Julian O’hayon dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur early in life. Inspired by his father, also a self-made businessman, Julian turned to modern technology to make his dreams come true. When he was 14, he began teaching himself how to code and to design websites. While he did it for fun at first, he knew that websites were going to be the next big thing. And he was right.
In 2006, Julian O’hayon founded Anckor, which is a Brussels-based “creative agency.” Since then, the company has provided IT consulting services, and their unique approach has earned them the respect and admiration from many of their clients. This approach combines the processes of design and development to create special products.
At Anckor, Julian O’hayon and his team develop projects from scratch, and they cater to both startups and high-profile international corporations. The company helps their client solidify their brand identity, which feeds into the design process for their user interfaces and even to their IT development.
Julian O’hayon also founded Beehire in 2016, which is a recruitment company for the digital economy. The company uses a signature video interview solution that allows clients to speed up their recruitment process by skipping on a number of stages and going straight to interview.
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Julian O’hayon: Thank you for having me!
I am best known as the founder and designer of the lifestyle brand, Blvck Paris. It’s kind of funny because I never really intended to go into fashion, it just kind of happened.
I grew up in a very entrepreneurial environment and have always been very much into design and technology. While in high school, I taught myself web-design. I would spend hours designing impeccable user face and decided to start my own design agency. By the age of 22, I was working with over 100 clients worldwide designing their websites whilst studying business engineering at university.
In all my projects, I honed my focus on beautiful yet minimalistic and functional design, which can be regarded as my distinctive signature. Creating my own brand and products to share my vision with the world was always a dream of mine.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Julian O’hayon: Via my own Instagram account, I would share my monochrome and minimalistic lifestyle and I also began applying my personal stamp to household brands.
Through posting images on Instagram, I wanted to bring a memorable and aesthetically pleasing effect by ‘blvcking out’ everyday items. For example, I designed a can of coke in black. The photos quickly went viral on social media. I also got a lot of press recognition worldwide. This is when I knew it was the start of something bigger and that I wanted to explore the ‘Blvck’ concept further by creating an all-black lifestyle brand.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Julian O’hayon: This year has been really good for us at Blvck Paris despite the global ongoing pandemic. We have increased our footprint in Asia and have had our first ever physical pop up there.
The beginning of COVID was not easy for us as we had some inventory and shipping issues caused by the pandemic. At the time, we decided to take this opportunity to focus on things we don’t usually have time to and optimise our website and operations. It really paid off as soon as we received our inventory, we saw a major increase in conversion rates online.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Julian O’hayon: As a team, we all use a lot of different tools to be more productive and also marketing wise.
My focus is more on the design, branding and marketing. On my side to edit photos, I use mainly photoshop, blender and lightroom. These tools are not easy to use if you are not familiar with them but once you master them, it can help you a lot.
For emails, we use Klaviyo. It is a really good platform where you can easily create campaigns and follow the metrics on what works best for your firm.
For productivity, we use Monday, a project management tool that helps us manage our tasks and always stay on top of it.
For customer service, we use Zendesk. It is a great software, super easy to use and really good as you scale and receive more and more emails.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Julian O’hayon: There is actually a lot of small things that can help improve conversion rates.
The main one is the website itself. The average across the industry is around 2.5%, however, it really depends on what you sell. If you sell very high-priced products, your conversion would naturally be lower.
To improve your landing page conversion rate, you need to make sure your website is very user-friendly and has all the basic equipment such as a good FAQ, a return and shipping policy.
The second aspect is your ROAS that can help you boost your conversion rates. It also depends on the products sell but having good creatives always help.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Julian O’hayon: There is no secret, it takes time. We started the brand almost 3 years ago now and we are still building our reputation online. I think working on having a good customer service and always listening to your clients and constantly improving your service and products is key.
I also think domains are very important, invest in the right domains. We bought blvck.com earlier this year and I still think that it was our best investment of 2020. Having a strong social media presence also helps, as it can show other consumers buying the products and loving the brand.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- humble beginnings, great endings
I started Blvck by creating a community of people who share the passion for the color black and the minimalistic and high-quality lifestyle. We first started by offering tech accessories and a very limited number of products and organically grew the product offering and the regions covered. The bigger picture is constantly on my mind, but we want to scale the business in an organic way and make sure we get to this great ending.
2. Work hard but smart
Focus on what you are good at and outsource the rest. At Blvck, we are known for our strong branding and unique aesthetics. It is something we will never outsource because is the DNA of Blvck. On the other hand, we work with a lot of contractors to assist us with other tasks, we are not great at and cannot afford to focus at risk of losing the bigger picture.
3. Be able to pivot, stay open minded
One of my friends I worked with in the past, he built a social network for students. From the start, he saw that it wasn’t profitable and that there was not much opportunity there but he kept trying and stuck with it for about two years. I would say that if there is no market for your service/products, adapt and find your right audience or try an alternative product but don’t stay stuck with an idea that will end up wasting your time and energy.
4. Know your clients
It is very important to understand who your audience is and really grow with them. We noticed earlier this year that we had a lot of demand in Japan and decided to focus even more there and even creating some products just for them.
5. Always challenge yourself
Constantly learn and challenge yourself. My background is in design and earlier this year with the ongoing pandemic and less opportunity to create content outdoors, I decided to learn more about 3D and AR from scratch. It has proven to be extremely useful for the business. On our website, we have added augmented reality to most of our products and you can project our popular tumbler in your living room from our website on your phone. It also helps us to sample more products.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Julian O’hayon: I am quite active on Instagram and you can follow me at www.instagram.com/anckor and my brand at www.instagram.com/black
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!