Behind the scenes of Just Group's digital transformation journey

Just Group CIO explains how the fashion and apparel retailer has rapidly revolutionised its online retailing strategy in the name of customer engagement

For the past five years, Just Group has been on a digital journey to revolutionise its online retailing strategy and expand its customer reach.

“For us culture is king - it’s not just about what you do, but why you do it and how,” Just Group CIO, Frank De Sa, told attendees at the IBM Customer Engagement Forum in Sydney. “Our digital transformation has been a whole company initiative, it’s not just about IT or marketing.

“We have no secrets when it comes to online retailing. Everyone knows we’re doing all these things online – and this level of visibility gives the combined team [IT and marketing] passion to say this is not just something we’re doing for ourselves. The board also recognises online is important for retail and for us.”

Just Group is responsible for a number of brands including founding brand, Just Jeans, and acquisition labels Jay Jays, Jacqui-E, Dotti, Portmans, Peter Alexander and Smiggle. With 1000 stores across Australia, the group is also in New Zealand and recently expanded to the UK in February last year, where it now has 30 stores. Just Group has its eyes set on Hong Kong and Malaysia in the next few months.

Just Group went online with the Peter Alexander brand in 2001, followed by Just Jeans in 2002, a relatively early achievement for an Australian retailer, De Sa claimed. But forward to 2010, and online became a completely different story.

“At the time, one of our key criteria was we wanted our online presence to be function-rich,” he said. “In fact, we wanted more functionality than we ever wanted to use ourselves. But we wanted to ensure our online presence would be around for a very long time.”

This meant the group still had four brands that lacked any transactional site online. In 2010, Jay Jays went live, followed by Dotti in 2011.

“At that point we decided to pull the transformation in-house and take control of this and move quickly,” De Sa said. “We also needed the team to work at the same pace as the business and understand the inside of the business. So we basically built a team to go fast.”

In 2011, the Just Group made a strategic call to build a world-class Web experience for its customers, and focus more on the customer experience.

“For Dotti, as a fast fashion brand, we focused on digital, mobile and video, but then we decided to actually rebuild our site only 12 months later,” De Sa said. “The first time we went online, it was about the transactions, but the second time we went online, it was about the experience and the transaction. After that, the approach was to optimise and grow.”

Apart from having a rock-solid platform, De Sa said a number of variables needed to be in order for effective digital transformation.

“These include a culture of innovation, a robust IT, team, performance and customer culture,” he said. “This has really helped the success of our business online.”

Traditionally, IT used to be a problem-solving hub, more reactive than proactive, De Sa explained. He decided to turn that around during the transformation process.

“We decided IT needs to work at the same pace and with the same attitude the whole business has,” he said. “That means if a shirt doesn’t sell in a store, and it doesn’t sell tomorrow, we need to find out quickly why, and ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. So that’s the sort of pace IT need to be operating at.

“It’s not about being reactive, but being ready to react.”

Uniting IT and marketing

De Sa stressed building the right culture within IT is critical to ensuring a robust and engaging retail platform.

“If the culture is not right, we can only dream about a successful implementation,” he said. “The key for us is our online solution needs to be supportable, it needs to be responsive and we need to be quick.”

De Sa agreed there’s a lot of talk as to how to effectively collaborate between the CIO and CMO. But from Just Group’s perspective, he said his team is very closely aligned with marketing.

“I spend probably more time in the head of marketing’s office than in anyone else’s office,” he said. “It’s about being on their steering committee, it’s about sponsoring their projects and making sure you’re part of a plan and not just part of a solution.

“Things change fast, so it’s imperative to be aware early, and react early so it’s really about being one team in terms of both marketing and IT. When things are changing so quickly, you want to communicate with each other in short delivery cycles and you need to ensure everyone works very closely together and deliver rapidly.”

De Sa also warned against being complacent, and to continue watching and monitoring the performance of your platforms, even when there are seemingly no performance issues.

“We watch, with eagle eyes, every single transaction to see what’s been slow, because even if it is not an issue now, it might in the future,” he said. “We’re constantly checking and watching and understanding. For us, a performance culture is a customer culture. We need to ensure everything is up and everything performs well.”

To support its customer-oriented culture, De Sa said the Just Group has an online steering committee that meets fortnightly with the CEO.

“We look at all the issues from the point of view of a customer,” he said. “We have the benefit of seven brands, so we can test and learn across each of them to see which campaigns work for which brands. Everything is based around the target customer of that brand.”

De Sa forecast the next generation of consumers will be far more digitally savvy and in tune with digital engagement, especially thanks the proliferation of social and YouTube platforms. This puts added pressure on brands to adapt to the change in user advancement.

“Read the signals, read the measures, and don’t get too disheartened it you trial something and it doesn’t quite take off,” De Sa advised. “We take that approach with customers and listen to what they’re saying.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Non-linear transformation: The internal struggle

Let’s face it, transformation is messy. Every business is different, with a set of specific challenges based on a mixture of external (the market, competitors, regulation) and internal factors (technology, people and process investments over time).

Neil Kelly

Partner, transformation, Wunderman Thompson

7 ways to champion a human centred design culture

Human Centred Design (HCD) has come a long way in the last decade with many forward-thinking organisations now asking for HCD teams on their projects. It’s increasingly seen as essential to unlocking innovation, driving superior customer experiences and reducing delivery risk.

Shane Burford

Head of research and design, RXP Group

Building a human-curated brand

If the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) sector and their measured worth are the final argument for the successful 21st Century model, then they are beyond reproach. Fine-tuning masses of algorithms to reduce human touchpoints and deliver wild returns to investors—all with workforces infinitesimally small compared to the giants of the 20th Century—has been proven out.

Will Smith

Co-founder and head of new markets, The Plum Guide

I think some of these ideas are great. These tips will help me to improve my system. Thanks!

Henry Reid

9 Ways to Improve Your Company's CRM System

Read more

It's a useful info for small businesses owners. We can't live without mobile apps. They are so helpful! It's hard to deny that.

Mae Davis

7 ways small businesses can benefit from mobile apps

Read more

Hi Jennifer,Fascinating read about design-led companies!If you would like to learn more, our Design Thinking and Innovation programme mig...

Andrea Foster

How to spot a ‘design-led’ versus ‘design-fed’ company

Read more

ABC web-site not easy to use/navigate. Even getting this far in sign-on to ABC My Space was problematic - it was asking for my password,...

Vee.

How the ABC used an online community to help build a movement

Read more

Thank you for your feedback, Astha! Always appreciated.

Vanessa Skye Mitchell

5 things marketers should know about data privacy in 2020

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in