CMO50 2022 #2: Geoff Ikin

  • Name Geoff Ikin
  • Title Chief customer officer
  • Company Myer
  • Commenced role January 2019
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 121 staff, 9 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Retail
  • 2021 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    The initiatives Myer has put in place to better unlock the power of its loyalty business has proven a defining play for the retailer, its chief customer officer, Geoff Ikin, says.

    “It strengthens our competitive advantage, fuels both online and stores and most importantly speaks directly to our customer,” he tells CMO. “It’s the foundation of our business and will continue to underpin our momentum.”

    At the start of 2019, under new Myer CEO John King, a review of the Myer one program was front and centre. As Ikin explains, the program had been declining at a rate significantly greater than total company sales, with sliding engagement and customers unclear of the value exchange. With a focus on re-establishing the fundamentals and positioning this as a vehicle for growth, Ikin and his team set to work.

    Key was leveraging innovative ways to bring third-party data and partnerships into the mix to understand total share of wallet. “This gave Myer spend much-needed perspective and helped identify potential to spend, find new and lapsed customers and accelerate acquisition,” Ikin says.

    “We re-established perceived value in the program by increasing frequency of reward, with the introduction of a $10 reward generating 2m new touchpoints alone. We built visibility through exclusive sale events, pre-view access and events. We realigned trade marketing programs and built scalable retail properties to unify communications, expand channel touchpoints and establish strong retail value programs that customers become invested in.”

    A customer value management program based on specific segmentation and objectives was executed to drive frequency, new growth and minimise lapsing customers. In determining segments, Myer identified drivers aligned to tenure, status and lifecycle played major roles. Growth potential became further apparent when overlaying these insights with Mastercard category spend to determine share of wallet at a customer level. Leveraging the partner network then allowed the team to then incentivise customers to shop at Myer that either had not shopped with the department store or had recently lapsed, generating 30 per cent + of acquired customers.

    All this was backed by investments into technology, data capability, automation and personalisation.

    The results speak for themselves. Myer lifted digitally contactable customers by 13.5 per cent to 6.6 million, achieved a record tag rate of 71.3 per cent, up 2.3 per cent year-on-year, acquired nearly 600,000 Myer One members and reported 3.7m unique active customers over the last 12 months. It’s the largest unique base in the country, Ikin adds.

    Innovative marketing

    Loyalty is one element (albeit a significant one) in a transformative program of work Ikin has led at Myer to re-invigorate a 122-year-old brand. The work he’s overseen is frankly, epic.

    “I’ve been lucky to work for some great brands over my time and Myer is a special one, it has heritage, it has a unique and much-loved place in the hearts of Australians, unlike most others I have come across. And there are some amazing people to boot,” Ikin comments. “But, just like many things from time to time, it has needed a little help to get it back on track. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and to say it has been interesting is – well, you know.”

    Three years ago when Ikin joined Myer, perceptions of the brand were in decline. “Studies suggested we were seen as tired and outdated holding back growth,” he says. “Our competitors were reframing the landscape. At one end, price-driven retailers were energising the category. Online stores were making an impact at the other. Myer’s heritage and its sheer scale kept it standing still.”

    Adding to the challenge were siloed teams. “But our structural problems couldn’t become the customers’. So, we have been on a journey to elevate and drive greater synergy in our work,” Ikin says.

    A critical piece in this process was rebuilding the retail engine. “We focused on a better promotional and tactical layer, creating vehicles to drive a strong commercial heartbeat. This included the on-going Super Weekends, Home Sweet Home Tuesdays and Beauty Fix campaigns,” Ikin continues.

    Finding the ‘why’ behind Myer was another must. “We needed to turn latent cultural relevance into business relevance,” Ikin says. “We are for all Australians and as such our work should reflect it. We don’t sing about it we just do it. Diversity and inclusive underpins our communication every day, and from age, race, disability or body shape, we do not discriminate but elevate it.”

    Of course, brands can’t be the only ones telling people they have changed. So Myer rebuilt its PR function introducing new talent, a hefty influencer program and developed media partnerships.

    And don’t forget about creating space for the campaigns that matter. A milestone for Ikin in this regard is Myer’s 2020 and 2021 Christmas campaigns. He describes them as literally ‘Bigger Than Christmas’.

    “Cut-through and distinctive, these elevated our brand perceptions, repositioning us as fun and energetic,” he says. “In the first year of the pandemic, we managed to deliver our most epic Christmas campaign to date. This not only fundamentally changed our brand perception but provided one of our best starts in years.”

    More broadly, these efforts have seen Myer move into the top 10 most trusted brands in the country for the first time ever in eighth spot and delivered a 15 per cent improvement in the brand’s association with attributes such as stylish, Australian, trusted and fun over the last two years. On the flip side, Myer saw a 46 per cent drop in the brand being associated with attributions such as tired, old-fashioned and serious.

