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Still, the retailer had a clear vision of the digital improvements it wanted to make and a roadmap to get there. Then came Covid, and like many retailers, over the past year and a half, Politix was forced to fast-track several e-commerce projects to meet the unprecedented demand for online shopping.
Services such as click-and-collect and free online returns were rolled out in less than six months, instead of 18 months as originally planned, and now, the national menswear retailer is re-evaluating what it hopes to accomplish over the next few years.
“The effort we’ve put in has yielded some pretty amazing results,” Dalke said. “It gives us confidence to know we can attract an online shopper and build the Politix brand that we want to take forward.”
Doubling online sales
Founded in 1975, Politix was acquired by South African retail conglomerate Woolworths Holdings for $60 million in 2016 and now sits within the Country Road Group, alongside Country Road, Witchery, Mimco and Trenery.
The past year has primarily been about getting the basics of its digital offer right. It implemented Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud, which enabled it to shift from manually merchandising its website to using dynamic merchandising rules.
“We’ve gone from a person in a spreadsheet saying, ‘Product A will sit here and product B will sit here,’ to using dynamic merchandising rules [based on] which product has the highest conversion rate, and which one is driving the most number of views,” Paul Watson, Politix’s head of digital, told Inside Retail.
“It gives customers a better experience, by sharing the products that will appeal to them first, but it also increases operational efficiency.”
The retailer also rolled out a new order management system, which opened up the inventory across its entire store network to online shoppers. This drastically improved product availability on its website and reduced delivery times for online orders, since they can be shipped from stores.
As a result of these changes, the online conversion rate has doubled and revenue from online sales has grown 149 per cent year on year.
Understanding the male online shopper
The next area of focus for Politix will be the customer experience. The retailer already offers click-and-collect and makes it possible for shoppers to check an item’s in-store availability online, but Dalke sees opportunities to create even more convenient services.
“If you go in-store and try on some products, you’ll be able to save [the information] in your account, so you’ll be able to surface and experience it on the website as well to help you shop at home,” he said.
Politix could use this data to drive replenishment purchases and personalise its communications with individual customers, which Watson sees as being critical to both the retailer’s digital strategy and future sales growth.
“As part of the experiential and customer piece, there’s going to be a strong emphasis on incentivising repeat purchases,” Watson said. “A lot of it will be around accumulating more data about our customers and using that for personalisation purposes.”
This is based on the fact that male online shoppers tend to shop less frequently than female online shoppers, although when they do, the average order value tends to be much higher.
“I work across a male and a female brand within Country Road Group, and it’s kind of chalk and cheese in that sense,” said Watson, who is also head of digital at Witchery.
“It’s really important to capture the male customer in a ‘need moment’ because they are shopping for specific requirements, less for entertainment.”
Shopping is “a lot more functional” for male customers, Dalke added, and they’re “a lot less forgiving”.
“If you get it wrong once, it’s very difficult to get that customer back in,” he said.
This is especially challenging for apparel retailers, such as Politix, since it’s often difficult to determine fit online.
“Blokes don’t want to do the whole ‘buy two, send one back if it doesn’t fit’ thing, because they can’t be bothered going to the post office,” Dalke said. “You’ve got to make sure that your descriptions are right and your product imagery is as accurate as it can be to avoid that first purchase going wrong.”
Politix currently has 34 stores in Australia, 39 concessions in David Jones and 12 outlet stores. In addition to its own digital offering, the retailer plans to increase its presence on online marketplaces.