How this Aussie retailer delivers customer kindness

Digital capability, data-driven marketing, clear brand purpose and a consistent emphasis on kindness and care drive Flora and Fauna retail success

When Julie Mathers founded ecommerce business, Flora & Fauna, in 2014 after a lengthy career in retail, she did so with the intention of creating a business that was both better and kinder.

The result is a 50-person purpose-driven organisation now selling more than 10,000 products from more than 340 suppliers and turning over $20 million in revenue. And in an era where purpose-driven has become the latest fashion, Mathers has been careful to ensure decisions she makes all come from the same set of intentions.

“There are things I said we will always do,” Mathers told CMO. “We have eight values at F&F, which I am pretty steely about. We have them on a huge billboard in the office. One of the main ones is to be kind – we are always kind.”

That value is also clearly reflected in the company’s strapline, ‘Kind to the planet, people & animals’.

“Another we have is we wow our customers,” Mathers said. “Our customer care is about getting that mindset into our wider team, that the customer is at the centre of what we do.”

That desire to wow customers has been partly enabled by Flora & Fauna’s implementation of Zendesk, which not only provides a platform for managing customer interactions but also for measuring team performance.

A key capability helping drive customer responsiveness and satisfaction is live chat. F&F has a policy to answer live chat with one minute. Mathers said staff also have to answer all emails in two to four hours on a working business day and no phone is left unanswered.

“If the customer care team is all tied up, someone in the warehouse picks it up,” she explained. “When you are an online business, you have few touchpoints with the customer, so it is very important that the touchpoints we have are really exceptional.”

The company also places handwritten notes in every order sent. “What we didn’t want to be is just a transaction,” Mathers said.

Mathers is adamant being kind doesn’t need to come at a cost. For example, when the company switched to plastic-free packaging early in its life, it saved 15 per cent in packaging and labour costs by making processes more efficient.

“Our focus has been to build an incredibly efficient business,” Mathers continued. “We are very strong on what we do when it comes to systems and process and we will get the best in class. That allows us to free up some profits so we can do some of the other things.”

Building customer credentials

Such values are reflected in Flora & Fauna’s broader communications program. In October 2019, the company switched its ecommerce platform to Magento (now Adobe Commerce), and at the time was also seeking an integrated marketing automation tool. The tool selected was dotdigital’s Engagement Cloud, which Mathers said was chosen due its ease of use and ability to enable Flora & Fauna to better use its first-party data.

“If we want to only send an email to people who have shopped chocolate, it is very easy for us to do that,” Mathers said. “We can segment and target, and we have used that a lot.”

The company is also running more automated campaigns, such as a streamlined welcome series and anniversary emails. Mathers said integration of the dotdigital Experience Cloud has contributed to 54 per cent growth in Flora & Fauna’s customer database. One specific campaign supporting the company’s loyalty program achieved a 70 per cent open rate.

In total, Flora & Fauna has recorded a 233 per cent increase in automation-specific revenue compared to a year prior.

Another attraction of dotdigital is the vendor’s environmental commitments, which include becoming carbon neutral. Mathers said she strives to work with both suppliers and service providers that have similar standards. This not only helps ensure she and her team can uphold the principles they have set, but to also meet the expectations of customers that have bought into the brand promise.

Flora & Fauna’s own purpose-driven credentials were cemented in November 2017, when the company achieved B Corp certification.

“I regard Flora & Fauna as a platform for purpose,” Mathers said. “We have great reach and a great community, so how can we do good by leveraging that? It doesn’t always have to be such a cost to the business.

“And the reality is you get great brand engagement and brand advocacy from doing this.”

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