Big W: “We lost our way with customers”

Big-W_Craigieburn-CentralDiscount department store executive talks digital strategy amid turnaround.

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Big W’s general manager of digital Kate Langford has opened up on the role technology is playing in the company’s turnaround efforts at last week’s Online Retailer conference event.

Joined on a panel by Cue Clothing’s CIO Shane Lenton and GM of Digital at Pharmacy4Less, Laura Doonin, Langford said that there “isn’t a sector, or an industry that’s not being disrupted.”

“For all of us, what’s really interesting is that it’s a customer-led disruption this time around,” she said.

“Customers are demanding greater convenience, [and] technology is just enabling it in ways we didn’t see before. The sort of disruption that’s occurring is creating opportunities.”

Big W is going through a public turnaround, dubbed a ‘multi-year journey’ by Woolworth’s Group chief executive Brad Banducci earlier this year, and Langford sees it as an opportunity for change.

“The benefit in a turnaround is that is really does force you to focus on what’s important, and that is actually reconnecting with our customers,” said Langford.

“It sounds trite, and it sounds basic, but we actually did lose our way with our customers. So, that for us is point one.”

Meanwhile, Lenton noted that a digital transformation should be all about providing a great customer experience.

“Certainly, everything [Cue] do, we’re looking through a customer lens,” he said.

“What do we need to do as a business to provide a great outcome, [or] as a minimum meet the expectations of the customers? It’s all about meeting those customer demands in your market, and meeting the trends.”

Langford explained that digital has a role to play in enhancing customer experience, by helping a company understand who its customers are more clearly via data.

“Digital’s role, certainly with data, is to try and close the ecosystem a little bit so we can start to have a more holistic view of how our customers are connecting across the channels,” she said.

‘Group-wide capabilities’

By taking this data, and learning from it, Big W hopes to move from the more traditional ‘sales-based planning’ towards more ‘intent-based planning’.

“There’s a lot of work that we’re doing at the moment to help data inform decisions on inventory forecasting, that’s intent-based, to help us get better at efficient processes,” said Langford.

“Obviously, we’re in a world now where price is really important, it’s not the only thing, but it’s really important.

“Most importantly is the data that gets us to better understand our customers. One to one, but also one to many.”

The company’s click-and-collect offer, Pick Up, has allowed physical interactions with its online customers, said Langford.

“There’s actually a deliberate decision to go in-store as a service desk experience, there’s a conversation and interaction that’s positive, and they are a different customer to our home delivery customer and our bricks-and-mortar customer.”

Langford noted that Big W’s parent company, Woolworths Group, is investing in capabilities that can run across the entire organisation, with each of the group’s brands to bring special skills relevant for their own industry while benefiting from the shared technology.

“From the Big W perspective, our first refresh is ensuring that all [of] the products that are available in-store are also available online, in search as well as the shop. We are also now looking at extending products beyond the store where it makes natural sense to be a part of the brand experience for us.”

Langford added that endless aisle is on the road map for the company, but didn’t specify when the feature would be rolled out.

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