How Billabong keeps its brand relevant in the digital age

From backyard beginnings to global brand, the surf label is continuing to evolve in the e-commerce space

From humble beginnings on the Gold Coast in the 1970s, to growing global household name, Billabong’s brand journey has been about consistently evolving to meet customer needs. And its expansion into digital is no different.

Speaking at the Online Retailer and Ecommerce Expo in Sydney, Billabong’s group ecommerce manager, Tora Brophy, said the surf retailer’s aim is to constantly evaluate how to showcase its brand in the best fashion possible. To achieve this, Billabong sees the concept of fewer, bigger and better as vital to every interaction.

“Our aim is to create a targeted, more streamlined form of communication with our customer,” Brophy said. “Our goal is to cut through and engage, tailor our communications to specific campaigns and make them more relevant.”

Storytelling is also core to engaging with customers, and Billabong has extended this through its digital channels, inspiring through story while at the same time always linking back to a product, Brophy said.

“The most important thing is to engage with our audience and making them captive,” he said. “It generates social conversation, online and in-store, reaching both new and existing customers. It’s about complementing the lifestyle with the product.”

To facilitate Billabong’s business goals, Brophy said the brand has continued to invest in global platforms and focus on customer centricity.

“The single most important thing is to put the customer at the centre of every interaction,” he said. “We’re trying to provide a first-class experience with our customer and we’re trying to think of new and innovative ways to captivate our audience.”

When it comes to the omni-channel experience, Brophy put success down to connecting the dots to create a seamless customer experience.

“Technology is really serving as the enabler by removing global shopping barriers,” he said. “This forces us to have to stay ahead of the shopping curve.”

According to Brophy, omni-channel has also meant moving away from the typical siloed structure many legacy organisations have operated, to delivering a more integrated experience through cross-functional collaboration.

“One of the challenges of omni-channels is the complexity of them, how to integrate them and how do you make that experience as seamless as possible,” he continued. “With these channels, you’re dealing with everything in your portfolio, such as social, customer service, B2B, in-store – they’re all variables.”

Another challenge Brophy raised in the omni-channel process was improving the customer journey via actionable insights.

“It’s all about gaining visibility across the region,” he said. “We have complete transparency as to how we operate online, but how that translates in-store is still a challenge.”

Ultimately, embracing omni-channel is about providing a unique experience and helping customers transition from each channel as fast as possible, Brophy said. “It’s about giving the customer the freedom to engage and shop how they want, when they want and where they want,” he said.

But while technology may be the enabler, brands must look at how to use it effectively as part of the overall business process. Billabong is in the midst of an omni-channel platform redesign using NetSuite, to ensure the customer remains at the centre of all interactions.

“The remainder of the year and going forward, we’re going to continue to focus on doing fewer things, bigger and better, continue to build up our global platform and continuously improve our customer experience,” Brophy added.

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