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Retail’s crème de la crème

Earlier this year, the who’s who of retail in Australia and New Zealand turned out for the annual Retailer Awards in Melbourne, attracting more than 600 of the region’s top executives to recognise those excelling in the industry.

Donning their best suits – the look was sequins and sneakers – industry professionals witnessed a highcalibre list of finalists featured. This list was compiled by an experienced panel of judges, including Gary Mortimer, associate professor at Queensland University

of Technology; Matt Newell, executive strategy director at The General Store; Heather McIlvaine, acting editor of Inside Retail; Wai Tang, non-executive director at Vicinity Centres and JB Hi-Fi; and Jerry Macey, national retail industry lead at Commonwealth Bank.

Part of Retail Week, the event this year showcased retailers delivering an outstanding customer experience in every aspect of their business, from store design and customer service to omnichannel concepts. Here are this year’s winners.

Best Pop-Up: Pandora

Runner up: Spendless


Krispy Kreme


Catch Group

Given the calibre of competing entries in the best pop-up category, Pandora’s giant golden beehive construction in Sydney’s CBD clearly displays the degree of excellence required to come out on top.

Located in the middle of the Pitt Street Mall thoroughfare, the five-metre tall structure was built to celebrate the global launch of the jewellery retailer’s 18 carat gold-plated sterling silver collection inspired by bees.

The sculpture itself was filled with scented metallic golden flowers, with visitors invited inside an “immersive humming hub”.

“We wanted to bring the Pandora Shine campaign to life in a way that engages all the senses,” Glenda Wolman, vice-president, marketing, for Pandora in Australia and New Zealand, said at the launch.

“This was an exciting launch for the brand, representing the next step in its evolution. The hive was the perfect way to introduce our new jewellery collection to the Australian market in an innovative and engaging way.”

In measuring the success of the pop-up, Pandora’s nearest store to the activation had sales growth of over 128 per cent, with the next-closest location achieving over 72 per cent and large engagement on its social media channels.

“We create human experiences that connect people through sharing and making memories together – this is a perfect example of this,” said Danny Newman from creative firm YourStudio, which designed the hive.

“The Pandora Shine Hive is an immersive, multisensory installation showcasing the Shine collection in a really unique way.”

Best Store Design: Telstra

Runner up: Biome



George and Matilda Eyecare

Hoyts Group

In a keenly contested category, Telstra retail and regional executive Fiona Hayes believes the telco’s win demonstrates that its store design is positively impacting its customers.

“Our inspiration was to bring the possibilities of our network and technologies to life, meeting the needs of our customers in a consultative, intuitive and human environment,” she says.

“It is important for us to demonstrate how our innovative products and services create better ways to empower everyone to thrive in a connected world.

Customers have been telling us they want fast, personalised experience when they come to our stores, and that is what we have been able to provide.

“It’s here where we put the customer at the centre of everything we do.”

Telstra embarked on a thorough research and consultation process with several key partners during the design process.

After gaining insight from a large amount of data points, including partnering with a research firm that allowed it to use new eye-tracking technology to map the customer journey in detail, Telstra was able to identify what did and didn’t work.

Key and unique features of the store design include “Brilliant Basics and Signature Moments”, which form the bedrock of the customer experience and can be thought of as a series of interactions the customer experiences on their journey.

The design features digitally enhanced modular displays in the shop window, digital gallery panels, a transparent queue system with concierge-assisted interfaces helping to reduce waiting-time anxiety; and a smart lounge that allows for Telstra product interactions in order to inform, display and entertain.

Telstra’s future retail environment is divided up into four zones: a shop window which aims to inspire and attract; a gallery showcasing the latest products; a lounge, which was designed in answer to the frustration of waiting rooms; and a workshop where one-on-one time with consultants takes place.

“The customer service experience has really been enhanced,” says Hayes. “We can now offer our customers highly personalised experiences, guided by our expert consultants.

“Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Customers can touch and experience things, and discover the choice, speed and convenience of our products and technology as they move freely between each zone.”

Online Store of the Year: Appliances

Online Runner up: Showpo



Forever New

Catch Group

Beating a host of impressive competitors in the online space was no small feat for Appliances Online (AO), as its e-commerce offering continues to dominate sales in the category.

AO’s award-winning site includes 24/7 support via in-house (Sydney-based) contact centre before, during and after sales – even at 2am.

“Impress every customer” is a value that the team holds closest. In its submission, AO says close to 100 per cent of the market for major domestic appliances in Australia researches its website before buying, while the site is seeing over one million unique visitors each month, in a market with only 500,000 major domestic appliances being sold per month, according to GFK data.

Over the past 12 months, AO has created a world-first neuroscience based personalisation engine to deliver personalised CX in real time, with over 100,000 customers neuroscientifically profiled to test personalised messages, product recommendations, user journeys, page designs, emails, emotional selling points through to call centre conversations.

Rather than sorting product from cheapest to highest, as is traditionally the case, AO has organised relevance by surfacing product in rows along a relevant emotional trigger spectrum (eg, scarcity, premium, social proof). AO was also able to dramatically reduce page load times from an average of five seconds to one second, thus increasing the speed of browsing and buying.

The company’s mobile platform was also overhauled after a deep dive into conversion rates to identify user segment specific conversation rates, hoping to improve the path to purchase across desktop and mobile.

AO has one of the highest net promoter scores [NPS] in the country, with 82.1 comparing to the industry average of 12.

The UX team reviewed the entire mobile journey (using analytics and heatmaps) and listed all pain points.

Research comparisons with the world’s best-rated e-commerce mobile experiences, workshops, in-depth testing and monitoring post-implementation have contributed towards AO’s NPS scores being consistently high.

AO is one of the few online retailers to offer free next-day delivery to 95 per cent of Australia, serviced by its own fleet.

It offers extended delivery times with midnight cutoff for next day, plus additional installation services (professional electrician, plumbers or cabinet makers are available through sister company Winning Services).

Free removal and recycling of older products, 24/7/365 Sydney-based customer support team, no commissions, unbiased advice, over 6000 products from world’s best brands, buying guides created by category experts are all on offer.

“The inspiration for Appliances Online’s customer experience is quite simple – it’s about providing traditional customer service in a modern context,” says John Winning, CEO of Winning Group and founder of AO.

“When I started Appliances Online almost 14 years ago, I wanted to find a way to replicate the amazing experiences that customers would receive walking into a Winning Appliances store.

“Everyone, even my own father doubted that I would be able to do this. However with the help of the incredible Appliances Online team, we have set the benchmark for online shopping in the county. I couldn’t be prouder of the team and what we stand for as a business, which is our legendary service.”

Best Loyalty Program: Adrift Clothing

Runner up: Cotton On




Thirsty Camel

With retailers competing for customer loyalty in today’s business landscape, the seven-strong full-time staff behind Adrift Clothing certainly have a David and Goliath struggle on their hands against vastly larger retailers – making their award for best loyalty program all the more remarkable.

“We are just a small Brisbane business; we love making women feel beautiful in their clothes and creating a ‘why’ for women to buy our pieces,” says Adrift’s marketing coordinator and social media manager, Rebecca Holeszko.

“Our rural campaign of 2018 was all about giving back to small country communities, with women – we believe – being the backbone to their communities.”

Holeszko says the company’s approach to customer loyalty is different.

“When many Australian brands bring their product to the marketplace, it is through the industry events held throughout the year or through large campaigns in metro areas with a focus on ‘Instagram-able’ assets and influencer attendance,” says Holeszko.

“They drive loyalty through points or rewards but not through representing and championing their customer in the most authentic and simple way possible – photographing woman who relate to them.”

