CMO50 2022 #22: Jason Piggott

  • Name Jason Piggott
  • Title GM customer and marketing
  • Company Freedom Furniture
  • Commenced role May 2016
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 17 staff, 3 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Retail
  • 2021 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    It takes rare strength to go through the recruitment process, start a new job and then realise it’s not the right one for you.

    This is the crossroads Jason Piggott, general manager of customer and marketing for Freedom Furniture, found himself in many years ago.

    “For me, my professional sliding doors moment was a realisation when I joined an organisation I wasn’t going to be a good cultural fit. After day one it was obvious the organisation’s approach and culture, whilst phenomenally successful, wasn’t aligned with my philosophy or day-to-day approach, and very quickly I needed to make the right decision for both me and the organisation,” he says.

    “The ‘ah-hah’ moment for me in all of this was the realisation for the first time in my career of my own strengths and weaknesses, along with my professional personality; there had to be a real fit with the organisation or I’d never be able to contribute to the organisation’s success. Since then, I have had a greater appreciation and realisation of how important team fit is to success both individually and organisationally.”

    Innovative marketing

    As Piggott explains, retail marketing is dominated by the challenge of building a brand for tomorrow and driving sales today, and navigating these two priorities can have the effect of constraining creativity to both cut through and engage customers across channels. 

    “With the objective of growing our homewares business, which is famous for stylish furniture, but not famous for homewares, the brief was simple: Let people know Freedom has an incredibly cool and stylish range of homewares and create enough desire so people would travel specifically to a store not on a high street, but in a homemaker centre, to purchase these,” he says.

    “To deliver this brief and deliver a bold creative move the team went hard on fashion techniques to elevate the category and challenge the perceptions of Freedom’s homewares. We teamed up with legendary fashion photographer, George Antoni, and made the effort to shoot in stunning locations, rather than shooting in a studio like most furniture retailers."

    The outputs from the creative process ran across a printed 24-page ‘look book’, directly mailed to myFreedom  65,000 members with a 20 per cent off homewares offer and available in-store (35,000 copies). Alongside this, an out-of-home campaign in a two-week burst and encompassing 850 panels across metro markets, plus digital assets, including an integrated campaign across eDMs, social channels and homepage, were designed to be aspirational and appeal stylistically to the masses.

    “It could not just be beautiful and creative without any substance. The result was a series of images and motion pictures which showcased a wide variety of products from different stylistic backgrounds and made Aussies feel comfortable and confident in bringing these products together in their homes," Piggott says. “The Freedom Lifewares book was the focal point of a new trajectory for the brand. A visually stunning combination of products and styling, the Lifewares book bolstered the telling of a new Freedom story.”

    Business smarts

    As a legacy retailer, Freedom needed to quickly go ‘next level’ on customer experience and re-calibrate the wider business to have a customer-first approach no matter what the channel or touchpoint. 

    Central to this was the marketing team driving customer journey mapping and customer insights to feed into the development of a complete view of both the current state of the Freedom customer journeys, and overall customer experience using research activities.

    “From a VoC perspective, we have deployed a comprehensive, end-to-end program across the business using the Qualtrics platform to track our performance across touchpoints, such as website, in-store and product delivery, and then embed this into the business via education, dashboards, and hard baking the feedback into the stores incentive system," Piggott says.

    “This data is now being used to identify opportunities where improvement is needed in our customer journeys and to deliver real and actionable insights on where we need to improve, including analysis to identify positive and negative drivers of results. It's also assisting with which touchpoints and measures to place importance on and prioritise, and which can be used to drive improvements in Freedom’s NPS.”

    Piggott says the team communicates these via infographics on Workplace to spell out the impact of NPS, key drivers and employee behaviours on customer retention and acquisition in a real and tangible way linked to store and staff performance.

    “These insights are then supplemented from a brand and category insights perspective where we are using Qualtrics BX to deliver biannual research waves to both customers and non-customers across our furniture, homewares and mattress categories, to get a deeper understanding of customer attitudes and behaviour to establish benchmarks. 

    “We are using these benchmarks to track the most relevant brand health metrics at the category level and using these data points to diagnose success or failure in moving the dial. This data is then democratised using live dashboards, which the marketing team is able to filter data to make more customer-centric decisions.”

    Next step is using the journey mapping and customer insights to develop a collective understanding of what a great customer experience looks like and what the roadmap should look like to deliver a future ‘next level’ CX state. The Freedom leadership team has committed to this process, including it as a key pillar of the business turnaround plan.

    Data-driven maturity

    Harnessing its investment over the past two years in a customer data infrastructure is key to both sales results today and ensuring Freedom retains customers tomorrow. 

    “Within this environment we have been focused on putting in place the building blocks to allow us to consolidate a single view of the customer with all our first party data and augment with our data points as required, and then amplified via our myFreedom loyalty program,” Piggott says.

    With over 700,000 members across Australia and New Zealand, Freedom has been able to build out insights capability with this data to drive more profitable relationship with customers. The team uses a two-step process to deliver this via a ‘test lab’. The team identifies the hypothesis, develops and tests it, and based on the results either parks or deploys automated campaigns to drive the program.

    At time of CMO50 judging, 45 ideas had been identified, nine are which went live and 11 completed with eight now scheduled as BAU trigger campaigns. Three wee binned as they didn’t clear commercial returns thresholds.

