Inside Redbox: meet Joseph Degaetano, Redbox's head of delivery, MENA
Travel, travel and more travel is how Redbox's head of delivery for MENA likes to spend his time. Inside work, Joseph is hugely experienced in delivering complex, multifaceted ecommerce and omnichannel projects for some of the biggest brands in the region. He talks to us about some of those projects, the challenges, and how his desire for learning is what keeps him motivated.
Tell us about your journey to Redbox?
I grew up in sunny Malta, which is where I started my career. I joined one of the largest igaming providers in Europe - oblivious to the digital world. Back in 2007, bank transfers were still the preferred form of online payment and PSP’s were on the rise. My day-to-day was pretty much manual data entry.
I spent three years learning the operations of a pure player in online payments, fraud and finance, and later moved to London with the same company to further my experience in the industry. I worked in various departments including, digital marketing, finance and product development before turning my attention to digital project management. This is where my interest in digital grew: understanding a need or problem and delivering a solution for it.
I moved to the Middle East in late 2013 and worked for some of the region’s largest retail groups including, Al Tayer, Alshaya and Sun & Sand Sports launching their digital businesses across the Middle East.
I worked with Redbox previously on the client-side and had a great relationship with them so, I decided to try my hand in an agency.
I joined Redbox as head of delivery for MENA. I’m responsible for the delivery of all digital and omnichannel projects for our clients in the region, leading a brilliant team of project consultants.
What attracted you to Dubai?
I knew people in the region and wanted to move to a warmer climate. London is an amazing place but in all honesty, I got tired of the gloomy weather.
Ecommerce is a fast-growing industry in the region and there’s huge opportunities to do things differently and make your mark.
Dubai is a great city, and there’s lots going on. It’s the central hub for the Middle East and Asia and a good base from which to explore.
Biggest work achievements to date?
All of the projects I have done in the ME are standout in one way or another. With the market being relatively new to ecommerce, I find brands and retailers in the region tend to push the boundaries of what is possible and are more willing to try new technologies.
But, if I had to pinpoint two it would be Nisnass, the online fashion and beauty brand and Nahdi, Saudi’s largest pharmacy chain.
Nisnass, which is owned by Al Tayer, is a brand that was built from scratch selling mid-to-high range clothing and beauty products. Think ASOS but a more premium brand. We made the decision to go mobile-only to start, built on the Magento platform. It was a bold move but given 70-80% of retailers in the region see their traffic coming from mobile, as well as its target audience, it made sense. The project took four months from design to delivery, which was very intense but highly successful.
Nahdi, one of Redbox’s biggest projects in the Middle East, was and still is an experience. I joined the team after the project had started and was knee deep in no time. They are constantly trialling new technology - including the use of Magento’s Order Management, customised promotional rules, and run a highly successful fulfilment model. Nahdi's new site has been live since March this year and they have been enjoying its highest traffic, conversion, average basket size and number of orders.
Motivations in life?
My main motivation is travelling and exploring new places and cultures. I’ve been on quite the adventure since moving to Dubai and I’ve had the opportunity to visit many places across Asia including Thailand, Sri Lanka, Japan, Singapore and the Philippines, but also within the Middle East and Africa.
Oman, for example, is a pleasant surprise – it’s a beautiful place and well maintained. You’d expect it to be dry and barren but it’s quite the opposite during the winter. You have lush mountain sides coupled with tropical coastlines. I like to go diving there, the marine life is spectacular – sharks, turtles, dolphins and even whales.
Ship wreck dive in Oman
Japan is another standout place. It has so many layers to its society from its people and technology to its transport and architecture.
Music is another big love. I used to play the drums and percussion a long time ago. I was in a band but that soon fizzled out when we spent more time talking to the police about the noise we were making. I enjoy going to gigs and when any big bands come to town like the Chili Peppers recently, I’m usually there.
Any other achievements outside of work?
I’m the middle child of seven so I would say surviving that is a big achievement.
At high school, I won an entrepreneur award. We had to build a company from the ground up, create a product and sell it. I managed a team of 26 and we did incredibly well – travelled to Norway to compete and won lots of awards locally.
Main challenges of your role?
I live in a region where cash is still king, streets don’t have names or numbers and website UX takes on a whole new meaning (RTL).
One of the biggest challenges is that people want everything now and the baseline of what people expect is continually changing. Clients want all the bells and whistles, delivered in an instant, which isn’t always possible.
Organisations in this region want to be first-to-market with new products and technologies and sometimes you’re caught between the commercials of a business and delivery of a quality product. It’s all about striking a balance.
The other challenge is regional adaptation - understanding that you can’t take something that has worked well in one part of the world and apply it to your project in another country. There is a level of local knowledge and adaption that is required, which you wouldn’t necessarily know unless you lived in the country.
We’re fortunate at Redbox in that we have the knowledge and experience on the ground, which is why client’s generally turn to us.
So, what about the future?
From a work perspective, there’s lots of movement in the industry and technology is changing at such a rapid pace – it becomes redundant in a few years rather than decades. This keeps me motivated.
There’s also a cultural reverse happening where people are going back to old habits - meeting face-to-face and having experiences that don’t involve technology.
As a nation, we’re becoming much more environmentally conscious. More retailers and brands are paying special attention to how their products and services impact the environment and this is really driving us to think out of the box in a positive way.
On a personal level, I’d like to step-up the travel and visit more countries!
If you had your time again, what would you do?
Invest in Facebook! I’ve done a lot and achieved a lot so I’m pretty content.
What's your motto in life? “Don’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree”. It’s an adaptation of Einstein’s popular quote.
If you could pass on one piece of advice you have been given, what would it be?
Everything works when it is in balance. Work hard but enjoy yourself just as much and don’t take life too seriously.