Through this campaign, Holeszko adds, the brand has been able to show its customers that when they read “‘a label ‘For all women, no matter the shape, social demographic, education or age’ is not a marketing mantra, but who we are as a label.

“We start our conception of campaign through focus groups and conversations with our customers and throughout the customer is held at the forefront.

We strive to champion them at every interval, through transparency and honesty.

This level of engagement with the customer is rarely seen in the fashion market, setting Adrift apart from other Australian retailers.”

Customer response to Adrift’s rural initiative has seen the burgeoning brand inundated with comments, emails, shares, stories and “sometimes even tears” on a weekly basis from customers “expressing their gratitude at being represented in the fashion marketplace”, which Holeszko adds is the most integral measuring point.

“We had a significant amount of women who have signed up to Adrift from the rural campaign as they saw our brand as being inclusive for all women, no matter their age, size, shape or where they reside,” adds Holeszko.

The two-month loyalty campaign run by Adrift also saw significant boosts to repeat/returning customers, revenue and average order value.

Supplier of the Year: Tryzens

Runner up: Triquestra



Milk It Academy


IT Works

Supplier relationships represent a crucial component of retail success in today’s crowded marketplaces, with this year’s category winner, Tryzens, receiving acknowledgment for helping a raft of retailers continue to find growth, including stationery firm Kikki.K, which nominated the supplier.

Tryzens CEO Andy Burton says the win comes after a successful year in the ANZ region, after launching new offerings for Kikki.K, Macpac and Seafolly, with new projects on the way across the globe, including Tryzens’ first entry into the US market.”

In its nomination, Kikki.K says Tryzens helped it launch six region-specific websites on the Salesforce Commerce Cloud platform.

The online store created was designed to replicate the experience an in-store customer would receive, with personalised products, specialised landing pages and global accessibility.

As part of the relationship, Kikki has access to TradeState, which provides live monitoring and trade reports that are accessible on the go.

Since the launch, Kikki says it has achieved a 60 per cent increase in transactions, a 48 per cent increase in mobile revenue and a 53 per cent increase in international transactions. 

Looking ahead to the key trends to watch out for in 2019, Burton says despite systemic pressures facing the retail sector at present, numerous technologies and innovations offer retailers the chance to succeed despite a broadly declining sector.

“Providing a more personalised experience for customers is going to be a key trend that we are going to see increasing numbers of retailers focused on this year,” adds Burton.

“Digital channels, combined with AI and machine learning, are the key to doing this. Increasing numbers of retailers will begin integrating machine learning into their operations in order to analyse big data in real time and extract greater value from large datasets. 

“Another key trend we’re seeing is a rise in direct-to-consumer offerings and subscription models, so we expect this to be a real growth market in 2019.

Consumers are increasingly comfortable with subscription models, with things like Amazon Prime and Netflix, and while this sort of model won’t work for every retailer, if you can get it right you can cut out the middle man and engage directly with customers to drive longterm loyalty.” 

Omnichannel Retailer of the Year: Supercheap Auto

Runners up: Cue and Accent


Life Interiors

Australian Geographic 

It’s fast becoming a perennial winning habit for Supercheap Auto, which took out the omnichannel retailer of the year for the third year in a row.

“Omni-retail is about delivering a seamless shopping experience agnostic to channel, leveraging the best of both physical and digital to create the ultimate environment for our customers,” says Supercheap Auto’s managing director of auto retailing, Chris Wilesmith. 

“We focus on enabling our customers to feel inspired and self-discover, while providing superior solutions and expertise that empowers them to shop their way. What is clearly a powerful differentiator is our people and the experience they provide to our customers makes all the difference.”

It’s certainly been a busy 12 months for Supercheap. It launched click-andcollect in 2016, with 90-minute lead time, which became 60-minute lead time in 2017. Last year it managed to drop this to 30-minute service.

“Our team are continually trying to add value through understanding and delivering above our customers’ expectations with services such as our industry-leading 30-minute click-andcollect or click-and-fit, where we fit our customers purchases for them,” says Wilesmith.

