How transformation has helped True Alliance deliver 30 per cent digital revenue growth

Digital chief at the Australian distributor of fashion and apparel brands such as Speedo and The North Face shares the digital and data transformation he's spearheaded and the dividends so far

More than 30 per cent revenue growth online a year-and-a-half and a highly collaborative cross-functional workforce are just two achievements True Alliance has realised after transforming its digital platforms, processes and organisational approach.

Australia-based True Alliance is a distributor of several iconic fashion and apparel brands including Speedo, The North Face, Ugg, Wrangler, Stuart Weitzman, Lacoste, Lee, Fit Flop and Coach. Over the last 18 months, the group has overhauled its digital and data foundations, all with the aim of bolstering revenue and growth.

Leading the charge is True Alliance group head of digital, Ken Kennedy, who was brought in to help scale digital business. His role oversees online operations for all 14 brands, including day-to-day management of websites, CRM, digital marketing and social media.

“When I joined the organisation, the first thing I did was look at the tech stack and see what is actually driving our online business and the ecosystem,” he told CMO during an interview at this week’s Datorama Limitless event in Sydney. “We had [Salesforce] Sales Cloud, Marketo over to the side and not integrated properly, then as a business had SAP and Si5 ERP – all these disparate areas of data sitting in the business.

“For example, Sales Cloud was the CRM tool and implemented seven years ago but then just left alone, so it hadn’t moved with the rest of the business. That was a key area of improvement for me. I could see maturity in the business model for A/NZ; but on a digital level we were falling behind.

“I needed to fix a lot of that first because I could start planning what our future-state to look like.”

To be a digital-driven business is to be a data-driven business, Kennedy said. “If you don’t have data fuelling everything you’re doing in digital, you’re running blind,” he said. “That’s what’s going to power you to get to the goals you’ve set in your business.

“So unless you have the fundamentals right in terms of data governance, the correct architecture, and integrations in place, you can’t really have a data-driven business. And if we’re relying on our digital business and want to scale it, which was my remit coming in, I needed to look at the integrity of our data, management, and if it even documented, which it wasn’t. There were all these gaps.”

Kennedy built out a business plan which would see a host of new technologies brought into the organisation, supported by comprehensive data governance, fresh and more collaborative processes and significant upskilling.

Having spent the first six months building such a case, Kennedy began worked to migrate all 14 of True Alliance’s sites to Salesforce Commerce Cloud, starting with The North Face website, followed by Speedo. These went live in June. Salesforce Marketing Cloud also debuted in June, followed by Quip’s campaign management tools a few weeks later. With the latter came an overhaul of all internal operational processes to break down functional silos and bring departments together.

“The entire company will be ideally coordinated in this platform because of the efficiencies we’ve seen through it so far,” Kennedy said.

Choosing Salesforce platforms was a no-brainer given the existing instance of Sales Cloud and a mantra of striving for simplicity, Kennedy said.

“We had challenges from Marketo in that we couldn’t have seamless automation of personalisation we could have using Journey Builder in Marketing Cloud,” he explained. “On top of that, this allows us to layer in Einstein [Salesforce’s artificial intelligence capability], which would feed in from Commerce and Sales Cloud. It was a perfect fit for the journey we’re going on.” 

In November, True Alliance will also deploy Datorama’s marketing intelligence platform.

“We spent six months doing scoping and planning before going into implementation. Because the data hygiene we required wasn’t up to scratch, we needed a longer period to get to the point where all these pieces come in,” Kennedy said of the decision to wait on this latest intelligence piece.

“We couldn’t retrofit, so we needed to get the data right from the start. That’s been a massive challenge and seen lots of different departments coming into the journey.”  

From a transformation point of view, achieving all that in one year across 14 international brands with very strict rules and regulations around intellectual property was a momentous task.

“There was a lot of risk involved. We did a lot of planning and testing, and it was a lot of work from a lot of different people,” Kennedy said. “The thing I’m most proud of is the ability to have multiple departments within our organisation coming together working towards a common goal and achieving it.

“Salesforce and our SI [systems integration] partner, Deloitte Digital told us they’ve never had a project implemented this fast and so smoothly across so many websites. It’s a real coup from an Australian point of view to champion it.

“And it’s testament to the people in our organisation; the skillset level is there and we’re working together. I’m not saying it wasn’t challenging – it absolutely was and we had ups and downs – but we ultimately hit our deadlines.”

Kennedy took advantage of Deloitte Digital to firstly build initiatives but then help skill-up the internal team so they’re able to work independently.

“We also did a complete restructure. An early part of my work was look at processes, and I literally white-boarded out every journey for campaigns,” he said. “We did a current state then mapped out a future state. We did this across most departments around how we work, from dealing with ecommerce and dev to finance.”  

Another vital element for Kennedy was working with the company’s head of IT around incident reports and building processes so if a website goes down, there’s a clear communications flow connected through to any potential revenue losses.

