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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Customer-centric Retailing

With the ups and downs in the economy over the past few years, all businesses have had to rethink how they operate. It’s no different for retail – doing the same old, same old will no longer deliver the same results. And this is where customer-centric retailing (CCR) comes in.

The basis of CCR is understanding customers better and using that understanding to correctly segment and target sectors of that customer community.  By focusing more effectively on customer behavior and identifying customer behavior – not to mention wants and needs – the customer is returned to the heart of the retail strategy, which of course, is precisely where it should be.
While CCR is hardly new, it does offer a new dimension to the retail space thanks to the ability to identify customer segments using loyalty card transaction data. Getting your client to sign up for your reward card is about more than simply wanting to reward them for shopping with you. It gives you the potential to see how they behave when they do business with you.
By better understanding the dynamics behind your customer’s shopping behavior, you are able to offer them more of what they want and need, when they want and need it. It’s good for the customer and it’s fantastic for you. However, there is more to it than simply punching a ticket nine times so your customer gets free coffee on the tenth visit – although that is part of it. To be really effective as a strategy CCR needs to be applied globally within your retail business; in other words, it applies to all parts of the business.
For many retailers – particularly in the SME space – this kind of thinking can represent a major change but many large international retail brands – including Tesco and French hypermarket chain Carrefour – have had immense success.
In order for CCR to be successful for both the retailer and the customer, businesses need to begin with a deep seated belief in what it is capable of delivering. Reserving judgement with a shrug while you wait to see what will happen does not work with CCR. If you don’t trust the system you will appear phony and your clients will  withdraw from the sales process. Remember it’s not about who is right and who is wrong – it’s about being able to cater effectively to your customer’s needs and requests.
From there you need to be fairly ‘bloody-minded. There is no place for thin skin in a successful business, especially retail. Keeping the customer experience of your retail brand at the forefront of your efforts and strategy can be exhausting. Not every customer will buy today. Some will walk away; some of those who do walk away won’t return. The key here it focus on the customer buying cycle and the customer experience. It’s not easy but it’s not impossble. Remember you are earning not only sales but the long term relationship with this customer; you need to earn their sales and their loyalty.
This may go against everything you have been taught but it’s true: employees come first. If your employees are happy – genuinely happy – you will soon have happy customers. When your customers are happy with your business, they are much more likely to not only return but to spend. An employee’s attitude toward their job can make or break a sale by having an impact on their ultimate experience of your retail business.
- John Caldwell

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Repco – the one to watch in 2013

Ioleen Barbao, Repco HR Manager & John Caldwell

The 2012 Retail Employer of the Year Awards were announced and Repco emerged as the clear winner of the large category. Run by Retailworld Resourcing, the Awards are voted by the public and are audited by independent accountants.
Not knowing a lot about the Auto industry I decided to explore a little further and I was beyond impressed with what I found.
Established in 1922, Repco now has a whopping 283 stores and is now a household name.
A string of ownership changes has led to more funding and expertise to enable growth. Repco was publically listed until 2007 when it was sold to the private equity firm Unitas Capital who own Exego Group, one of the largest after-market parts companies in Australia, with turnover in excess of $1bn.
Recently, a 30% sale to US based Genuine Parts Company for US$150 million has put Repco in an even stronger position. Exego Managing Director John Mollar was reported saying that it would be used to strengthen an already strong balance sheet to enable further growth.
Originally more of a trade based organization, Repco has now been in the retail space for many years. Recognising the financial gains and the ability to offer the customer more choice and easier access, Repco has engineered itself from 80% trade and 20% retail, to now a roughly 60/40 split. The goal is to soon be at 50/50.
Just having stores wasn’t enough. They wanted the best stores with the biggest range. So over the past 2 years Repco Australia has dramatically changed the landscape of the Australian automotive parts industry. By investing a whopping $50 million in their ‘More Parts for More Cars’ program they have added over 900,000 more parts.
MD John Moller says, “This game changing initiative will enable Repco store staff to say yes more often, and enable you, our customers, to spend less time looking for parts and more time on more cars, by calling Repco first. More Parts for More Cars, that’s why Repco is number 1 in Auto Parts.”
But money aside, it would appear that Repco’s biggest secret to success, evident in the recent award win, is creating a dynamic and people focused culture.
I recently met with Repco Human Resources Manager Ioleen Barbaro, to discuss the winning formula. Whilst it has been a long road and lots of work a humble Ioleen says the key factor in the Repco culture is FUN! They try to promote a fun culture and really want people to enjoy coming to work.
The past few years for the Repco HR team has been about ensuring that they don’t miss any avenue. With the focused change to retail they have created a much more diverse workforce and actively try and recruit different personalities to engage with all manner of customers.
The best part about creating this work force and culture is that it is top driven. Ioleeen says that the MD and the entire senior leadership team are very team focused and are always looking at ways to make Repco an employer of choice.
Ioleen was thrilled that the teams got behind the award and at one point even had stores calling saying they couldn’t access the site showing more than a keen interest in voting!
MD John said the award win “is a huge accomplishment andwould not have been possible if it weren’t for our employees recognizing their workplace and choosing tonominate Repco as their choice Employer!”
With such a strong people focus and a clear and focused growth strategy I am certain that Repco is the retailer to watch for big things in 2013.
- John Caldwell

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

a, b, c... M-Commerce

With at least 52% of Australian’s reported as owning a smartphone  in 2012, M-Commerce is taking off.  

Google Insights reports that 28% of Australian smartphone users have purchased through their device (excluding tablets and other mobile devices). With the new generation of consumers spending at least 55% of their internet consumption  through their phone daily, this is only likely to grow.

US Retailers notorious Thanksgiving weekend in the is the prime example of consumers looking to multichannel shopping methods, with 25.3% on sales coming  through mobile. Skava, who works with 6 of the top 30 internet retailers, saw a traffic increase of at least 100%.

Capturing the m-commerce market

(graph from:

 The graph above shows 2012 data  outlining what devices retailers are using – mobile site, android app, iphone app; with 36% of retailers offering all 3.

As an avid mobile user, there’s nothing worse than a desktop site trying to squeeze on the screen, with frustratingly small buttons and flash images that don’t work. Luckily, it seems that non-optimised sites are becoming a thing of the past – and now it’s about who is doing it better.

Looking at last year’s ‘Top App’ lists, it’s not suprising to see the majority are based around games or services as opposed to products. As retailers continue to innovate and adopt more technology, I’m sure they’ll be heading up the lists in the near future.

Making life easy
Create a shopping list by scanning barcodes? Yip, you can do it with the Woolworths app.

Targeted Marketing
If someone has downloaded your app, they like your brand. Smart retailers are making the most of the opportunity to target promotions and advertising through to their users. The H&M app shows you the latest promos simply by shaking your phone and will send push notifications about offers and events at the local store.

Adding personalized features engages users and adds to the customer experience to keep them coming back. Most fashion retailers offer a ‘favourites’ or ‘shopping bag’ option.
Kresta gives you the opportunity to take a photo of the window you need new curtains for, and try out different colours. 

So, where to from here? E and M Commerce is a focus for many retailers as they look to service the omni-channel future of shopping. Finding the right mix and making the experience harmonious is where some are coming out on top over others. 

- John Caldwell