Mecca's chief digital officer on omnichannel retailing in 2021

Off the back of digital acceleration and learnings in 2020, the Australian beauty retailer's digital chief looks at the areas of focus to drive customer engagement in 2021

Brilliant basics and connected customer services remain key to Mecca’s digital progress as it looks to keep engaging customers in an omni-channel way in 2021.

Speaking during this week’s Salesforce Live virtual event, Mecca chief digital officer, Sam Bain, highlighted a number of ways the Australian beauty retailer harnessed digital and social platforms to connect with customers during the height of the lockdown, that are now informing its 2021 priorities.

Bain joined Mecca at the beginning of 2020 as its chief digital officer after working in general management, ecommerce and marketing strategy roles in the UK and Ireland for organisations such as Brown Thomas, Oxfam, Awear and eBay.

Having placed such emphasis on its in-store experiences and engagement, Mecca’s priority in 2020 was to pivot digitally in a way that allowed the business to take its in-store experience and employees and put them in front of customers. This included directly connecting store team members to customers online through platforms such as Zoom, and livestreaming its ‘Beauty Lab and entertainment content.

“Virtual services was a huge area we focused on quickly, and we were able to have customers talking to store teams through the lockdown to see and hear about product and from the experts,” Bain said.  

“We are also known for events and experiences in-store, so we took a lot of that and created those pieces digitally as well. We ran a number of ‘Meet the founder’ events, and a series of Beauty loop loyalty program events with panels and Q&A. In addition, our ‘edu-tainment’ platform grew including our beauty lab, which is where you learn through tutorials in-store. These were exported online to access for a much wider audience, with Q&A and livestreaming.

“It was great to see how much it resonated with customers given such a challenging year for everyone.”

Community is what Mecca is thinking and talking about even more in 2021, Bain continued. By way of example, she pointed at the launch of the retailer’s Facebook group, Mecca Chitchat, which allowed its customer community to talk to each other. Grown organically, the ambition was about creating spaces for women to talk to each other about beauty and get real answers, Bain said. Within the first six months, the group grew to 20,000 members.

“What was fabulous was to see how much customers wanted to engage with us when our stores were closed,” she said.

Tapping community for further innovation and improvement remains a priority for Bain this year. To do this, she’s tapping Mecca Makers, a subset of Mecca’s best Beauty Loop customers loyalty program members. Beauty Loop is a tiered loyalty program for recognising and rewarding interactions. Rewards are based on spend and include access to selected samples four times per year, plus bonuses services and birthday gifts.

“We use this subset as an interactive panel to give advice on what products to move forward with, how our campaigns are resonating,” Bain said. “That’s another voice we have been able to bring into the business.”

As Mecca further builds out the program, Bain said it’s trying to make communications and interactions more tailored, personal and relevant. “This is about making sure what you get from it is a real sense of what our view of what Mecca should be for you,” she said.  

Now Mecca can once more bring consumers into physical stores, including its recently unveiled flagship store in Sydney’s Gowings building, Bain is looking to keep blurring the physical and digital to deliver “extraordinary experiences”.

“There is a whole piece on connected customer service – keeping virtual services but building them into something customers get used to everyday. There is also a piece around tailoring and personalising journeys, and several of our transformation projects is personalisation at scale,” she said.  

“We are almost at stage where 1-1 personalisation is a reality – we’re on the cusp of that. With brands like Mecca, where we have so many brands, products and enthusiastic customers, it’s the perfect space to try and create something exceptional around personalisation.”

Even with fresh capabilities available, however, Bain said it was important businesses didn’t get too distracted by the shiny and new.

“One thing we always have in our streams is brilliant basics, which is about making sure what you are doing is offering a frictionless experience that’s easy. Just making small changes can make a huge impact on your customer,” she said.  

“Focus on areas you think will make a big difference to your business. One thing we come back to time and time again is our overall vision and the three to four areas we know Mecca is exceptional at and that we want to lead on digitally. Having that anchor back is important. For us, that’s about content and commerce - storytelling is really important for us. The other big one is personalisation and one-to-one communication.”  

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