Inside Retail: What key innovations have you seen in this sector in 2020?
Jason Coglan: The biggest innovation in our sector this year has to be the adoption of telehealth or telemedicine. It is something that SmileDirectClub has pioneered, but in 2020, interest, understanding and adoption skyrocketed. Since the pandemic, more than 3.2 million Australians accessed telehealth services — whether to see a GP, counselling for mental health, or consulting with a dentist. To stay relevant, the industry had to adapt as a whole to meet consumer demands.
We saw amazing innovation at our SmileHouse manufacturing facility in Nashville. We switched a lot of our production to manufacture and supply much-needed PPE for the US health system. We used our huge 3D printing capacity to make high-quality face visors for health professionals and our SmileShop teams worldwide.
IR: What are the biggest lessons you have learnt as a business in the past 12 months?
JC: Lesson 1: For SmileDirectClub, this year really demonstrated our business’ strength and resilience with our second anniversary in Australia. As the world changed, we were able to pivot our business in many ways to suit our customers’ changing needs.
For example, when we closed our SmileShops to abide by government guidelines, we saw a huge surge in consumer demand for our dentist directed impression kits as people realised they could safely straighten their teeth at home. As the public became used to remote services, we moved our focus to meet consumer demand and support our customers at home.
Lesson 2: It’s important to stay connected and continuously find new solutions. This year, our team adapted to new ways of working, harnessing platforms including [Microsoft] Teams and Zoom to stay connected, keep our winning team spirit and drive outstanding results for our business.
IR: In a fast-moving sector like this, what kind of roles are important to the SmileDirectClub business and is it challenging to find the set of skills you need?
JC: Retail teams and their skill sets have had to evolve quickly throughout the pandemic. Agile leadership and innovator mentality within any organisation are extremely important but post Covid-19, the ability to quickly pivot is more important than ever in retail leadership teams. We adapted our entire ANZ business and marketing efforts to support the growth of our impression kit business, which, as a result, doubled during the pandemic. Customer buying behaviours will continue to change. That means an entrepreneurial culture at the heart of the business, with a desire to test new ideas and adapt on the run, becomes critical to retail success. We celebrate the fact that we blur the lines between traditional functions within the business with everyone focusing on the customer, and this makes us a little less dependent on specialist roles.
IR: What are your predictions for the sector in 2021 and beyond?
JC: The global pandemic has driven remote services and more digitally enabled consumers, and I believe that this will continue across all sectors, particularly health and wellbeing, next year. This year has proved that telehealth is easily adaptable to one’s lifestyle. Telehealth works and is both efficient and effective, which is why we are so proud to have been a pioneer in this field. As telehealth and teledentistry continue to rise in popularity, we are confident even more consumers will continue to embrace SmileDirectClub as a convenient, affordable and safe solution to obtain a smile they love.
I see driving business efficiency becoming a key objective across all industries in 2021. As the world slowly emerges from the impact of the pandemic, it will be critical for all sectors to be agile to the market needs and continue to streamline for efficiency while putting the customer experience at the centre of everything they do.
IR: What’s coming up for SmileDirectClub this year?
JC: SmileDirectClub is a very agile business, we are willing and able to adapt to market conditions quickly, and we are constantly innovating. We will be looking to work more closely with existing dental practices and looking to introduce to Australia new retail products soon. In Australia and New Zealand, we are on a mission to empower Aussies and Kiwis to realise the life-changing potential of their smiles. SmileDirectClub will continue to increase access to affordable and convenient aligner therapy through our SmileShops, and our dentist directed at-home impression kits.