CMO50 2016 #11: Robert Ambler-Fraser

  • Name Robert Ambler-Fraser
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company The Good Guys
  • Commenced role 2005
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 91 staff, 7 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Retail
  • 2015 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    One of the key attributes Robert Ambler-Fraser is looking to foster across his marketing function is something he calls “connections”.

    “We’re finding ways to make everything we do multi-purpose,” he says. “For example, aligning local area marketing with community support and volunteering, not just product advertising, or linking after-sales service on the products we sell into a rewards program that bring customers back to the Good Guys three time a year for add-on purchases.”

    The key metric Ambler-Fraser uses to demonstrate the ongoing effectiveness of marketing, meanwhile, is monthly feedback from customers in stores, via its proprietary Buyer Tracker.

    “This links online browsers with post purchase feedback on service, media use and brand advocacy,” he says.

    Taking a customer-led approach

    Ambler-Fraser has always believed understanding customers is the key to anticipating their needs and staying competitive, which is why he’s fought so hard for The Good Guys to adequately invest in research, insights and data management functions.

    Today, the retailer is powered by data and insights, and Ambler-Fraser says turning these into actions is about focusing on understanding the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. To do this, it maintains two dedicated teams – a data insights team based in IT responsible for the ‘what’, and a customer insights team based in marketing and responsible for interpreting data and providing recommendations.

    “We have invested heavily in building a capability and culture that puts customer front and centre and focuses on transforming our business from transactional to relationship based,” he says. “We have also changed our approaches to assortment planning and buying, online and offline advertising programs, CRM strategy, ecommerce solutions, website content and online user experience and post-purchase services and support program as a result.”

    Over the past year, Ambler-Fraser has worked with IT on a major project to consolidate stores’ individual customer databases into a central customer data hub, pulling together a single view for the organisation.

    “A connected retail approach centred around customer relationships starts when customers begin researching online and continues post-purchase,” he comments. “So at each step in this journey, we collect information regarding viewing and shopping habits through managed surveys. These insights provide an even deeper understanding of what triggers customers’ shopping journeys and why they are engaging with the brand.”

    More from the CMO50 submission

    Data-led marketing

    Another data-led project has been building The Good Guys’ own Shopper Marketing Model, with a view to creating marketing efficiencies by identifying why people shop for electrical appliances. The model was developed in-house off the back of significant international customer research, and is based on four needs: Replacer, first-timer, upgrader and additional purchasers.

    “The Shopper Marketing Model was designed to bring an updated ‘segmentation’ approach to the business, explore how and where we could be more relevant to the Gen Y customer, and drive efficiencies in our marketing program, particularly online,” Ambler-Fraser states in his submission. “However, it has also had parallel applications in helping to prioritise category focus towards the greatest market share opportunities.”

    From an initial focus on influencing customers in the aisle, the model has expanded to an industry leading understanding of how customers shop before their reach the physical store, and what triggers journeys in the first place.

    These insights are driving continuous improvements to the customer experience across all platforms, improving online content curation, and helping form look-a-like audiences that The Good Guys is sharing with digital publishers to improve its online advertising efforts. And it’s triggered increases in top-line sales and EBIT, while pushing Net Promoter Scores to the highest in Australia’s retail industry, more than 60 points stronger than Harvey Norman and 40 points above other competitors.

    Online sales also continue to grow, with delivered sales in FY16 up 87.9 per cent year-on-year, and weekly website visits up 21 per cent.

    Business contribution

    Outside of the day-to-day marketing function, Ambler-Fraser has been highly involved in The Good Guys’ transition to corporatisation, the biggest transition in the retailer’s history to date. The work has not only involved buying back 47 joint venture partners stores, but importantly, preparing the support centre and stores to operate as a corporate organisation.

    As a member of the executive team, he was responsible for contributing to the critical change management plans, architected to help move the company to a wholly centralised operating model. To do this, Ambler-Fraser set up a strategic workforce, and planning elements within the marketing department, which are still in play, to ensure team members can successfully adapt their behaviours and thought processes to a new and different way of thinking.

    “I tried to be deliberate and transparent in my leadership during this period, engaging my direct reports and the broader team through the process, helping them understand what the business is trying to achieve, how they fit into the strategy, and how they can write themselves into the story,” he says.

    All of this work meant realigning the marketing department structure, and Ambler-Fraser introduced new processes of managing local area marketing and advertising, cause donations, state marketing executions and budget management.

    “I had to reset expectations with store teams and educate them on the national marketing programs, which took a standard approach, focused on executing the most effective and efficient campaigns through economies of scale,”he states.

