Steffen Daleng has had an eclectic career. From his time in the Danish army to his entrepreneurial journey selling jewellery, the executive has enough stories to fill a book – luckily, he now works at an online bookstore.
As Booktopia’s CMO, he was recognised for his inspiring leadership in ecommerce at a black-tie gala ceremony hosted at The Star Sydney.
“It’s nice to be recognised but at the end of the day it’s my team who deserves it, so I’m just proud to be able to pick it up for them,” he told The CEO Magazine shortly after claiming the accolade.
Truly passionate about the continually vibrant ecommerce industry, Daleng didn’t always plan to work in the digital industry, rather it was something he stumbled across.
“I kind of fell into ecommerce,” he shared on a Let’s Talk Marketing podcast. “While I was serving on one of the army compounds as a sergeant … I was withering away very slowly so I started to sell my then-girlfriend’s jewellery online.
“The first time I sold something online I was immediately hooked. It was an immediate rush – it was absolutely fantastic.”
Slowly growing the jewellery business into something bigger, Daleng created his own website for the startup so he could manage customer relationships without the marketplace getting in the way as a middle person.
Quickly learning how to manage his own ecommerce business, he started venturing into selling other products like electronics.
“A lot of it was really serendipitous,” he said. “I fell madly in love with it.”
From there, he founded a number of businesses in Denmark, Italy and Indonesia before moving from his Danish home to Australia in 2014.
“Personally, it was always about just following my heart in good and bad, and taking a bit of a leap of faith,” he told Brand Jam. “You don’t just abandon the country that you were born and grew up in without having something in your heart that really propelled you forward.”
The entrepreneur joined The Co-op as General Manager – Digital & Marketing where he was responsible for increasing customer numbers and growing revenue across all digital channels. Four years later he joined Booktopia, continuing his seasoned career in ecommerce.
“The first time I sold something online I was immediately hooked. It was an immediate rush – it was absolutely fantastic.” – Steffen Daleng
Having started as a side-hustle project in 2004, Booktopia was entirely bootstrapped with a A$10 a day marketing budget – reaching the apex when it was listed on the ASX on 2 December 2020. During the same period as being ASX listed, the company’s distribution grew from sending out 30,000 units to 60,000 units a day.
Focusing on simply being “the best at books”, a full-circle moment for Daleng was when Booktopia acquired The Co-op’s online business in 2020, giving the company the largest hold of educational books in the country.
“We have our feet in all the areas of the supply chain around books in Australia, from getting it written and published to getting it distributed and also selling it,” Daleng shares.
When there is a utopia of books literally at your fingertips, where do you start? Just like many of the country’s top leaders, Daleng opts for non-fiction books.
“Things that can help me grow as a professional and as a person as a human being is probably my area of content that I like to consume,” he says.
And while you don’t read while you ride your bike, the CMO believes businesses should think critically when making big decisions.
“What I read is all a matter of convenience,” he told Brand Jam. “As a business, it’s critically important for us to really have that focus on content and format agnosticity, making sure that we’re focusing on any kind of storytelling, whatever format that it may exist in, so that we can have something ready and be relevant for everybody no matter how they prefer to consume their content … and what that looks like in the future.”
Whether Daleng was selling jewellery from his living room or building a business with more than 8,000 SKUs in tech, the guidelines of ecommerce are much the same – no matter where you are in the world.
“Price, availability, handling time, shipping time and what’s expected are the key pillars,” he says.
Turning over A$165 million a year, Booktopia is set to become the largest online bookshop in Australia. One of the keys to its success has been through securing positively disruptive partnerships.
“Ultimately it comes down to working with other people to get your name out there in front of potential customers,” Daleng told CMO Australia.
“You want to work with people doing the right things who have their hearts in the right place.”
Booktopia’s Executive Assistant to the CEO, Zia Keirouz, was named Executive Assistant of the Year 2021.