Meet rising star of the week: Kate Hall, Releaseit

ek, we chat with Kate Hall, head of marketing at start-up business, Releaseit, a one-stop shop where customers can rent anything from dresses to lawn mowers.

You began your career as a retail strategist at Retail Oasis. How has working with different brands informed your roles since then?

I am so grateful to have had such a strong start to my career with my time at Retail Oasis. Being at the start of your career and exposed to executive level conversations of Australian retailers was eye-opening to say the least! Working on custom projects for these retailers gave me the strategic foundations for my role as marketplace strategy manager at Releaseit. My experience taught me the importance of utilising data, the skills of problem solving and the need for opportunity identification work.

More than anything, it taught me the importance of building truly customer-centric solutions to business problems. Working across an array of retail clients at any time taught me how to be nimble, which has helped me tremendously in my new role within a fast-moving and sometimes ambiguous start-up environment.

What are some of the initiatives in your career that you’ve led that you’re most proud of?
In my time at Retail Oasis, I am proud to have contributed to strategic transformation projects for incredible Australian retailers such as King Living, Jaycar, Funlab, Petbarn and Myer. My role was focused on opportunity identification using a mixture of creative intuition and customer data. This often included working on large brand transformation or digital
commerce projects.

My proudest accomplishment to date is the launch of Releaseit, Australia’s rental marketplace. From the first concept ideation meeting, conducting the customer and category research and preparing our pitch deck to raising funds, building the brand identity, and seeing the first wireframe designs to launch! I am so lucky to work with such an incredibly talented team and I am so proud of what we have collectively been able to achieve in less than a year.

I am currently leading marketing at Releaseit and am so proud of the local area marketing campaign that we rolled out in Sydney’s Inner West. The Releaseit platform has a community model, whereby members of the community can list their own products for rent, whether that’s a fancy dress in their closet or their bike they use once a month! The
strategic complexity of this model is that you have to simultaneously build both item listers (owners) and renters (seekers). To combat this, we have followed the path of other great two-sided businesses like Airbnb and Uber and have launched a hyper-localised campaign so we can attract owners and seekers in the same geographic area.

This led to an investment in not only a hyper-targeted digital campaign but also street teams with human and bike billboards roaming the streets of the Inner West! We had people walking down the streets with rented products (prams, guitars, formalwear) and signs on their back that said: “I rented this from Sophie in Stanmore.” It was amazing to see the adoption of the Releaseit brand and purpose in our targeted community.

I know you are passionate about the circular economy and sustainability. What are your thoughts on how the industry is faring in that regard so far?

Yes, I definitely am very passionate! I can appreciate that now more than ever, retailers are at least having the difficult conversations about their environmental impact. Over the past year especially, we’ve seen lots of retailers release their sustainability plans with pushes into sustainable packaging, net positive carbon emission, green electricity, food waste goals, resource conservation etc. I think the real test will be the rollout of these initiatives over the next five years.

At the same time, I think retailers have caught on that younger generations, especially Gen Z, want to support businesses that align with their own progressive morals and worldviews. I hope that retailers can be genuine in their environmental efforts moving forward. The key is authenticity, not greenwashing and I think the way to achieve this is to listen to your customers and to integrate sustainability goals into the core of your business strategy.

What do you love most about your job?

I love so many aspects of my current role but more than anything, I love how it challenges me to problem solve. We are in such an interesting phase as a business at the moment where we are constantly testing and learning. I love using both data and customer insights to refine our model, build a stronger brand, optimise our campaigns, introduce new features and improve the overall customer experience.

Who is your retail hero and why?

My retail hero is Sandradee Makejev, founder and CEO of online fashion retailer St Frock! I am so inspired by her start-up journey. Sandradee started selling dresses at the Bondi markets back in 2009 and has since built a business with projected revenue of $25million for 2021-22 financial year!

Working in a start-up, now more than ever, I am in awe of her consistent grind. As an operator, I am inspired by her mindset and constant ability to innovate. As a mentor, I love how she keeps it real and keeps the customer at the heart of all her strategies.

If you could swap jobs with anyone in retail, who would it be and why?

If I could swap jobs with anyone in retail it would be with Erica Berchtold, CEO at The Iconic (I’m shooting for the stars with this response)! It is a position I can only aspire to be in one day. The role is a perfect hybrid of all the things I love; retail, technology and marketplaces!

If you could change anything about the retail industry, what would it be?
If I could change anything in the industry it would be the amount of waste the industry produces! It would be amazing to see more retailers transform from playing in the traditional linear economy (take-make-use-dispose) to joining the circular economy (rethink-reduce-reuse-repair-recycle).

I’m not saying that every retailer needs to be holistically circular, but it would be great to see more traditional retailers incorporate circular initiatives into their models. With the rise of re-commerce, it’s likely consumers will look to re-sell or re-use retailers’ goods regardless, so they may as well try to capture a slice of the pie!

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