Suncorp, Flight Centre customer chiefs debate the value of the retail shopfront

Virtual reality, more immersive experiences using digital technology, speedy digital marketing and external partnerships are just some of the ways both brands are looking to improve customer experiences

From left: Wavemaker's James Hier, Suncorp's Mark Reinke and Flight Centre's Darren Wright
From left: Wavemaker's James Hier, Suncorp's Mark Reinke and Flight Centre's Darren Wright

Virtual reality and concept stores that offer immersive, multi-brand experiences are just some of the ways Flight Centre and Suncorp are looking to unite the physical retail experience with their wider customer engagement ambitions.

Speaking in the latest AANA Marketing Dividends episode on Sky Business TV, Flight centre GM of product advertising, customer experiences and sales, Darren Wright, said the travel retailer views its store network as its real competitive advantage.

“We leverage the significant capacity of these retail stores to bring consumers back to the brand and also to position who we are,” he said. “We use that bricks-and-mortar store to work in that ‘dreaming’ phase, to surprise, delight and educate and get our customers excited and obviously then celebrate once they travel. It gives you that tactical element in a customer experience model that you don’t really get when you’re transacting online.”

This does requires technology, and Wright said Flight Centre has introduced virtual reality into retail stores as a way of further making them a destination to showcase products.

 “We’re aiming to empower our consultants to allow us to make deeper connections with our customers so that they stay with us,” he said. “Customer service is still king.”

In addition, being able to constantly refresh offers in-store to compete with pure-play online competitors is another priority, and Wright said the business has a speed-to-market strategy that sees new products and offers advertised onsite in two hours.

“If a new offer or fare becomes available, Flight Centre wants to ensure it is advertisers across our store network and communicated to our customers as quickly as our online-only competitors can,” he said. “We can communicate that in our storefront with our digital screens within two hours.”

Read more: How Flight Centre is mapping out a new kind of customer journey

Read more: How Flight Centre leveraged data to boost customer experience

Suncorp, meanwhile, has launched two concept stores in the last six months in Parramatta and the Brisbane suburb of Carindale, and also has a branch footprint. It will also launch its first ‘discovery’ store in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall, a large-format store aimed at bringing a new level of experience to customers not experience before in financial services.

“The ability to create immersive experiences… is a great way to bring our brand to life,” said Suncorp chief customer experience officer, Mark Reinke, who added that we’re now living in an experience economy. “Those stores are us experimenting around the right recipe to really engage people by creating a set of services around buying an owning a home, or a car.”

For example, store staff can help consumers find homes and value them, find the nearest schools or access services such as builders or financers. The stores take advantage of digital technology to engage people, Reinke said.

The store approach is being driven by Suncorp’s wider ambitions to bring all of its brand together into a form of marketplace, where consumers choose services from across the network based on their needs and outcomes.  

“Stores are a physical manifestation of a platform and an ability to match supply and demand. You’ll see all 12 of our brands in the stores, plus other brands,” Reinke said. “Our job is then to curate those brands and bring them together in ways people think about, such as buying a home or car, or retiring. It’s about consumer-centric ways of thinking.”

What’s become clear is customers no longer benchmark experiences by category, but by their best experiences ever, Reinke said. This requires organisations to have a constant eye on transformation and innovation of offering. To do that, Suncorp takes a multi-layered approach, actively seeking to build a portfolio of global partnerships as well as with innovation labs.

“A lab enables us to create new ways of working, engage with partners and create velocity to shorten the time it takes to get products to market,” Reinke said.

For Reinke, businesses have “three horizons” to work to: Improving the performance of existing business; looking at adjacencies to the current business; and disrupting the business they already have.

“We are trying to get that balance right,” he said. “It’s not ‘set and forget’.”

There are also those within the marketing sphere, such as Mark Ritson and Byron Sharp, who are challenging long-held assumptions and helping marketing teams rethink the way they so things.

“It is incredibly useful to have a third party objectively stand back and help companies like ours through the learnings of many,” Reinke added.

Flight Centre also runs a business, called ‘little argos’, a seeding business where it looks for and feeds in travel-related startups. A key criteria is those that can scale fast, Wright said.

“We also look within the JV pillar and vertical integration,” he said, pointing out Flight Centre now owns ground handlers and hotel businesses in Asia.

“Smaller companies that can plug in in an almost modular way to the flight Centre beast. And they allow us to stay in touch with the customer all the way through their experience,” he said.  

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

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Microsoft's Pip Arthur

​In this latest episode of our conversations over a cuppa with CMO, we catch up with the delightful Pip Arthur, Microsoft Australia's chief marketing officer and communications director, to talk about thinking differently, delivering on B2B connection in the crisis, brand purpose and marketing transformation.

More Videos

Hey there! Very interesting article, thank you for your input! I found particularly interesting the part where you mentioned that certain...

Martin Valovič

Companies don’t have policies to disrupt traditional business models: Forrester’s McQuivey

Read more

I too am regularly surprised at how little care a large swathe of consumers take over the sharing and use of their personal data. As a m...

Catherine Stenson

Have customers really changed? - Marketing edge - CMO Australia

Read more

The biggest concern is the lack of awareness among marketers and the most important thing is the transparency and consent.

Joe Hawks

Data privacy 2021: What should be front and centre for the CMO right now

Read more

Thanks for giving these awesome suggestions. It's very in-depth and informative!sell property online

Joe Hawks

The new rules of Millennial marketing in 2021

Read more

In these tough times finding an earning opportunity that can be weaved into your lifestyle is hard. Doordash fits the bill nicely until y...

Fred Lawrence

DoorDash launches in Australia

Read more

Blog Posts

Highlights of 2020 deliver necessity for Circular Economies

The lessons emerging from a year like 2020 are what make the highlights, not necessarily what we gained. One of these is renewed emphasis on sustainability, and by this, I mean complete circular sustainability.

Katja Forbes

Managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand

Have customers really changed?

The past 12 months have been a confronting time for marketers, with each week seemingly bringing a new challenge. Some of the more notable impacts have been customer-centric, driven by shifting priorities, new consumption habits and expectation transfer.

Emilie Tan

Marketing strategist, Alpha Digital

Cultivating engaging content in Account-based Marketing (ABM)

ABM has been the buzzword in digital marketing for a while now, but I feel many companies are yet to really harness its power. The most important elements of ABM are to: Identify the right accounts; listen to these tracked accounts; and hyper-personalise your content to these accounts to truly engage them. It’s this third step where most companies struggle.

Joana Inch

Co-founder and head of digital, Hat Media Australia

Sign in