    “My team also had to take over management of all installer contracts and centralised our home installation services, introduce criteria for doing good and local sponsorships, and introduce partnership agreements with each of our more than 100 cause partners.”

    Modern marketing thinking and engagement

    A big area of work for The Good Guys marketing team in the past year has been overhauling its post-purchase concierge service and support program. The program provides customers with ongoing support and exclusive rewards, and is designed to transform customer relationships into ongoing conversations, rather than a set of one-off sales transactions.

    Concierge was originally created when changes to the operating model came into effect in 2015. This made the retailer’s Extended Warranty product, which accounted for significant annual profit, obsolete. Ambler-Fraser says it used this opportunity to create an innovative program that would help cement an ongoing relationship with customers by providing them with everything they needed in terms of service and support between purchases. It also gives them access to exclusive rewards and offers.

    In order for Concierge to succeed, a number of operational, structural, cultural and strategic changes were made. These included appointing a GM of Concierge and restructuring the team to re-orient them all towards a single goal. Ambler-Fraser then set up work streams to enable resources to be easily be moved around based on project requirements, and governance processes to ensure Concierge had buy-in and cross-functional support across all levels of the business.

    “This created a team that was agile yet laser-focused and relentless in their delivery of the program and ensures the entire organisation remains aligned both strategically and tactically with the latest developments in Concierge,” he says.

    “I have also introduced a perpetual development cycle for Concierge whereby reviews are conducted on an ongoing basis, resulting in product changes being made and new concepts being development. These are then piloted and refined before being rolled out and the process starting again.”

    Concierge has been an enormous success for The Good Guys, driven by an aggressive innovation agenda and culture of continuous improvement. The latest development in Concierge, Gold Service Extras, launched in July 2016 has already experienced double-digit growth while rewards have driven incremental store sales.

    Ambler-Fraser says his proudest moment over the last 12 months was receiving email feedback from managers in stores that Concierge offer was not only driving customers back into stores, but adding competitive edge.

    “It was real evidence we were doing what we promised the customers and cementing a real belief in the sales team they had a new competitive advantage,” he says.

    Fostering team capability and agility

    Remarkable doesn’t happen by accident and neither does learning and development. That is why Ambler-Fraser says he reviews the structure of his department annually in consultation with direct reports to ensure it’s oriented deliver against the strategic plan.

    “I invest heavily in developing my team and consider development as an ongoing process so I combine mentoring with formal training and team engagement,” he says. “And I invest in a cross-functional international study tour to ensure we keep abreast of technological advancements and retail and marketing innovations.”

    In addition, Ambler-Fraser championed The Good Guys adoption of a strengths-based philosophy, emotional intelligence training, 360-degree feedback cycles, influencing workshops and other forms of management coaching. An annual engagement survey also helps identify focus areas by department.

    “I engaged with my direct reports and the wider team to develop a dynamic action plan to address the biggest strengths and opportunities we are all accountable for delivering on, and use a ‘Town Hall’ style monthly catch-up as a pulse check to ensure the action,” he says.

    “I believe that for a marketing function to be agile in this day and age, the old hierarchical structure needs to be replaced with a networked team structure where employees are re-oriented to working towards a specific goal or project without the constraint of job titles or position descriptions.”

    This highly agile approach to people management ensures everyone understands what is expected of them while giving them a ‘big picture’ vision of the project task at hand so they understand how they are contributing to a greater whole, Ambler-Fraser says. It also enables resources to be easily be moved around based on project requirements.

    “This adaptable approach is a reflection of the fast-changing world of retail and has been vital in enabling The Good Guys to respond to the ever changing needs of consumers and stay ahead of competitors.”


    Ambler-Fraser is of the firm belief that innovation and creativity go hand-in-hand.

    “When we are coming up with new ideas and new initiatives, we always look at things creatively in order to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, and get cut through with our customers while being true to The Good Guys brand,” he says.

    Across all marketing programs, the team strives to maintain the energy, humour and playfulness that The Good Guys brand has become famous for. More recent activities include setting up a new benchmark in terms of brand integration with the company’s sponsorship of The Block, and partnerships with Disney and Marvel for family oriented Christmas campaigns.

    Ambler-Fraser says the retailer also been very creative in the Doing Good space in order to create an emotional affinity with Australians. Campaigns include The Good Guys Super Hero Academy, Doing Good Week and Secret Santa.

    “We also leveraged a philanthropic partnership with Jamie’s Ministry of Food to run a content campaign with Jamie Oliver that focused on saving time and money in the kitchen,” he adds.

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