“For us, it’s not just about selling products, but providing the solutions our customers need – and this is what we believe makes a difference.”

In its awards submission, Supercheap – which is owned by Super Retail Group – says in FY19, online satisfaction was included into store KPIs and its bonus program, enabling a heightened focus on omnichannel that helped drive a unified response to customer experiences, including the deployment of collectionpoint signage to all stores.

Weekly online customer satisfaction scores (NPS) are over 75, which the brand says it “could not be more proud to share”.

Supercheap’s physical presence (321 stores across ANZ), seven-day customer support, company-owned stores with standard product-ranging profiles and messages, mature e-commerce capabilities, loyalty program and investment on fulfilment options have all solidified the automotive retailer’s omnichannel credentials.

Best Customer Service Team: Brava

Runner up: Lush


Winning Group/Appliances Online


Australian Geographic

Brava’s 40-strong team of female staff all learned about the retailer’s customer service first as customers.

They were so inspired to help other women after the experience that they later signed on to work at Brava.

In its winning submission, the company says this can’t be underestimated when considering the brand’s customer service standards, as its team pays the experience forward by helping other women.

New team members are selected based on personal attributes and a desire to help other women.

Brava says its goal of inspiring, empowering and instilling confidence in its customers can only be achieved when its team culture reflects those values – and that encouraging a mindset of challenging itself at every point of the customer journey by asking, “What more could we do to help the customer and to stand out from competitors?”, is part of its customer service ethos.

The company prides itself on being experts in D cup and up, focusing on training and education for its staff and customers.

Sales targets are not put above customer needs – which helps empower staff to facilitate the best solution for customers.

A 360-degree customer feedback loop helps the company monitor customer happiness.

The loop includes post-purchase feedback, direct contact to founders, requesting feedback from customers for areas to improve, engaging with communities via social media and online review platforms.

A newly launched customer portal (MyBrava) allows customers to see previous purchases, create shopping wishlists, virtual fitting and review purchased products. Brava says its staff are valued for their compassion, in-depth product knowledge and desire to help other women, meaning “sales scripts are not needed at Brava; our sincere approach encourages conversation and puts our customers are ease.”

Online Customer Service Initiative of the Year: Brava

Runner up: BWS


Home, Furniture, Bedding and Outdoor


Forever New


The burgeoning bra brand also took out the online customer service award, based on the launch of its virtual fitter for customers – particularly regional or overseas customers who can’t get to a store.

Since launching, the company has seen an average 89 per cent increase in number of customers using the service each month. Brava says the returns rate is so low on orders attributed to its Virtual Fitter, that it’s almost nonexistent. Brava crafted a document to train all staff to reinforce the importance of using positive language across all touchpoints of the business.

Training of the existing bra-fitting team was required to ensure comfort with the process of replying and satisfying customer’s virtual fitting inquiries. Virtual fitters are not just an algorithm, they are real in-store fitters who have professional experience and current product knowledge.

The brand says it’s received an overwhelming amount of positive customer feedback to the service.

In-store Customer Service Initiative of the Year: Merchant 1948

Runner up: BWS


Boost Juice



Kiwi-based shoe firm Merchant 1948’s in-store initiatives at its Chadstone store in Melbourne took out the main store service award of this year’s ceremony.

The footwear retailer’s in-store members have been rigorously trained on a range of shoe repair and upgrade processes, including sole and heel upgrades, shoe stretching and bespoke monogramming.

The Merchant Workshop was implemented at Chadstone to provide an experiential atmosphere within the store – helping customers to feel welcome, peruse new styles and utilise services.

The services available provide an end-to-end in-store experience for customers. Facilitating repairs helps lower the costs of using an external repairer; it also reduces turnaround time. Additional revenue from providing the in-store services has been achieved, while also helping to track the quantity of repairs and updates required.

