UNLOCKING RETAIL SUCCESS IN 2024

An SAP x Enterprise Wide Roundtable

Building on the enriching insights shared at the Retail Leaders Forum, SAP x Enterprise Wide in partnership with Connect Media, hosted an executive roundtable that brought together esteemed retailers from across the nation to discuss their priorities within the ever-changing industry landscape. 

Led by the invaluable perspectives of Kieron Ritchard, CEO of Fantastic Furniture, and moderated by David Scribner, Global CX Director at SAPand Ross Bark, Director of CX & Digital at Enterprise Wide, the discussion delved into pivotal themes of customer value, authentic experiences, and the strategic role of AI. 

 

This article reflects a glimpse into the discussion that took place.   

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What is top of mind in 2024?

While some leaders are still grappling with ongoing supply chain and workforce challenges, pricing power has come to the fore as top of mind for many Australian retailers. Feeling the strain of the cost-of-living pinch and a flailing dollar, customers are increasingly focused on maximising the value of their money, gravitating towards perceived better-spend-value over premium offerings. 

 

“The pricing power that was available to different retailers through a very dynamic supply and demand market through the years of COVID isn’t there right now, at least not in our sector. remarked Kieron.  

Kieron emphasised that customers are looking for more of a reason to “get the credit card out”, often seeking a “buy it now” affirmation or special value add which resonates with their personal reason to be making a purchase 

“What we are seeing, is customers very much need a call to action right nowOf course, the product needs to be right, and the price well positioned but value adds like spend and save or credit deals are much more important than they were 6 months ago. Customers really need to feel justified in their decision because something else in the household budget is probably going to be sacrificed to make this purchase… And if you don’t help your customer out with a deal closer, they can hesitate,” he said.  

“It’s not just about having elements of redemption and points, it’s actually the perceived value to that customer,” explained Ross. “It is that extra little win that they can get out of it,” followed David.

How do you contribute to that percieved customer value?

Ultimately, perceived value starts with the product itself and is then supported by the experience surrounding purchasing it. When done right, it can be a fairly strong pathway to becoming a household name brand and securing that highly coveted loyalty 

Perfecting the customer journey has long sat at the heart of activating retail excellence. Kieron pointed towards creating an experience of ‘connected retail, which he says can be tough to do because customer journeys are so fluid these days. 

 

We think about customer experience as a system of touch points enabling personalised customer journeys. It’s about enabling a multitude of customer journeys across a multitude of channels in the order in which the customer chooses to use them, and to not be prescriptive in the way you do that. 

The challenge many retailers run up against is getting too caught up in the data between channels that enables functions such as personalisation. Ross and David both emphasised that if you apply too many data learnings along the customer journey, you can veer into ‘creepy’ territory. 

 

How do you navigate dropping into creepy and not being creepy,said David. “A lot of it is about providing options to them [customers] and doing that right, at probably the right time, remarked Ross.  

When asked how you then maintain a consistent brand experience at scale across thousands of employees, Kieron highlighted that giving up a few consistency points is sometimes more important than giving up a few authenticity points.  

 

At Fantastic Furniture we see ourselves as everyday people serving everyday people…our customers are just like us so we’re not actually trying to program our people to project a heavily branded customer experience. We encourage our team to be themselves which helps them be more relatable to our customers.Kieron explained.  

 

Take our customer service model for example, which is called HEART. The “H” is for Hospitality and our customer service training starts by asking our team members to think about how they would welcome a friend into their home. We reckon this person-centred approach brings out the best version of each of our team members, so we say to them “just do that, do what you would do when someone comes to your front door. End of training, he explained. 

 

Empowering your teams with the freedom to embody authenticity as a brand value allows room for creating their own customer relationships will ultimately serve your brand positioning and foster incoming loyalty. “They are personal journeys, and they are multidirectional, so what we’re doing, is going about building a customer experience system, reflected Kieron. 

And of course, how deeply do retailers need to be thinking about AI?

The hype of generative AI has held the gaze of many businesses over the last few months, prompting many leaders to consider the ways they could lean into the advantages of the technology. For some, the promise of greater productivity and efficiency is strong enough of a reason to devise an entire AI strategy from the get-go. For others, their focus is drawn to a question that is often lost in the buzz of hype – is AI going to contribute the right kind of value for a retailer and its customer? 

 

“I think it’s about leaning into AI and seeing if it’s part of a way to get at your strategy rather than seeing it as being a strategy unto itself,” explained Kieron. He emphasised the importance of aligning AI initiatives within the broader business and customer strategies, highlighting that AI should serve as a lever to achieve goals rather than being an isolated strategy in itself 

“I certainly don’t want an [internal] AI division finding solutions and then looking for a problem. I don’t see the early mover advantage in that “tech first” approach tThat said, in the customer facing realm, you’re seeing AI get to the break-even point on customer satisfaction, and that’s exciting, remarked Kieron. 

