CMO50 #2: John Batistich, Scentre Group (Westfield)

  • Name John Batistich
  • Title Director, marketing
  • Company Scentre Group (Westfield)
  • Commenced role October 2011, with Westfield since June 2007
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 38 in the direct team and 98 indirect
  • Twitter @johnbatistich
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    There was once a time when customers sat externally to the organisation, a clear step removed from product development and the way businesses were run.

    “Now they’re inside, helping us to make these decisions,” Scentre Group’s director for marketing, John Batistich, says. “Secondly, the amount of data available about their behaviours and increasingly, their physicality, is changing. We went from ad and media agencies and being relevant in media channels, to changing our thinking towards content in the right context, and applying the right conversations to the customer.

    “That leads to the importance of experience design, analytics, and content in context, which have changed the paradigms of media and advertising. This more personal, relevant and contextual relationship with customers is a seismic shift.”

    Marketing’s role within the organisation has changed dramatically as a result. “Sometimes we’re big influencers, in other areas we own and drive change,” Batistich says. “How we bring the organisation, and interest our teams in how to deliver on that customer journey, is essential.”

    Batistich first set out to be a brand marketer, majoring in marketing at the University of Western Sydney before joining Lion Nathan and spending four years there. He then looked to build out his skillset and worked in research and talent management. This was followed by a desire to cut across different cultures, categories, channels and customers, a path that saw Batistich market everything from beer and facial tissues to snacks at Pepsi, then take up a general management role with The Wrigley Company regionally.

    “I’ve always been someone really interested in people, brands and demand,” he says. “I wanted to be focused on growing the business, and creating innovation, as that excited me the most. I run marketing as a way to drive growth, innovate and create experiences for our customers.”

    For Batistich, innovation is about “ideas that are implemented” and create value for both the customer and the business.

    “Ideas need to be desirable, sizeable, buyable,” he says. “The business then needs to work to implement them with its customers in mind, around what excites them most and creates value for the business.”

    Batistich agrees innovation is becoming both more important, and also more difficult, and notes the number of disruptors today learning to innovate in new ways. This has seen organisations with more reliance on external partners to help drive innovation, he says.

    “When I started, innovation was about the idea. Many people get caught up in the ideas, but ideas are the easiest part of the process,” he claims. “The hardest part is driving those through the organisation, creating experiences for customers then creating business and partner opportunity.”

    If organisations want to serve the customer, marketing has to play an important role in development through all touchpoints, Batistich continues.

    “I never considered this as a communications-only role, but as a critical part of the organisation and myself as a product and experience guy. Get that right and communications is easy, but if it’s wrong, communications is not so easy or as good,” he says.

    Batistich is also clear with his team that if they don’t understand the end consumer’s local trade area, and where they spend time and money, they’ll never influence experience and product.

    “That’s where you get the data points to enable experience and improve and personalise that,” he says. “You must have a strong sense of product, ownership of experience, a strong position on the executive team, marking local decisions, and increasingly having that direct relationship with end customers.”

    Consumer profiling

    Westfield has a unique set of customers, including direct customers (the retailers), and those supplied by them (end shoppers). Increasingly, the focus has been on understanding and influencing the end shopper by capturing how and what they do on digital channels, then relating that back to physical behaviour in its malls. Batistich says it’s looking to link all of these touchpoints and across channels through consumer profiles that delve into interests, preferences and actions.

    For example, the group recently connected Web, email, mobile app, ticketless parking and Wi-Fi behaviour to create a more rich profile of pre-visit and in-centre interests and behaviour. It’s now working on how these can be scaled to inform personalised and contextual content. Westfield had 507 million visitors to its malls in the last year, spending a total of $226 billion.

    Another initiative assisting Westfield’s efforts to personalise content delivery was the launch a converged service network across the country, enabling the largest free Wi-Fi service and location analytics platform in retail. The ambition is to increase dwell time and grow spend per visit, making the physical mall more relevant to the digitally enabled shopper.

    Batistich sponsored and led the project team that rolled out the network, collaborating internally with IT, operations, legal, construction and brandspace. The group’s technology and infrastructure partners were Optus, Aruba and Skyfii. As at the time of the CMO50 submission, 12 of Westfield’s 29 centres had the solution deployment. Consumers using the Wi-Fi service were found to have 9 to 12 per cent longer dwell times than those visitors who did not.

    The analytics gained from these platforms is supporting location profiling of subscribers that will fuel the more personalised and contextually relevant content approach.

    Another marketing-led program outlined by Batistich in his CMO50 and reflecting the omni-channel shift was Westfield’s ‘Searchable Mall’. This digital platform is aimed at helping shoppers find what they want in their local Westfield mall and buy it their way, whether that be digitally or physically. To do this, Westfield has integrated 185 retailers’product and content into its site and more than 250,000 products. The website was built with responsive design and using Agile, user-centred product development.

    As part of his CMO50 submission, Batistich also outlined work done with Monash University’s Australian Centre of Retail Studies around an online survey retargeting thousands of Westfield’s website users to understand their purchase behaviour. The initiative found the website was playing a significant role in the discovery and search stages of the shopper journey and also helped to showcase just how much the shopper journey has changed in a digital age.

    For example, 72 per cent of shoppers completed a ‘web event’, such as viewing a store and product details, called a store, of clicked out to the retailer’s website. According to Westfield, this interaction resulted in a purchase in-store or online, influencing $323m in annualised sales. More than three-quarters of these purchases were made in a Westfield shopping centre, with 50 per cent buying additional items.

    Keeping the skillset fresh

    For the next 12 months, Batistich’s priorities are around how to continue growing and evolving his team to keep up with the shift and changes around data, experience, content and context. To do this, he’s developing new competency models to guide development and recruitment. It’s also about partnering with retailers to create value and an environment of growth, he says.

    Batistich points out the capabilities now required in the marketing function would have been unrecognisable to marketers five years ago. It’s both industry and corporate Australia’s responsibility to articulate, support and develop those capabilities, he says.

    What keeps him awake at night is consumer data security. “This is emerging as a significant threat to any organisation capturing customer data,” Batistich comments.

    As a modern CMO, Batistich says it’s vital to have strong personal drive, along with an ability to take others with you.

    “You also have to have curiosity, an ability to listen, ask questions and anticipate the future,” he says. “You need agility and to have the capability to take knowledge and experience into unknown areas, whether these be industry, category or role.

    “And you need insights, to be continually learning and then leveraging those lessons.”

    * John Batistich left Scentre Group in June 2016 after nine years in the lead marketing role. He joins us as a 2016 CMO50 judge.

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