    “For Freedom, using an industry-standard control group, we have identified the marketing communications components and test lab campaign automation," Piggott continues. Results include customers visited or transacted 20 per cent more than the control group, spending more per visit, and annual business impact of $20 million in retail sales.

    In addition to this, the core proposition of the program of a $50 reward credit for every $1000 spent has delivered $15m in year-to-date incremental sales alone.

    “Our program and use of data not only has contributed to customer retention, and an increase in visitation, but has delivered nearly $40 million in revenue benefit across campaign attribution, voucher redemptions and subsequent additional purchases,” Piggott says. 

    Customer-led value

    The past two years of the pandemic have seen highly disrupted global supply chains. The associated impact extends across organisations and touchpoints, and has led to longer lead times and frustrating, constant delays for customers. Piggott knows this can reflect poorly on the brand. 

    While the marketing team can’t resolve the root cause, as brand and customer custodians the team has been able to leverage its data-driven and customer-first approach by conducting driver analysis on NPS data to understand what was contributing to the result, and what impact any improvements would have on lifting scores. 

    “This work was conducted using ‘ridge regression’ on a dataset of 11,800 customers from December 2021 to April 2022 where ‘lead time’ and ‘store satisfaction’ contributed around 70 per cent weight to driving our NPS results,” Piggott explains. “Using our customer datamart and automation, and working cross-functionally, the team identified two key CX initiatives: Customer journey management and customer win back."

    As a business which retails furniture on a ‘made-to-order lead time’ basis, one of the known pain points is keeping customers updated on where their order is, managing delays and expectations, and following up balance payments. This is before looking at traditional additional sales opportunities on this journey. 

    Using the customer datamart and supplementing the data feed with information from the order management and delivery system, Piggott's team was able to design and deploy a customer journey providing confirmation of order and estimated delivery date, updates on progress through the supply chain through to notification of delays, trigger to pay final balance and, finally, confirmation and orchestration of delivery across email and SMS.

    “The ‘pay your balance’ functionality of this customer journey resulted in both saved time at stores, with staff calling customers to chase balances rather than selling,” he says.

    Such a supply chain focus provided Freedom with an opportunity to show how infrastructure could assist in re-engaging customers and winning them back. 

    “We were able to identify 75,000 customers who were impacted by product delays across Australia and New Zealand, and 52 per cent of these customers had not returned. Based on this, three buckets of customers were identified for a ‘win-back’ incentive," Piggott says. 

    The campaign was deployed across Q4 2021 and re-activated 2000 customers. It generated $700,000 in incremental revenue. Piggott also notes the retailer won back 94 per cent of redeeming customers who hadn’t shopped at Freedom since being impacted.

    This focus on elevating CX resulted in both Freedom's NPS reaching an all-time high, and the business being awarded a Canstar Blue Award for the first time for Most Satisfied Customer – Furniture Retailers 2021.

    Commercial acumen

    The marketing team had a clear focus over the past two years to both grow share of voice via a stronger multi-channel approach to media, and a deliberate focus on screens (linear TV, BVOD, video on-demand, online/YouTube), and a sharper benchmark around target market share.

    "For a retailer to change how Australians think and feel about a brand, the quickest way to achieve this is via a focus on mass broadcast channels, which can build reach and frequency at scale," Piggott says. “For Freedom, this meant a newfound focus on screens and a multi-year journey to drive our spend to a level which would get a ‘ticket to the game’ against the competitors in the category.

    “This journey focus of both the marketing team and our media partners at Bohemia has driven our ‘screens’ investment to a point where we have our 1+ reach results on par and CPTs are roughly a third higher across markets.”

    Freedom has for the past decade used the Mosaic segmentation tool to understand its customer segments, overlaid with data performance. Over the past 3-4 years, the focus has been on bullet-proofing ‘wealthy families’. Over the past 12-18 months it has focused on shifting the attention to ‘young independents’. 

    While Freedom’s market share continues to be strongest among ‘wealthy families,’ it has seen clear growth in ‘young independents’ as it deploys campaigns. A key example is the Lifewares campaign for homewares to drive awareness, consideration and purchase, which used homewares as a ‘gateway purchase’ to the brand.

    Year-to-date, Freedom has contributed to strong year-on-year, like-for-like growth and real market share gains against target markets.

    Leadership impact

    In a world of automation and algorithms, Piggott knows people and capability are more important than ever. Creating an environment where his team feel a sense of purpose and belonging aligned to the organisational values is at the centre of his post-Covid approach. 

    “With the war for talent ongoing, people, capability and connection are more important than ever. Ensuring they want to be here, they can see and feel their development taking them where they want to go, and instilling a sense of responsibility and accountability to their peers is absolutely driving my approach,” he says.

    Five key pillars were introduced and consolidated at a team offsite facilitated by Mission Leadership and ex-special operations commander from the Australian Defence Force, Shane Smith. These pillars are: Creating a sense of purpose; focused outcomes; open and honest communication; trust; and relationships.

    “If I have learnt anything from the past couple of years, it is the importance of building personal connections across the team which are deeper than our professional connections," Piggot says. "A part of this process isn’t just about engineering a commitment between team members on what they will deliver to the team and the standards we hold each other to. It was also about development of a social committee to creating a construct outside of the work bubble in which the team can connect on a deeper level and connect outside of work.”

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