Looking Beyond Silicon Valley for Hotbeds of Retail Innovation

September 28, 2018

Aussies Are Authentic Storytellers

The following is the first in a three-part series that sheds light on hubs of retail innovation around the world.

Last week, we discussed the positive impact that tech innovations coming out of Silicon Valley are having on the retail sector. One comment on the piece stood out: a reader from the UK wrote, in part, “It’s not just Silicon Valley that has tech which will
accelerate the evolution of retail.”

That’s certainly true, as there are other hotbeds of innovation around the world that are driving success stories in retail. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on a few of these other regions that have sprouted new technologies, global influencers and innovative strategies that are enabling brands and retailers to stay relevant in an Amazon-centric world.


While Australia may not be the first place we think of when discussing retail, Aussie entrepreneurs have generated a significant number of retail successes, and we can learn quite a bit from these forward thinkers. If I had to summarize the reasons behind their success, I’d say it boils down to two things:

1.    Australians Are Authentic Storytellers.

Authenticity is an important cultural value in Australia. Aussies expect open, honest and blunt communication, and their honesty and authenticity are resonating with today’s consumers. “Australians have always been good storytellers and are extremely candid,” according to Jessica Richman, Director at the Australian Trade & Investment Commission. “This creates an authentic style of communication that resonates with customers, especially millennials, who are barraged with highly curated and designed messaging that is often not relatable.”

Millennials all over the world are seeking an authentic, relatable connection to brands. And Australians seem to know how to deliver. Kayla Itsines, the social media fitness phenom who sells recipes, lifestyle tips and exercise videos, is a great example. Her social media feeds include realistic workouts, motivational pep talks, appealing healthy food photos and real “before and after” photos from her followers. When asked if running is a part of her fitness routine, her response was “Absolutely…not!” Her “I am real” attitude is working. In addition to an extremely fit physique, Kayla has more than 33 million loyal followers on Instagram and Facebook.

Source: Kayla Itsines Instagram


Jane Lu is another great example of an Australian who is authentically authentic. She is the Founder and CEO of Showpo, a prominent Australian retail fashion brand with more than 2.6 million social media followers. Jane started the business in her parents’ garage and has used her ability to connect with customers to grow Showpo to more than $20 million in annual revenue. When you get to know her, you understand why—you want to be her friend because she is so real and relatable. And the brand reflects her personality. The Showpo website often features “real” models of all shapes and sizes, and anyone can enter a contest to win the chance to be an actual model on the company’s site. Yes, Jane wants real people to model her clothes. Even her Instagram account name is self-deprecating: @thelazyceo. That’s authentic.

To know her is to love her. Jane is real, so people trust her—and trust equals sales.

2.    Young CEOs Understand (and Target) the Millennial Consumer.

A number of Australian companies have young CEOs at the helm. Although that trend is not unique to Australia, these young leaders have an intimate understanding of the millennial customer, and they can effectively target the millennial mind-set. A number of winning retail technologies and platforms coming out of Australia are millennial-focused, and the companies developing them have a leadership style that is fully engaged with and understands this demographic.

Afterpay, an Australian company that enables retailers to offer their customers the option to buy now and pay later without assuming debt or paying fees or interest, was cofounded by Nick Molnar, aged 28. As a millennial himself, Nick understood that millennial Australians wanted the ability to make purchases, but that they were uncomfortable carrying debt, a responsible mind-set he wanted to promote. His ability to identify a need and create a solution for his peers has paid off. The company currently has a market cap in Australia of A$4 billion and recently expanded into the US, where the concept is being met with open arms by retailers and consumers alike.

Source: Afterpay, Urbanoutfitters.com

Jane Lu of Showpo also has an uncanny grasp on the millennial mind-set. Understanding millennial women’s desire to connect, share ideas in business and support each other, she formed “Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine,” an active community of more than 80,000 women who are starting or already own their own businesses.

It’s time to start rewriting the retail narrative. The industry is full of opportunity: it’s simply evolving to adapt to new customer expectations, innovative technologies and, of course, Amazon. Identifying retail success stories across the globe, and learning from the strategies driving their success, is key to remaining competitive. Australia was a good place to start. But there are others. Stay tuned…

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