almost 14 percent of e-commerce sales, ahead of household appliances and cosmetics. Beisert says olook is poised for growth, with 1 million registered users, 850,000 Facebook followers, and a run rate hovering around 15 million reals (about US$6.4 million).
The biggest strain on demand? A customer base that just isn't accustomed to online shopping norms: "Being able to return stuff, being able to trust the retailers you buy from—that's a huge barrier for e-commerce," says Beisert. (Especially so in fashion, where returns are much more likely.) "And that has been being reduced over time. But there's still a long way to go."
Class of MBA 2009, Section E