Seek the Uniq’s Mikka Padua is no stranger to retail. She spent years in high-end jewelry, beauty and fashion doing buying and merchandising. But it was during her time as a senior buyer for accessories at a popular e-commerce site that she found her calling. She noticed that there weren’t a lot of highly curated online sites for a more affluent and sophisticated market, so she thought of putting up Seek the Uniq (with some help from her husband) to fill in the gap. Mikka jets around the world on the regular—from Mexico to Bali—to source the products herself. Today, Seek the Uniq is quickly becoming one of the more popular online destinations for clothing and lifestyle items—both in the Philippines and around the world. Below, we get to know more behind the brains of this popular retail site. Read on!
E-commerce only recently grew big in the philippines. Why do you think more Filipinos started buying online?
I think it is only recently that Filipinos became more open to online shopping and more forgiving to buying something sans the tangible aspect of shopping. The industry has grown immensely over the last two years, therefore bringing more and more options to Filipino shoppers. Trust issues (with the use of credit cards) have also been addressed via other payment methods made available, like COD (cash on delivery) and bank deposit.
Furthermore, the convenience it brings plays a very crucial role in the local market’s shopping behavior. All of a sudden, you no longer need to drive to a mall, find parking (which is almost always impossible), and queue in a long line to complete your purchase. Here comes an option that makes you shop at your own convenience, be it at home or while stuck in traffic, and have the item delivered to your doorstep in a day or two, all in a pretty personalized package.
Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, Seek the Uniq runs 24 hours. Were there any sacrifices made regarding personal time, and how did you address that?
Running an online store is like being a doctor. You’re always on call. It may not be as [critical], but there are no excuses to an unanswered call, email or unfulfilled order. I do most of the big things, but I still can’t let go of the smaller ones, like seeing to a seeker’s needs or requests, simply because to me that is no small thing. Having a lean team is challenging and there are things that have got to give. Like sleep, maybe, the luxury of watching movies, reading and finishing a book—things that one would normally take for granted. Our vacation choices have also been affected since STU. Luckily, our daughter has not been complaining about spending Christmas in Mexico, India [last] New Year’s Eve, and short trips to Bali in between. She has gotten used to buying trips and frequent photo shoots at home. STU (Seek the Uniq) may mean less time with her, but so far we have managed to involve her in every little way we can that it seems to be working.
You’ve mentioned on your website that you offer products in smaller quantities. Have there ever been moments where you considered going for volume versus limiting stock?
We have increased our quantities in order to scale, especially nowthat we are also present in India. But we keep to our promise of “uniqueness.” we may have increased our volume of some styles, butwe have also increased the variety of product offerings.
What have you noticed about the buying behavior of your customers? Do they tend to purchase more in the evenings, on the weekends, for example?
No specific time, really, but it’s always when we have new launches that our traffic spikes. I think it [comes] from the premise of having smaller quantities. If there are two words that our seekers hate, it would be “sold out.”
Seek the Uniq has a number of retailers in-store. What’s your philosophy when it comes to choosing what brands to include? What criteria would they need to fulfill?
If a brand resonates [with] our concept and aesthetic, then it’s a go. Whether our seekers will covet such offerings is also something that we take into serious consideration.
What is something you know now that you wish the younger version of yourself, when you were starting Seek the Uniq, knew back then?
STU is only a little over two years old and there is just so much more to learn that I can’t really think of it yet as a “back then.” I wish to have focused more on the bigger things, though, like growing the company and exit plans on our first year, but then again, we won’t be where we are now had I, along with my team, not done the little things.
*This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of Preview Magazine.