Thanks to the legends at:
Alicia Radabaugh @ 11 Honoré
#030: In this Chill episode, Overdose’s Andrew Potkewitz chats with ecommerce powerhouse Alicia Radabaugh, covering growth, digital transformation, marketing, operations, the partner ecosystem, and what’s on tap for 2021.
Getting to know Alicia Radabaugh
Alicia works across multiple brands—she’s Head of Commerce at both 11 Honoré and Thirteen Lune and is Founding Partner at City Shoppe. A collaborator and a connector, Alicia does what she does always with a sense of purpose.
When Alicia tells Andrew a bit of her backstory, particularly her career progression which has seen her rise from waitress, to bookkeeper, to total legend in the ecommerce world, we see how she gravitates towards conscience-led commerce—the new breed of business where breaking barriers, inclusivity, and a sense of duty are what matters.
The early days: JackThreads and MVMT
Alicia joined JackThreads in 2010. At the time, they were a flash-sale site for men’s fashion with a membership community channelled through social media.
These were Alicia’s formative years; she moved across nearly all facets of the business starting in the Accounts Payable department, moving to Fulfilment & Operations, then becoming the Director of Merchandising Operations, followed by Senior Director of Programming.
She was clearly good at managing people and processes. Or ‘organising,’ as Alicia modestly calls it. “I just generally knew I was good at organising things and wanted to work for a company that I saw going in a different, newer direction. So, that’s why I was so gung-ho on JackThreads in the beginning. It was super exciting—we were a really young, small, scrappy team.”
In 2016, Alicia joined watch and accessory maker MVMT, another bold brand that initially set out to deliberately disrupt the fashion industry by being a progressive, crowdfunded, ‘community brand,’ with a massive 1.5 million owners. It was an exciting time—they were one of the first big brands to roll out shoppable Instagram feeds.
Alicia’s focus initially was on developing a close partnership with the burgeoning Shopify Plus, before broadening to the wider tech stack, “basically bringing to life everything the marketing team wanted to do.” She recalls they had crazy ideas. Their motto, ‘move fast and break things,’ was potentially a risky modus operandi which could have easily backfired. It was a time when there was a lot of quick learning, but it all seemed to work.
In mid-2020, Alicia joined 11 Honoré, a fashion e-tailer catering to the plus-size customer in a luxury market. Inclusivity and anti-sizeism were the mission of its influential entrepreneurial founder, Patrick Herning, who has ultimately become a red-carpet hero. By joining forces with high-end brands such as Zac Posen, Oscar de la Renta, and Christian Siriano, who extended their size range to include plus sizes, the 11 Honoré concept couldn’t have represented the tenet of inclusivity more assertively.
“In a fashion,” says Alicia, “it’s a movement—a shift in the perception of plus, and there’s much psychology behind it. We talk about it all the time and we really look at how we can resonate with the consumer and build a community.”
Discussion inevitably turns to the pandemic and the effect it’s having on 11 Honoré. Prior to Covid, their mainstay was event-wear; around 60 percent of business was “$5,000 dresses for events, galas, all of that fun stuff that didn’t happen this year or last year.”
The microscope came out to look over the business to see what could be done. “I feel like it was a reimagining of everything. It was tough, but it was really healthy in the long run.” Learnings from purchasing shifts were incorporated into new collections. For example, more separates and a bodysuit were introduced, and they’ve been selling really well.
Furthering the mission to generate a new movement for inclusivity in fashion and beauty, Patrick Herning went on to create Thirteen Lune, a make-up and beauty ecommerce destination celebrating Black and Brown brands.
Patrick started working with co-founder Nyakio Grieco during Covid, deciding, “Let’s just get everybody we know on board and do it again.” Alicia was brought on as Head of eCommerce. “It was tough starting a business on Zoom,” she says, “but it happened.”
Alicia has been at the forefront of another retail inclusivity concept, City Shoppe, aimed at bringing local small businesses into a broader market. She’s been working with the founder to get it off the ground. “There’s still a ton of work to do, but it’s an awesome concept—so many businesses don’t have the marketing dollars to put behind acquisition or the money to build a storefront and ecommerce site, so they don’t really have anywhere to go. There’s obviously Amazon. There’s obviously Etsy. They’re slightly different markets, so this is really just to spotlight cities and the best local shopping in the city. I would say we’re still in super beta mode, but it’s exciting.”
The future of retail
Alicia talks of the polarisation of the online marketplace. There’s people that love Amazon and shop on it all the time because it’s so convenient and has such a large catalogue, but, on the other hand, there’s a growing base of people who don’t want to see the uniqueness of their cities or their streets go away, and are rethinking where they’re spending their dollar.
She thinks it will take a few years to see how things evolve. “It’s got to stabilize a little bit and hopefully swing a little bit back in the other direction of smaller is better, quality is better.”
And people are really starting to care about the brands they engage with. They want to know a brand has values and a conscience and there are actual people behind the brand—it’s not just some faceless, nameless brand that has a logo.
Effective marketing versus insensitive marketing
There’s a point when brand awareness becomes a nuisance—when people start getting turned off by it instead of just ignoring it.
11 Honoré is working with Overdose on a Customer Data Platform, or CDP—a move Alicia feels is crucial moving forward. “People are tired of, and turned-off by, marketing. There’s a lot of banner blindness—where you might have hit them with a Facebook ad and Instagram ad, or they get an email, and it’s good as a reminder, but they’re not truly engaging. It’s more of just a notification because they’re getting so many other things from all over the place.”
In a world of millions of customer touchpoints and interactions, CDPs build customer profiles by integrating data from a variety of first-, second-, and third-party sources including CRM and DMP, transactional systems, web forms, email and social media activity, website and e-commerce behavioural data, and more.
CDPs provide a way for an organisation to get acquainted with each and every individual. It’s customer-centred marketing where businesses have more accurate and effective data to manage their customer relationships and really just get to know their customers better.
The partner ecosystem
There is strength in the ecosystem—alliances can be a very powerful thing, and Alicia seems to have a really collaborative mindset, often focusing on the partner ecosystem in her growth strategies.
“A massive discovery for myself is that I like bridging across things, and being more of that connector within the teams and with the outside ecosystem.”
Some of the partners Alicia currently works with are:
Klarna and the whole buy-now-pay-later industry has been a boon for retail with millions of merchants offering customers a pay-overtime option. Alicia works with Klarna for 11 Honoré and Thirteen Lune.
A customer service platform or helpdesk which engages customers through meaningful and profitable interactions; a way for ‘merchants to leverage support into growth.’
“I love Yotpo,” Alicia says of the platform that manages customer reviews, loyalty, referrals, and SMS marketing.
In terms of the merchant-agent relationship, Alicia views the agency as an extension of the team, “It works really well when you think about it that way. You make each other better. I see it as fractional support.”
Alicia’s collaborator mindset—where a true partnership is one in which you either both succeed or you both fail.
With someone like Alicia client-side, it’s hard not to feel that things are going to succeed.