Conclusion

Despite ongoing economic challenges, Australian retailers are undergoing a significant shift in priorities in response to evolving customer behaviours. This recent roundtable discussion highlighted a strong emphasis on delivering authentic customer experiences and offering unique value propositions in the fiercely competitive retail landscape. Additionally, some brands are taking a pragmatic approach to AI integration, recognising it as a strategic tool rather than a standalone solution.  

As both SAP and Enterprise Wide empower most Retailers with cutting edge technologies and expertise, we are privileged to foster transformative conversations and extend our appreciation to all participants who contributed to the enriching roundtable discussions. Special thanks goes out to Kieron Ritchard, David Scribner, and Ross Bark for their invaluable insights and leadership in shaping the future of retail excellence.  

 

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Arti Oza

As Connect Media’s sole Designer, Arti is responsible for the creative visual direction and design of our entire suite of multimedia commercial and promotional material. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Design in Animation from the University of Technology Sydney. Arti’s artistic skill extends beyond her diverse corporate portfolio, and she has been known to draw incredibly realistic and stylised portraits of people.

Rachel Dreyfus

As Production and Operations Coordinator, Rachel has direct oversight over our event production portfolio and is responsible for securing our executive keynote speakers and panellists for our major events. She has a diverse administrative background in hospitality and database management, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Ceramics) from the National Art School, as well as a Masters of Management from ICMS.

Outside of the office, you will find Rachel teaching ceramics to kids and strategically surf-lifesaving outside of the water.

Imogen Smith

As Content Manager, Imogen is responsible for setting the strategic-agenda for our entire suite of industry and bespoke events, as well as the design, execution and editorial oversight of B2B content marketing services for our clients. She has diverse multimedia experience, having worked as a journalist and podcast host, and has had editorials featured across different national outlets. Imogen completed her Bachelor of Media, Communications and Journalism at the University of New South Wales with a minor in French studies.

Imogen is our resident coffee connoisseur, mountain-lover and word-smith.

Zoe Baptist

As Account Manager, Zoe is responsible for bringing new clients into our business community to establish long-term partnerships. Zoe begun her journey with Connect Media in our Marketing Team, and brings a wealth of experience around service delivery and customer experience to her Commercial role. She holds a Bachelor in Sport and Exercise Management from the University of Technology Sydney.

Zoe is a diehard Good Charlotte fan, and unfortunately for the rest of the team, has executive control over the office Sonos Speakers.

Lisa Eam

As Client Event Manager, Lisa is responsible for the seamless, back-end management of our event operations. She also charges the management of client, speaker and sponsor needs across both our event and bespoke roundtable offerings. Lisa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management in Events and Leisure from the University of Technology Sydney and has an extensive background in venue management and hospitality.

She currently holds the office title of ‘In-House Expert’ when it comes to the Sydney culinary scene, and is often the envy of all our office lunches.

Jessica Ewing-Flynn

As Commercial Director, Jessica is responsible for developing commercial partnerships across our entire suite of industry-leading events. Her extensive experience in the events sector spans both operational and client-facing roles, covering large-scale events through to bespoke engagements. She holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of South Australia, and a Bachelor in Event Management from the International College of Management Sydney.

Jessica hails from the Northern Beaches, where she is renowned as an extremely average runner, and a slightly better swimmer.

Sam Bray

As Production Manager, Sam oversees the acquisition of national and global speakers across our portfolio of industry and profession-based events. Originally hailing from Canada, she has a diverse background in politics and the public sector, and has completed a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of British Columbia. She is currently undertaking a Masters of Public Policy and Governance at the University of New South Wales.

Sam has a hardcore love for country music, cowboy boots and the dumplings near the office.

Jane Forbes

As Marketing Director, Jane plays a pivotal role in realising our long-term marketing agenda. Before assuming her current role, Jane served as Connect Media’s Data Manager for over two years. Jane holds an Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Management, and has over a decade’s dedicated senior experience in the events space. Jane enjoys escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to spend quality time at the beach with her young family.

Bridee Arrighi

As Operations Director, Bridee has operational oversight of our entire event portfolio, including stakeholder relations and end-to-end event management. Bridee graduated from Macleay College with a Bachelor of Business specialising in Event Management, and has over five years’ dedicated experience in the events space.

Bridee has a passion for the outdoors, and was quick to commandeer the best window seat in our office.

Dominic Patterson

Since founding the company in 2009, Dominic has fostered a culture of innovation and creativity, producing world-class conferences and pioneering advancements within the industry.

A media entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in B2B communications and events, Dominic has led Connect Media to be twice recognised as a BRW Fast Starter, a BRW Fast 100 Company, and a SmartCompanySmart50.

A keen sportsman and a supporter of the performing arts, Dominic maintains an active interest in public policy and has hosted a radio show with several listeners.

He has a Bachelor of Arts in Management (Economics) from the University of Westminster in London, certificates from AFTRS, NIDA and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.