“The idea for the Merchant 1948 Workshop was actually created by the current Chadstone store manager, Simon, who has been with the business for the past five years, with the brand and store team supporting his vision and bringing this to life,” says Mandy Tomlinson, general manager of retail at Overland Footwear, the owner of Merchant 1948.

“The team was inspired by the brand ethos on quality and care in line with the need to serve customers beyond their original purchase, and take them on a journey from purchase, to education on shoe care – right through to after care, and how Merchant 1948 could cover that last part of the customer journey.”

At a sustainability level, the idea for the workshop was also to address wastage, both environmentally and financially, with the workshop service breathing new life back into original purchases instead of them being disposed of. Customer feedback has been positive, according to Tomlinson, especially that the possibilities of after care add value to their purchase. “It also puts their mind at ease knowing they can be taken on a journey from start to finish,” says Tomlinson.

“The workshop has also become a social hub for customers past and present to interact with the brand, talk to staff about their story and shoes. Some people come back every week, so it has been a huge relationshipbuilder for customers and staff in-store.

CX of the Year – Small: Home, Furniture, Bedding & Outdoor

Runner up: Showpo


National Tiles

Adrift Clothing

Fjallraven Australia

A novel use of readily available technology has helped Home, Furniture, Bedding & Outdoor (HFBO) claim the top CX initiative for small retailers.

HFBO’s bid to “merge the sometimes difficult-to-navigate worlds of e-commerce with the experience of in-store salesmanship”, was inspired by seeing many people using Facetime in-store.

The furniture group became the first retailer in Australia to offer direct video chat link into a showroom with a salesperson, regardless of customer device. After testing and training staff on the appropriateness of device for channel – such as desktop for consultation, smartphone for large showrooms for more portability – HFBO has seen customer engagement significantly increase.

Liveshop has boosted average online sale transactions by making customers more confident to spend on larger purchases before they’ve seen the product in person. The service is easily accessed on the company’s site and allows customers to instantly connect with sales teams and staff on the showroom floor, via video link.

CX of the Year – Large: Rebel

Runner up: Catch



Australian Geographic

Country Road

Meanwhile at the big end of town, another major brand of SRG’s stable took out the award’s major prize, largely based on the launch of Rebel Services. New services include bra fitting for apparel, waterproofing for shoes and football, ball inflation for football and regripping for tennis and cricket.

The introduction of the new services is to build brand loyalty and drive engagement. By offering services, new conversations outside of product and price are possible.

According to acting managing director of sports retailing Wayne Tozer, when it came to devising the strategy, Rebel spoke to its customers to “really understand their lifestyle, motivations, and how we as a brand could help them achieve their goals”.

“We listened and recognised the benefit we could bring by not just being a source of knowledge and expertise, but a place to bring everything together that our customers need,” explains Tozer.

“Rebel Services are a key focus that we will continue to drive and leverage through our partnerships with local and global brands, communities, ambassadors and new innovations.” 

An increase in NPS results, verbatim data, conversion and relevant category results indicate the strategy is working.

“We’ve gained feedback from our customers in-store and online, and our teams are working to drive action and build our future vision,” adds Tozer. “We’ll continue to listen to our customers with a focus on fuelling passion and excitement for sport, and offering everything our customers need to succeed in their sporting or active lifestyle.”

In its submission, Rebel says the implementation of the strategy also needed to consider the merging of SRG’s Rebel and Amart Sports – which saw the rebranding of 68 Amart Sports store in 68 days.

Most importantly, Rebel segments its customer base through attitude and participation – that is, running, training and football instead of shoes, apparel and accessories. It’s an approach that Rebel considers more relevant than demographics.

A large test-and-learn project at the Macquarie store in Sydney has helped Rebel understand how its services are introduced throughout the customer journey. Additional services launched in this space include gift card personalisation and jersey/apparel/bag personalisation.

Rebel says due to the success of the project, it has executed a modular service counter to continue the test-and-learn in an additional 15 stores.

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