How RM Williams is getting even more personal with footwear

Personalisation and innovation are getting a boost thanks to an investment into a complete digital marketing and commerce tech stack

RM Williams campaign featuring Hugh Jackman
RM Williams campaign featuring Hugh Jackman

‘Iconic’ is an overused word in branding circles, but it’s a description that seems appropriate for RM Williams.

Through ups and downs, the South Australian company has been making boots and leather goods since Reginald Murray Williams first set up shop in 1932. In October 2020, the brand returned to Australian hands courtesy of its purchase by Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s investment company, Tattarang, for $190 million.

Infused with a new lease of life, the company is currently undergoing a renovation of its customer engagement platforms under the stewardship of chief technology officer and soon to be chief digital officer, Nathan Alexander. Since joining RM Williams in 2019, Alexander has accrued a range of responsibilities, from technology to supply chains to the company’s digital channels, and most recently he added customer service to his remit.

Now he is overseeing implementation of a suite of solutions from Salesforce designed to support RM Williams’ quest to not only get to know its customers at a personal level, but to provide them personalised products as well. Alexander describes the organisation he first joined as being one that had lost sight of who its customer was.

“We had a lot of disconnected systems within the business,” Alexander tells CMO. “We had a good view of the product and what we were trying to sell in store and online, but we had really lost sight of who our customer truly was, and how we were talking to them.”

This deficiency extended to both the tools used to listen to customer feedback, and to the platforms for communicating with them, which were restricted to phone and email.

“We said if we truly want to put the customer at the centre, and we truly want to be able to listen to them, understand their preferences, and be able to reward our passionate and loyal customers, we need a unified set of systems to let us do that,” Alexander says.

Tender process

Although RM Williams was already using Salesforce’ Commerce Cloud, an investment that stretched back to that’s product’s days as Demandware, the company undertook an exhaustive search to ensure it acquired the right solutions across marketing, customer management and support. In the end, Alexander says Salesforce won out courtesy of both the functionality it offered, and the strength of its partner community.

“The partner network that surrounds Salesforce is immense,” Alexander says. “If we don’t have the internal capabilities to build this or leverage it, we know that we can reach out to a partner of Salesforce and they can help us.”

The decision to standardise on Salesforce has also made it easier for RM Williams to unify its data. This investment has been coupled with a new point-of-sale system courtesy of NewStore.

“Now when customers are engaging with us online or via social or in-store, that information is coming into the systems, so we are building an understanding of the products they are engaging with,” Alexander says. “All of that information feeds into Marketing Cloud, and we can use that to create segments and audiences.”

Mixed reality and customisation

RM Williams can now easily make recommendations based on previous behaviour. Importantly, this data capability is also feeding RM Williams’ next phase of development, which will see it offering bespoke manufacturing.

“We have amazing things on the horizon, because we can make you a pair of bespoke boots to fit you perfectly,” Alexander says. “We are going to be using 3D modelling tools to allow you to digitise that journey so you can actually see the model of the boot with your toe shape and heel.

“You can pick your elastics; you can pick you welt and your upper. Then once you have modelled the boot with the attributes you’ve selected, you will be able to fit the boot using augmented reality, so it will actually size your foot. We are building that out, and that will all be underpinned and supported by what we have done with Salesforce.”

This functionality is currently in development and will be deployed to customers in the form of a new app, which Alexander hopes to see released before the end of this year. He believes initiatives such as this are critical to the ongoing revitalisation of RM Williams, and for forging closer connections with customers.

“Loyalty for us is around making sure we can have a personal conversation and making sure we can recognise and provide tailored or bespoke product and services to our really loyal and engaged customers,” he says.

While the new app is still some months away, Alexander says the investments in new platforms are already paying dividends.

“Originally, the model was 2.7 years to pay back the program,” Alexander says. “We have got that down to under two years. In the last six months, it has generated over $2 million in incremental benefit. The business has taken off - ecommerce is 65 per cent up on last year. The brand is in such a strong position, and a lot of that has to do with us being able to tell a better story.

“We’ve built and integrated this ecosystem together that gives us this great capability, but quite honestly, we have only just scratched the surface of what we are going to do with Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud, and we are still building our team’s capabilities.”

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