– Success Stories
If you haven’t heard of Afterpay, you’ve probably been living under a rock.
Launched in 2015 in Sydney, Afterpay has revolutionised the way shoppers purchase products.
Deeming itself as ‘financial wellness’ in the present day ‘want it now’ society, Afterpay requires no line of credit or loans to purchase items. The process is simple – make 4 payments over a few months instead of having to pay off debt.
And although Afterpay was the first of its kind when it came to payment-mode creativity, the model has since gone on to inspire numerous other companies around the world. So it came as no surprise when Square, Inc. announced its plans to acquire it.
Afterpay’s impact seems to have made a serious mark on the consumer. The convenience, coupled with their ability to remove the feelings of anxiety around debt is precisely what’s struck with shoppers across the board.
Not too long ago, Afterpay won the Pause Award for innovation and global expansion. And so we couldn’t help but dig deeper to understand this disruptive financial giant.
Rachel Kelly, the Head of Sales for Afterpay ANZ, was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions and share the story behind Afterpay’s growth and success.
The Early Days of Afterpay
Rachel started at Afterpay in 2017 in Surry Hills with a staff of around 15 people.
When we asked her what those early days looked like, and what their vision for the future was, she said, “We certainly weren’t ever talking in billions of dollars of turnover, which we now do. We were much more focused on trying to get to millions and making sure that the early product worked. It was engaging with both the merchants and consumers. It was so much more of a hustle. And indeed, when you go back and you think about those early days, everyone had to assume lots of different roles and help across the business, but certainly, the drive and the hustle to deliver was there, and still is today.”
Understandably at the time, Rachel and her team never fathomed just what this business was destined for. But they knew they had something special, and so they kept pushing, hitting one milestone after another.
With the support of communities and fan groups across the internet, they knew this was going to be different – a new movement in the industry. And they couldn’t have been more right.
It’s All About the Customer!
We couldn’t help but ask what it took to grow the business so rapidly. According to Rachel, it was their unrelenting focus on the consumer. To date, Afterpay begins every trade meeting conversation by talking about the customer, and they’re constantly collecting consumer feedback and evaluating the same.
“Stay really close to the customer at all touchpoints. And if you can do that consistently, you can actually maximise the opportunity of those early days.
In an ever-changing landscape of technology and consumer trends, you have to stay connected to what the customer wants. From there, you must evolve to keep up with the change in pace and make sure your brand and product are relevant.
If you’re not staying ahead of what the customer wants, the customer will just roll over the top of you, and that’s when your brand loses its relevance in the market.”Rachel Kelly, Head of Sales, Afterpay ANZ
What Does Success Mean?
Success can mean wildly different things to different people, and we’re always interested in hearing different peoples’ views on it.
On what it meant to her, Rachel said, “I think success for me is always going to be about how we expand and create an even greater customer experience.
I’ve been across many roles in the organisation. I was the EVP of APAC and now focus solely on driving the install channel globally. So we know that 85% of the worlds’ retail still occurs through physical spaces and stores. It’s how we try to unlock and make that consumer journey even more efficient and effective for the consumer that’s super exciting.”
Afterpay’s success story is a massive one, and Rachel’s got advice and thoughts for us on what it’s like to be a part of that – the beginning, the hardships, the road bumps (and all of this during a global pandemic, mind you.)
“Through March of 2020, Afterpay’s share price was $8. And to be able to get through those times is a galvanising moment for organisations. They give people a sense of how to rally around and support each other to try and get through and continue to grow the business.
I think everyone here will have their own version of that from the past 18-24 months.”
Rachel notes that through times like that, it comes down to how the business shows its grit and resilience to focus on the issues at hand, and eventually grow from it. Like many businesses, Afterpay was unsure of the future and had to sharply pivot in response to the pandemic.
Quite early on in Afterpay’s journey, co-founder Nick Molnar moved to the USA to grow the business there. A bold move so early in the business’ life, Rachel went on to share that it was necessary for an early adopter and game changer like Afterpay.
“The ability to be able to split the talent and have the talent work on both fronts, not only growing the ANZ business but also launching the US business, was a key driver of success.”Rachel Kelly, Head of Sales, Afterpay ANZ
Rachel noted another key move was of Nick and his other co-founder, Anthony, hiring talent that had previous experience working at larger scale organisations. “That’s what enabled Afterpay to accelerate quickly because the people that were there in those early days had worked on other organisations in a larger capacity than what Afterpay was.”
Fall Down, Get Back Up Again
The skills to succeed aren’t set in stone, but certain traits and abilities will help you irrespective of your field or job. When we asked for her opinion about the single most crucial skill to have in business, Rachel said, “I think the single biggest skill that is important in business is resilience and that ability to fall down, pick yourself back up and keep going. Look for different solutions, and expect to have problems, so that when they happen, you know how to navigate your way through.”
Well said. If you expect nothing ever to go wrong, you’ll soon find yourself unprepared when a wrench hits the gears and things take a turn for the worse. Not to say that you must constantly run in a state of worry, but instead adopt the right mindset that helps you feel prepared.
“I think it’s in your mindset. It’s the mindset that says problems are going to occur. So you have a roadblock or a speed bump or something that goes wrong, and you take that as a sign of growth. You then galvanise the team and keep pushing forward. I think resilience, and that ability to be able to roll with the punches and feek moving forward, is what’s key. No businesses would have survived COVID had it not been for their resilience and will to grow.”Rachel Kelly, Head of Sales, Afterpay ANZ
The Pause Awards Effect
Afterpay’s been a well deserved Pause Awards winner, and we wanted to cap the interview off by learning what that win meant to Rachel and the wider team.
“More recently, we took out the 2020 award for global expansion. This was such a huge honour and a great opportunity for Afterpay to be able to showcase our future vision for the company. It’s always great to be able to showcase what we’re doing in the innovation and technology space, and to be able to talk and engage with that industry and community directly.
We’re so thrilled to have won, it’s been a great partnership.”
From humble beginnings in sunny Surry Hills to a global mammoth of business, it was great to chat with Rachel and learn a bit more about that journey.
There’s plenty of useful lessons to be learned from it too, but our favourite’s got to be giving the customer what they want without them knowing they want it just yet.
That right there, is gold.
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