Why customer engagement isn't just about data or digital at Ozsale

Online flash sales retailer shares how a combination of digital innovations and operational efficiency improvements are vital to customer experience management

Customer engagement isn’t just a digital play for online flash retailer, Ozsale, it’s also about making improvements to the physical post-purchase experience.

Speaking to CMO at the SDL Innovate conference in Sydney, Ozsale’s digital marketing manager, John Richardson, shared how the member-based shopping website is combining data insights with operational and structural change to help improve the way it engages with its growing base of international customers.

Two-and-a-half years ago, the company started looking at how to better utilise customer data and personalise communications to its member base. Previously, only generic emails alerting all customers to new offers across its various product categories were sent.

The total Mysale Group currently sends about 4 billion email messages each year and has 13 million customers in 10 countries under multiple brands including Mysale, Ozsale, SingSale and BuyInvite.

“We weren’t being very smart about our data so we started looking to improve that area of our business,” Richardson explained.

The company carved its database into specific customer segments and also ranks products so it can highlight tailored offers to customers based on their product affinity. As a result of the work, Ozsale has seen a 33 per cent uplift in email open rates, and increased profitability by 7 per cent. But the retailer still retains a level of flexibility with how much it tailors content.

“With SDL we can have tens and hundreds of thousands of customer segments that are massively granular and can be tailored right down to an individual level. However we have worked out we don’t need to be quite so in-depth with our daily emails to get the returns,” Richardson said.

Related: Why Ozsale believes customer segmentation can go too far

But personalised content isn’t the be all and end all of customer experience. Another significant part of the puzzle is the post-purchase experience, and how long it takes to deliver stock to customers.

Because some sales on the website are third-party sales, a purchase order is only sent to the supplier once a sale closes. Even if a customer places an order on the first day of a five-day sale, they have to wait for Ozsale to lodge the purchase order with the supplier for all stock sold, receive the goods, then pack and ship items from its local warehouse.

Richardson admitted that process can potentially be alarming for a first-time customer, and is also an area of concern for the business.

“Customers experience isn’t just the website; it’s the post-purchase part of the process as well,” he said. “So what we are working on from a non-digital perspective is improving our supplier management, which ultimately improves our customer experience. If we can manage to reduce the time it takes to get our orders into our Australian warehouse significantly, it means the orders are going out to our customers faster as well. And we have to do that on a global scale.”

Off the back of these potentially bad customer experiences, Richardson said the Ozsale team goes back into its customer database to identify which customers have lapsed and why. This combination of physical experience and digital insight gives the retailer an ability to send targeted content to entice customers back.

“That content could be a sale that’s just running for our lapsed customers and is only accessible via an email,” Richardson said.

As well as the technological changes, improving customer experience for Ozsale is about ensuring teams work together to overcome potential pain points and challenges.

“It’s not really a surprise people say the reason they don’t come back to shop with you is because the order took too long. But as a business, we have also looked at how we improve these processes,” Richardson said.

Ozsale has launched a number of ‘mini projects’ that overlap each other and focus on internal functional change.

“We’re not changing anything in IT – that’s the typically response, thinking IT can fix something – we are actually changing our processes across multiple different business units,” Richardson commented.

A warehousing and supplier project, for instance, will have a knock-on effect on the buying and planning teams, while a merchandising project has an effect on the marketing team. So different staff have been chosen to work on projects outside their area of expertise.

“It’s about looking at these individual business units, working out where the problems are and putting some process improvements in place,” Richardson said.

As an example, Richardson is working on a merchandising project. “They need to have someone from marketing, someone from IT, someone from buying and graphics so everyone can share their views of what that team should be doing and where the potential issues are,” he said.

“Each mini project has its own leader, and within that project there will be people from different parts of the business who can give a less biased view.”

Alongside internal project efforts, the next step for Ozsale is to scale the personalisation of data to meet its growth ambitions. The company has an aggressive acquisition target of 500,000 new members per month globally. About 10 million customers have come on-board in the last two-and-a-half years alone.

“We’re looking at how we scale the solution to make it easier for us to do this [personalisation] when there are so many more markets we’re working in,” Richardson said. “We have 14 websites across 10 countries, and multiple brands. We have brands we have acquired such as Cocosa [a luxury handbags business in the UK],and we’re launching London Chic.

“We are working with SDL to figure out how to communicate to all these channels and in a way that’s not only removing human error, but is as seamless as possible.”

More on customer engagement: How Deakin University's social media command centre is driving a new customer approach

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