The people and process smarts needed to excel in omnichannel retailing

Digital, technology and retail GMs from Super Retail Group, The Warehouse and Big Red Group share how they're striving to omni-channel retail connectedness


Omnichannel retailing isn’t about technology, it’s about how to create the environment, culture and organisational DNA that drives the right customer outcomes whatever way they engage with your brand.

Speaking at this week’s Salesforce World Tour in Sydney, Super Retail Group GM of omnichannel retailing, Brian Townshend, said one way the ASX-listed retail group has been able to overcome historic silos across its house of brands and lift its omnichannel game is by establishing a centre of excellence. This group-level approach overrides traditional siloed processes and people and ensures every brand – and therefore every brand’s customer base – has a similar level of connected experience. SRG owns brands such as Rebel, BCF and Rays.

“What we found is expertise varied greatly across the organisation. So one thing we did when implementing Salesforce Commerce Cloud is created what we call the ‘go to’ – a centre of excellence driving standards across the organisation in terms of omnichannel retail,” Townshend told attendees. “This enables us to have deep expertise and specialisms. We’re now investing heavily to create specialists, giving people a career path, and everyone is flourishing as a result.”

An interesting cultural challenge for SRG along the way has been around KPIs, such as who is responsible for conversion rates. “There are so many factors contributing to that. It means we have to be comfortable there isn’t one person responsible for it only,” Townshend said.

“We’re all driving it. As with all things, some people embrace that, some resist, and you have to work with both.” 

At New Zealand-based The Warehouse Group, a matrix organisation has been introduced, which in turn saw a marketing centre of excellence (COE) established 12 months ago. Previously, marketing was aligned specifically to each retail brand and ran independently. Warehouse group brands include Noel Leeming, The Warehouse, Tropedo7 and Warehouse Stationery.

This unified structure allows deep functional expertise in areas such as DMP and customer lifecycle management, media and ecommerce.

 “As a result, we’ve seen the pace of delivery accelerate along with our shared learnings,” Warehouse Group chief digital officer, Michelle Anderson, said. “We now have a marketing COE strategy and set of goals, aligned across all brands and teams. This gives us good visibility of what each area is driving towards.

“Targets might be different for each brand, but we know the 12 things we want to understand. Every quarter we then talk about how are we moving the dial and delivering that.”  

The key KPI across the group is customer lifetime value. “What we know is multichannel customer is worth three times more than one operating in single channel and knowing this creates cohesiveness for all the teams,” Anderson added.  

For Townshend, what also helps is a single prioritisation roadmap for omnichannel projects and improvement.

“There are nuances from brands we do need to take account of too. Supercheap Auto for example, has unique requirements to others, so we have to find balance. That ruthless prioritisation is ongoing,” he said. “We do have a framework – which is very transparent for all brands to see – on how we prioritise our backlog. That transparency is critical.  

“We also transitioned from big project delivery to an agile model, to continually improve the platform.”

Of course, Super Retail Group doesn’t have all the answers, and Townshend said he winces when staff send a report talking about email and online delivery that doesn’t include what’s delivered in-store. What’s key is joining the teams together to work on problems, he said.

“Part of the change is to work with value streams, which means breaking down internal silos and getting different members to come together to work on specific problems. If you have the right intellect and attitude, you’re part of the team to solve the problem. We are delivering key outcomes at a faster rate as a result,” he said.

Connecting the experience dots

Panellists also shared how they were working to connect the experience dot for customer. At Super Retail Group, the mantra is: ‘We don’t talk channel, we talk customer’.

“We have very engaged loyalty base, and gather rich information about customer. We need to put that power into what we do, irrespective of how they interact – if it’s a call centre, stores, website – to have more intelligent and meaningful conversations,” Townshend said.

“That’s particularly the case with loyalty customers, who are bigger spenders and have higher expectations. With Supercheap Auto, for example, we understand which car a customer owns, so we can personalise experiences around that car. The rest of our catalogue is not relevant for them. That helps us drive relevancy.”  

Equally, The Warehouse Group tries not to think in terms of online and offline. “We want customers to shop when they want to, and how,” Anderson said. “It’s easier for us to join that experience up in brands where we have strong loyalty program. We have big program through flybuys for example, where we can serve relevant messaging in email by extending via product information or suggested purchases.

“It’s showing customers you know them.”

This can even be the case with lower transaction items, Anderson said. “Take mums, who are an important segment to The Warehouse brand. A lot of purchases as a new parent are transactional – nappies or wipes,” she explained.

“In that case, it comes down to showing mum you know them, reminding them when it’s time to purchase new nappies, putting new offers in front of them and showing you’re following that child through life stages. That turns the transactional into a positive brand experience.”  

Townshend said it’s about “helping individuals catch the fish, not just sell the rod”.  

“There is a convenience factor to some transactions, but every interaction is an opportunity to build on customer, get to know them more,” he said. “Delighting customers on small things give you permission to step forward and extend the relationship. It doesn’t matter if it’s $2 or $2000.”

As a three-sided marketplace of customers who purchase, people who experience the experience, and the supplier with brands such as RedBalloon, Big Red Group has a unique connected customer experience to navigate, its CIO, Brett Raven, said. Again, personalisation is key here.  

“These are the three key profiles we track on regular basis, leveraging Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Einstein, which helps us define all the journeys those profiles have,” he said.   

Another aspect of omnichannel is newness. At Big Red Group, range is the way to bring the newness feeling into the interaction, Raven said. “This can be promoting new product, and we’re using Einstein for merchandising,” he said.

“As we expand range to offer similar but different products – our recent Adrenaline purchase for example – that supplements the group and we can offer more to audiences.”  

When The Warehouse Group does have something new to push forward – for example, a Dyson vacuum cleaner – the key is to use information to tailor experience across both digital and physical, Anderson said.

“We’ll do that in communications, then link into in-store,” she said. “We wrap the experience side around brands where it makes sense to do that.”

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