All Together’s monthly CEO Circles are an opportunity for member CEOs to come together and discuss a particular business issue. Hosted by a Volunteer Advisor, but intended as active learning groups, these sessions are confidential open spaces for consulting like minded colleagues. This month, guided by the exceptional Meg Lustman, CEOs tackled the challenge of omnichannel retail.
In a recent blog post, Volunteer Advisor and retail guru Fran Minogue wrote: ‘If the last 18 months have shown us anything, it’s that our brands have to be available wherever and whenever the customer wants to shop. omnichannel is just that’.
And she’s right. No one can ignore the success enjoyed by those who get it right, but for brands still working things out, omnichannel strategy presents challenges around profitability, especially as strategies built and perfected over various lockdowns may be looking less appealing beyond them.
As might be expected, Ted Baker’s newest NED had some stellar advice…
Join up your current channels before opening up new ones
With a question to start on which channels might offer a proven boost to sales, Meg’s first point was for CEOs to make the most of what they have already built: ‘before you start going out and exploring new relationships, be clear about where you are currently. Does everything feed off each other and work with and for each other?’ Make sure all your existing channels are joined up before adding new ones, maximising interconnectivity. An example Meg gave was offering click and collect or ‘fulfil from store’ if you have a physical location, ensuring customers feel they have a ‘single track’ experience shopping with your brand.
Primark is doing this well. For years Primark has shied away from opening up e-commerce channels, even throughout the Covid-19 lockdowns. However, they have recently announced a new website which will show which stores are stocking certain items and whether they are currently available. Customers will have more visibility and be able to plan better for their shopping trip. Even though they are not opening up a new channel, they are ensuring their current ones work together more effectively – improving the customers’ experience and journey.
Use your packaging to communicate with customers on Amazon
With the might of Amazon being hard to ignore in a conversation around Omnichannel, CEOs were clear on the benefits: the online giant provides access to a huge group of customers and offers fulfilment services that are second to none. However, the table still had their concerns about the platform, most notably the lack of interaction with customers. Meg agreed this is a problem but offered some clever advice to capture online shoppers: packaging. Building messaging, offers or advertising into packaging allows you to communicate directly with your customers no matter where they buy from, capturing those already interested and incentivising them to take the leap onto your own website.
In a previous CEO Circle, Graze guru Anthony Fletcher, spoke on a similar topic. He remarked that ‘your website is your palace: the place where your tribe come to enjoy the full experience of your brand. Amazon is where you choose to sell the products most relevant to Amazon – these range and pricing decisions need to be based on your understanding of Amazon.’ If you customise your business to suit Amazon and don’t allow your website to become undifferentiated from Amazon, you will likely have success. You can read Anthony’s Amazon masterclass here.
What else was discussed?
Influencer marketing – in-house or outsourced?
The solution is to do both. For micro-influencers, you can contact them yourselves, ‘gifting’ them products to promote on their socials. For larger celebrities, agencies are key due to their superior data and contacts. One CEO highlighted the benefits of learning the ‘nuts and bolts’ themselves before outsourcing to an agency down the line. They also mentioned that ‘middle influencers,’ those with a smaller, more engaged following may actually be better for your brand.
Avoid selling generic products on Amazon.
One of our CEOs described how initial early success can fade really quickly as you are easily copied. Amazon is awash with ‘traders’. If your product can be sourced from, and drop shipped, by Alibaba, any success will be eroded in a heartbeat.
Look beyond the traditional channels for the right channels.
One of the attendees used Domino’s Pizza as an example. They made their strategy to be on as many devices as possible ranging from Phones to Google Glass to Smart Watches and even smart fridges – anywhere you might be when feeling hungry for pizza. Definitely a different but interesting angle to look at it from depending on what industry you trade within.
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The Circle proved to be another valuable hour for our CEOs. It was particularly refreshing to see our group share their own advice, experiences and tips throughout the session. Huge thanks of course goes to our Volunteer Advisor host, Meg Lustman, for charing a great session and providing thoughtful insights throughout.