Booktopia CX chief: Getting to know the customer better

Customer experience manager at Australian online bookseller talks about what customer engagement needs to look like and how Booktopia will remain relevant as Amazon hits Australian shores

Alex Huntley, Booktopia
Alex Huntley, Booktopia

While much of the Australian retail landscape has worked itself into a lather this year thanks to the onshore arrival of Amazon, for one local company, the US-based giant has been a factor in its life since the very beginning.

Online bookseller, Booktopia, started trading in 2004, an entire decade after Amazon’s formation. Despite Amazon’s apparent dominance, Booktopia has appeared eight times on AFR/BRW’s Fast 100 list, and today has annual revenue well beyond $100 million.

According to Booktopia customer service manager Alex Huntley, the key to competing successfully with Amazon is to be focused.

“The companies that compete successfully with Amazon are the ones who know how they are, and the focus is on delivering what they specialise in,” Huntley says. “The recent arrival has really crystallised that thinking for us. We are focusing on what we do well, and that is our range and our speed of shipping.”

Booktopia’s success to date even gives Huntley confidence that Amazon’s local arrival might actually be a good thing for his company.

“Australia lags the US and UK in ecommerce as a proportion of total retail sales, and we think the arrival of Amazon will help grow the overall ecommerce space,” Huntley says. “Add if we continue to keep competing effectively then that is something we can share in.”

Huntley came to his role at Booktopia having started in the lower rungs of the customer service industry, handling calls for pizza delivery and working his way into managing reward, loyalty and customer programs across various industries, including telecommunications and retail.

“The conversation around customer experience is often led from the marketing side of things,” Huntley says. “But if you take a holistic view, it is really about providing an experience that is seamless and makes sense for a customer – so logical but also effortless.

“Any time you are creating friction for a customer, those friction points can lead you to losing them.”

One area of focus for Booktopia to remove friction points is automation.

“Whether it is market automation or contact automation, that will change things,” Huntley says. “At the same time, you see a trend among some customers to want genuine interactions. So how those things are balanced together is going to be really, really important. That is where the frontier is for customer experience.”

Know your customer

Getting to know customers well is an ongoing challenge for Booktopia. Book purchasing is an infrequent activity for most customers, and despite the company operating through multiple channels including Angus & Robertson, Bookworld and the Catch and eBay marketplaces, gaining sufficient intelligence on customer preferences can be difficult.

“We have an incredibly diverse customer base,” Huntley says. “We sell all kinds of books to all kinds of customers, and our customers don’t always buy for themselves. So trying to understand who our customer is, is a very loaded question, because our customer is very, very multi-faceted.

“Growing so rapidly, we have a lot of new customers, and we need time for them to have a relationship, so we can understand what drives them and what their behaviours are beyond that first order.

“Someone might have bought text books, but at heart they are really a romance reader. So trying to understand what segments they really fall into is where all of the effort is going. Our journey is about moving from genre-based content to being more refined.”

Getting to the heart of customer preferences has led Booktopia to make significant investments in its analytic capabilities, to turn the masses of data it collects into something useful. Huntley says the company’s goal is to develop a clearer picture of what a consumer might want to buy next.

“What we have done over the last 12 to 18 months is build the systems and the data capture mechanisms to collate that data,” Huntley says. “We now have that data in a form that we can access and analyse, and that work is beginning now. Those roles didn’t exist in our organisation two years ago.”

While Amazon looms large on the horizon, Huntley says Booktopia won’t seek to emulate its model of moving into diversified product ranges, as ultimately he does not believe that will help the company compete.

“It is about knowing what you are good at and what your customers value from what you provide, and the having a laser focus on those things,” he says. “We are a bookseller – that’s our roots and that is what we continue to do well. Our customers appreciate getting the books quickly, and they appreciate finding what they are looking for easily. So the combination of that is a good experience for them.

“We’re not a business that is built on rocket science. We are a business that is built on doing the simple things right and being consistent over a long period of time.”

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

Putting the ‘human element’ back in marketing

During the recent CMO Momentum conference, Paul Mitchell shared how marketing leaders can create cultures that deliver

Paul Mitchell

Managing director, The Human Enterprise

The rise and rise of voice search

In 1982, an AT&T employee by the name of Plotzke predicted the rise of voice: “In fact, it has been predicted that, by 1990, well over half the communications dollars spent by businesses will be for products and services that include voice technologies.

Michael Jenkins

Founder and director, Shout agency

Is design thinking the answer for the next generation of marketing?

The speed and pace of change will never be slower than we’re experiencing today. So in this era of unprecedented change, how can brands meet soaring consumer expectations, stay relevant and deliver differentiated and connected experiences?

Merryn Olifent

Senior consultant, G2 Innovation

https://uploads.disquscdn.c... [magic school bus] KID: where are we going today MS. FRIZZLE: the zoo KID: but last week we went to SPACE ...

Germain3161

Sephora Asia details its journey to data-driven decision making

Read more

DP Apparel bietet große Auswahl Audi Rennbekleidung in Deutschland zu den besten Angeboten. Das Geschäft bietet auch qualitativ hochwerti...

DP apparel

Audi Australia gets a new CMO

Read more

this is a really great news

Vincent Mouton

Mobile-first banking startup showcases fresh brand identity

Read more

Prozac is the brand name of fluoxetine, a prescription drug used to treat depression obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. B...

jenson smith

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 19 July 2018

Read more

I have been suffering from (HERPES) disease for the last two years and had constant pain, especially in my knees. During the first year, ...

Steven Kizzy

KPMG Australia appoints ex-Publicis leader as head of brand strategy

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in