“I also work really closely with our head of planning and CX, Christine Reed, on how we break down silos. Her team have direct impact with the customer, but my team don’t ever see that,” he said. “I could send a campaign tomorrow about red Fit Flop shoes, for example, but all our customer feedback for the last week shows people hate our red shoes as they don’t fit. That insight is highly valuable.”

Low hanging fruit

Even prior to the tech rollout, Kennedy found short-term gains. One of the first things he did was an analysis of all paid media to find the gaps and quick wins. One was cart abandonment, while another was push notification.

“I then looked at agency partners to see which ones were doing a good versus not so good job,” Kennedy continued. This has seen True Alliance bring on new partners for affiliate and SEM, and restructure SEO work for a different scope and focus on results.

The biggest win in paid media so far has been in SEM. “We invested an extra $400,000 across all our brands in SEO and probably made an extra $2 million in revenue off the back of that, so that was a substantial benefit,” Kennedy said.

“Fixing that at the start helped us change the ways in which we operate. We’re very much switching to a machine-driven way of working across agencies, and a customer-first approach. We extend that lifecycle and consideration phase around the purchase when it takes place, because we understood there are multiple touchpoints involved in that.”  

Another step forward was building a direct relationship with Google, ensuring True Alliance now has the support of multiple account managers and success teams.

“We were spending a lot of money across brands, so it made sense to get the Google team working harder for us. That’s worked really well,” Kennedy said.

While work had been done by True Alliance into customer insights and segments previously, it was fairly basic and intelligence was largely manual, Kennedy said. This also means it’s early days in terms of personalisation, with first Marketing Cloud use cases using basic journey planning and mapping.

“Our ultimate goal and focus for the next two years is to layer AI across nearly everything we do, down to the most mundane of tasks in our business organisation – I want either a chatbot or AI tool supporting what we do,” he said.

“It’s been a challenge, we’re by no means finished with everything. I continually tell the board we’re at the very start, and we’re just in our infancy,” Kennedy said. “Just because we have things like the Commerce and Marketing Clouds, doesn’t mean everything just flips. There’s no one switch you flip.”  

ROI and gains

And the gains are there. In the last 18 months, True Alliance has seen substantial online growth of more than 30 per cent, and is exceeding year-on-year digital targets.

“In terms of investment, there was very little or none was done in the first instance; that came later. It was more prove your case, then getting the money to do what we needed to do,” Kennedy said.

Another milestone in terms of outcomes is Speedo, which is seeing revenue growth of well over 180 per cent revenue. Kennedy partly attributes this to work done by the planning team around promotional activity and messaging, along with product range.

“But another big part has been the launch of the new platform. Speedo was one of the websites that was a poor representation across our brands; so the gain they’ve seen to replatforming to a fully responsive site with faster load times had a much greater impact,” he said.

Next steps

The next immediate step for True Alliance is bringing on Datorama’s marketing intelligence platform. While traditional use cases for the platform are more commonly around paid media, Kennedy is looking to use the platform for CRM reporting first. Again, this is with the aim of removing manual processes and improving efficiency.

“Our CRM team would easily spend a week and a half a month pulling together reports, manually creating dashboards, and there are hidden roadblocks along the way with data sets. There are constant problems,” he said.  

“Datorama will instantly solve that. The guys will have real-time reports, go to market with information substantially quicker, through a much faster process than we have now, increasing the productivity and efficiency of the team so they have time to start building out those more customised, personalised journeys.

“Once we’re feeding all that information into Datorama, we can create widgets on the fly and have that new data set available almost instantly.”

The fact Datorama was acquired by Salesforce again makes it a good choice for Kennedy from an integration point of view. “Again it comes back to decluttering systems integrations. This brings it down a level; it’s not simple, but it’s a lot simpler when the tools are integrated,” he said.  

Kennedy’s overarching priority, meanwhile, is adoption of Einstein and AI.

“The second thing in our roadmap plan is around products and apps within the Salesforce ecosystem that can give us the highest return on our investment and productivity wins online,” he said. “We know Android and Apple pay makes perfect sense as there is a productivity gain out of that, and boost conversion rates, so they’re next big ones for us. Another is the Commerce feature, Page Designer, again to help with conversion rates.”

Even as he’s worked quickly, the big lesson for Kennedy is the importance of taking things in chunks.

“Datorama is a perfect example – we deliberately took extended time to roll that out because of the complexity of what it relies on, which is data in our business,” he said. “Unless that was in a clean, healthy state, we wouldn’t succeed with Datorama. So our remit was taking baby steps, then accelerate quickly once we feel we’re in a strong data place.

“That applies with anything you do and tools you implement in a business – take the time. It can be quite complete and the way the digital ecosystem is evolving, fuelled by consumers that want more, fast, and want it yesterday – if you really want to meet their needs in an intelligence way, you need to be thoughtful about how you approach it.”

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