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Interview with Megan Quinn

Get business tips from one of internationally acclaimed Net-a-Porter's co-founders.

Top tips

  • Understand your customers needs, cater to them AND exceed their expectations
  • Make sure your e-commerce site "speaks to" the target customer
  • Empowered staff are an effective conduit between the customers and the business

About Megan

Megan Quinn speaker at Bendigo Small Business FestivalMegan Quinn is best known as a co-founder of the internationally acclaimed Net-a-Porter but few people are aware Megan has been stomping her entrepreneurial boots around several businesses.
Prior to starting Net-a-Porter, Megan started a cleaning company Partners in Grime and since leaving luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter has founded Q&CO. The boutique consultancy firm Q&CO focuses on how clients can most effectively engage with their customers and clients through multi-channel and traditional service models.
In this interview we chat to the inspiring Megan Quinn who shares her tips for success.

How did you get started in the online business world?

I worked at the contract-publishing arm of Conde Nast publishing house in the late '90's as a senior creative, and everyone was talking about the internet. No matter where or who you were, you couldn't escape the excitement – it was like the Gold Rush. I used to look over the shoulders of huddles of people crowding around computers, incredulous at sites such as Amazon and Ebay. There was an enormous sense of ground-breaking potential…everyone was exhilarated…except for me. I thought it was UGLY, and SLOW – which it was back then. I knew that if I was going to be involved in that medium, I'd have to design it in such a way that it looked and felt "different". 

What are the key elements of Net-a-Porter's achievements and ongoing success?

Success has many parents, and there are too many to list in one short paragraph. I can only speak with absolute authority about the co-founding and establishment of the brand, as I left to be with my baby daughters, once we'd proven the concept. Net-a-Porter is one of less than .25% of dot coms to survive the boom and bust, and there are a number of reasons for this: a unique idea, very well executed; a complete understanding of the need states of our customers; a perfect balance of the left and right hand side of the brain; wonderful investors; superb staff; great third party relationships; a solid business plan; exemplary service and packaging which has now become iconic. Over-riding everything we did, was a commitment to exceeding expectations.

What are 3 pieces of advice you would give to current retailers who are thinking of stepping into the online world?

The single most important facet of a successful e-commerce site, is that it "speaks to" the target customer in an intuitive way. The customers of each brand have different need states, so it's important for the business to understand those needs, cater to them AND exceed the expectations of the customers.
Primarily, customers want to be able to find the product they need, find enough information they need to help their decision, then they need to be able to make the purchase in an intuitive and easy way. The easy return of the product is important to the customer too. So every touch point in the customer's journey needs to be considered. Every possible barrier to entry needs to be addressed, so that the customer not only feels secure in making the purchase, but their expectations have been exceeded.

Even though there is no face to face communication with the customer throughout the e-commerce transaction, it is still possible to build a meaningful connection with the customer, through creating a site that "speaks" to them, by having excellent customer service, by having products that they desire, by making it easy to find the information they need and make the purchase they want, and then, return the product if necessary. The piece de resistance at Net-a-Porter was the packaging – our gift to the customer.

Tell us about Q&CO and what tips do you have on how to make customers love your brand?

Q&CO is a discreet, niche agency that takes a different approach to consulting. Having created three brands and businesses of my own, and having worked in Australia and abroad for over twenty-five years as a creative director, and an executive and non-executive Board member, I look at businesses from different angles. I'm that rare mix of left and right hand side of the brain, meaning that I'm equally focused on and motivated by an exceptional customer experience AND a robust bottom line.

Having lived abroad for eighteen years, gives me an insight into how necessary it is for businesses and corporates to constantly evolve. I've witnessed some of the biggest players fold, because they didn't evolve and innovate. Australia needs to become much more attuned to the zeitgeist, and forget what has worked historically. This is the challenge and the opportunity.

How you get your customer to love your brand varies between companies. The constant is always that you and your staff have to love your brand. One of the things we don't do well here in Australia is nurture and develop our staff. They're our ambassadors – accordingly, they need to be chosen wisely, and trained well, with open lines of communication running both ways. Empowered staff are an effective conduit between the customer and the business.

Now for some non-business related questions...

Favourite way to spend the weekend? 

After a hectic week, there is NOTHING I like more than a quiet weekend with my little family. Most Saturdays my eldest daughter has school sport, so we invariably drive for hours across the countryside. And then…nothing. Bliss. There is always music playing throughout the house, often a game of Monopoly on the go, some very ordinary cooking with my youngest daughter, dogs running around our feet, and a meal or two out. The four of us love going to brunch on a Sunday. If we see friends or family from out of town, that's a bonus.

What's next for Megan Quinn?

Ha, the million dollar question. I'm very much enjoying being on the Boards of UNICEF Australia and Specialty Fashion Group. I love the rigour of consulting, and I'll stay on the speaking circuit as long as people are interested in listening. I'm doing a bit on television at the moment, but sense I'm more of a radio person. I have a business idea…