Here are five lessons from the winners that you can emulate in your own business.
1. Make decisions based on data, not gut instinct
New store launches and over-the-top experiences can be effective ways to grow the business, not to mention fun and exciting, but they’re also major investments, so it’s important to get them right. Making decisions based on data not gut instinct is what differentiates successful retailers from those that struggle to survive.
Before Vinnies Victoria overhauled its customer loyalty program, for instance, it surveyed its customers to find out exactly what kinds of rewards they wanted, and then tailored its offering to match. This not only resulted in strong uptake of the program, but it has also highlighted a key concern for customers, sustainability, which the op shop chain is focusing on going forward. It also earned Vinnies Victoria the Loyalty Program/Campaign of the Year Award.
Similarly, before Petbarn launched a new, same-day delivery option during Covid-19 last year, it conducted extensive testing and rolled it out to one audience segment at a time to ensure the execution was flawless, helping the retailer to win Omnichannel Retailer of the Year.
Another example of how Petbarn uses data is when it noticed a large number of customers researching pet adoption on its website last year. It ended up working with one of its pet adoption partners to list all of their available dogs on the Petbarn website, making it easier for customers to find a new furry friend online.
2. Put digital at the heart of everything
It should come as no surprise that award-winning retailers are investing in digital, but what separates these businesses from the rest is the way they put digital at the heart of everything they do, not simply their e-commerce site or marketing strategy.
For instance, when Coco Republic was forced to close its stores during Covid-19, it launched a virtual showroom and styling service, which enabled its interior designers to continue providing personalised advice to customers about their furniture and homewares purchases. After stores reopened, Coco Republic realised many customers enjoyed the convenience of its digital services, so it continued to offer them, creating an omnichannel customer journey. This earned the retailer the Customer Experience of the Year award for small businesses.
3. Hire the right people and give them the tools to succeed
In retail, the people helping customers find what they’re looking for on the shop floor, or answering questions on the phone or live chat, are the face of the business. They shape the customer experience, so hiring the right people and giving them the tools to succeed is critical.
When Rebel needed to recruit team members for its immersive new rCX store in Paramatta, which won Store Design/Concept of the Year, it sought out candidates who lived and breathed sports, rather than people with more run-of-the-mill retail experience. Its training expert has a bachelor’s degree in sports science and is pursuing a master’s in exercise physiotherapy, and its basketball expert actually coaches the West Sydney Wolves.
Similarly, when Repco came up with a new philosophy around ‘genuine’ customer service recently, it didn’t just send team members an email explaining what it was all about. It created an in-house training program to equip team members with the soft skills necessary to identify the specific needs of the customer and respond in a meaningful way. This is part of the reason Repco earned the award for the Best Customer Service Team.
4. Don’t underestimate the ‘wow’ factor in winning over customers
In the age of Instagram and Amazon, it’s hard to make a lasting impression, but an incredible store design or amazing customer service can deliver the ‘wow’ factor that is needed to win over customers.
When The Iconic launched its new sportswear category, for instance, it teamed up with some of the best local gyms, from Barry’s to F45, to provide free daily 20-30 minute workouts. It noted that customers would normally need to access these workouts via online subscription platforms, but they could stream them live via The Iconic TV.
5. Get senior leaders in the business to support key projects
While senior leaders may not be involved in the day-to-day execution of a major rebrand or new store opening, it’s critical that they show their support for these projects and explain why they’re necessary to help the business achieve its goals.
When The Athlete’s Foot launched a new virtual fitting service during Covid, it turned to its CX leaders to quickly teach its ‘fit technicians’ to use the new tools and technology. Because the virtual fitting service represented such a different way of doing things, it was important everyone felt comfortable and confident in the process.
And Rebel could not have launched its new rCX store format without the support of its leadership team, not only to release funding, but also to understand and agree with the financial modelling and return on investment.
Ultimately, the leadership team had a strong belief in the impact of design and visual merchandising, and the sportswear retailer won Customer Experience of the Year for medium to large businesses.