    Business smarts

    Helping Ikin and the executive team achieve these big ambitions has been his broad role as the retailer’s first chief customer officer. The remit includes marketing, PR and loyalty as well as online, omni-experience, financial services and partners and corporate affairs.

    “Myer’s corporate strategy is defined by our successful Customer First Plan, with all areas of the business aligned to delivery against this,” he says. “The role of Myer’s first chief customer officer is to underpin all facets of this program with a strong focus on all customer facing and engagement areas.

    “This role is expected to look forward and deliver a growth / transformation lens and deliver on our vision of making Myer Australia’s leading customer, data and digital-led retailer.”

    To do this, four pillars underpin Ikin’s strategy. The first is the re-invigoration of the Myer brand, work that as noted above, meant redefining and re-establishing influence, modern credentials and a value exchange with consumers. Supercharging online capability is the second pillar and sees Ikin overseeing enterprise-wide customer data transformation to improve omni-channel experiences and ecommerce capability. Today, online represents 24 per cent of Myer’s business and is one of Australia’s largest.

    Thirdly, accelerating growth from the core Myer One program, which historically had represented 70 per cent of total sales, was critical. And thanks to the work done so far, it now represents 71.3 per cent of business, the highest levels ever. Fourthly, growth through adjacencies is a long-term game plan. To do this, Myer is tapping into its financial services partnerships to expand reach and scale as well as participation in marketplaces and new products and technologies. An example of this is CBA Pay with Points.

    Customer-led thinking

    Bringing his unique customer leadership lens to digital and data has proven game changing for Ikin as Myer looks to keep up with the rapid acceleration of digital and changing consumer behaviours brought about by the pandemic.  

    “The ability to deliver online experience that meets and exceeds the customer expectation is paramount, given at times it has been the singular channel of the business. But online also provides the greatest shop window to our stores, which customers use to understand range and service before making the trip in,” he says.

    Yet historically, Myer’s digital experience was based on delivering features and attributes, lacked commercial accountability and above all, lacked an end-to-end customer focus.  

    Resetting fundamentals of the digital experience program was the initial step, and this meant focusing on customer, commercial and complexity while “ruthlessly prioritising limited investment”, Ikin says. To achieve the customer lens required, teams have been aligned to customer touchpoints. New product and design skillset and better program management capability has also been introduced to manage workflow.

    A focus on profitable sales growth by reframing all investment decisions to bottom line is a further part of the approach. As an example, Ikin says he’s changed all performance media to be based on profit by category versus a sales revenue approach.

    “We’ve also rebuilt the governance model by putting stronger commercial rigour, and increased program visibility across functions to rebuild trust and transparency from a previously opaque and silo approach allowing accelerated investment,” he says.

    Augmenting range by integrating marketplace into the Myer offer has additionally opened complementary or supplementary category expansion. In all, online sales growth at time of CMO50 judging versus FY18 was up 245 per cent, including 38 per cent in FY22. What’s more, there has been record online NPS results growth of 26 per cent including a record high of +69 in FY22.

    Leadership impact

    Ikin’s transformative work fits into a broader rebuild across Myer since CEO, John King, took the helm. This provided a clear path for the Customer First Plan to be realised.

    “With four CEOs in three years and just as many CMOs, the organisation was fractured with clear silos, had a lot of vacancies and disillusionment,” Ikin says. “In rebuilding the culture, we needed to do a few things.”

    Rebuilding the leadership nucleus was clearly one and is manifested in Ikin’s chief customer officer title and broad remit. It’s also apparent in the expansion of roles across everything from PR to digital.

    “Importantly, behaviourally, staff were clear on the challenge, had fire in the belly, technical expertise and a willingness to do whatever it takes,” Ikin says. “While the pandemic put most plans to waste, it largely accelerated ours, leveraging the opportunities that existed. And it helped us double down on data, digital and customer insight-led activity.”

    Given the tough recruitment market, Ikin admits Myer needed to get creative in building both senior capability and augmenting vacancy challenges. “We did this by supplementing data and digital teams with specialist agency support and currently have hybrid functions across loyalty, CRM, digital product and design, plus search,” he says.

    Through all of this, communication and context have been key for Ikin. “The business was working through its challenges, changing daily, setting up clear ways to communicate with our team and our key stakeholders, providing them context of decisions, context of landscape so they could be better informed to make their own decisions,” he says.

    Having a commercial heartbeat to his function has been another must. “We need to be in check with the business,” Ikin says. “We focus on profitable decisions not just sales, we have added rigour across every function to initially justify but now accelerate investment.”

    And ultimately, it’s about being real. “Everyone works hard but at the end of the day the wheels fall off occasionally. Balancing life is just as important, so flexibility, honesty and empathy are key,” Ikin concludes. “It applies to everyone. And at the end of the day, family and you come first.”

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