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Experience is emerging as a critical differentiator in personalised retail. Consumers are moving beyond transactional commerce and aligning with brands that they connect with on a more emotive level. The challenge for Retailers is establishing this level of authenticity in an environment that remains fractured between physical and digital.

We convened a virtual panel to hear how Angus McDonald, Chief Executive, BBQ Galore, Shane Lenton, Chief Information and Digital Officer, Cue Clothing, and Scott Treller, Executive General Manager, SAP Customer Experience are moving towards a unified view of customers. Moderated by Paul Waddy, CEO, The Horse, their conversation identified some of the key challenges and opportunities of omnichannel experience. We are sharing some of the salient insights from this executive conversation with you today.


PAUL {moderator}
We have accelerated rapidly down the path from analogue to digital Retail. Traditional levers, such as product range, and pace, precision and flexibility in fulfilment options have been widely implemented and so muted as competitive differentiators. To effectively ignite the interest of consumers and propel them down the path to purchase, Retailers need an e-commerce engine that responds personally and empathetically to customer needs. How can Retailers build this level of responsiveness across physical and digital environments?

It’s important to recognise that we live and operate in a borderless Retail world. We have witnessed a real shift in the maturity of e-commerce over the last twelve months, evinced by significant growth in online as a percentage share of overall Retail sales. As e-commerce builds momentum, the challenge for traditional Retailers becomes leveraging the physical footprint as a site of advantage. There is growing recognition of the tremendous potential a physical presence holds for delivering rich customer experiences. But these physical, human experiences hinge on a more fundamental omnichannel position: that the sum is greater than the parts. E-commerce was born as a function of marketing, and the dissonance that customers experience can often be traced to gaps in business integration. It is essential that Retailers recognise the power of a single view of the customer, appreciating that this view is contingent on facilitating the flow of information across the organisation.

E-commerce is all about identifying moments where we can push recommendations based on behaviour, how we can leverage data to inform a whole gamut of activities at relevant stages of the customer’s digital journey. But this level of personalisation and precision has historically been foreign to physical environments. When we speak of unified commerce, we are talking about taking a single-view of customers across channels. The challenge is translating the deep consumer knowledge we use to tailor digital experiences into a physical environment. We need to think more deeply about the information dialogue between online and brick-and-mortar; how we can empower staff with real-time, consumer insights to deliver personalised in-store experiences, and how we can capture in-store information to continue a conversation with customers in a digital setting.

We sometimes fall into the trap of viewing online Retail as a form of cannibalisation. But once we adopt a more holistic view, we see that it’s all about building a unified view of the customer. Practically, you can’t redesign your entire physical store for every customer that comes through in the same way you can for a digital environment. But there are tremendous opportunities to augment in-store experiences with the same real-time insights that drive personalisation in online environments. The challenge for Retailers is to recognise the opportunity that a physical footprints represents for creating highly personalised experiences.

Everyone is looking for connectivity, and Retailers cannot lose this opportunity to reimagine how they resonate with customers. This is a time for retailers to be braver, to think deeply about creating an emotional tie through e-commerce. So how do we create a connection that not only attracts, but retains customers?

We often hear claims that brick-and-mortar presents unrivalled opportunities for connection based on the power of the human touch.  But in theory, creating a lasting emotional connection is more achievable from a digital angle. When a person walks through the door of your store, they are not followed by all the data points that otherwise accompany them on a digital journey. All they carry is an expectation of the brand that has been informed by their digital experiences. So the challenge for Retailers when it comes to creating a connection with customers is how do we meet these expectations? We need to empower staff with the information to deliver informed experiences.

We begin by identifying the information that is lost when the customer leaves the store. There is so much depth to the research piece that happen in-store, troves of information that are being forfeited instead of captured. Consider that there is no equivalent of a wishlist in a physical setting, no way to track the consumer’s interest in related products or adjacent shelf items, and no way to record what inhibited the purchase or why the cart was abandoned. Now consider how we could not only bridge this information gap, but fill the void with a personal and meaningful interaction. Think of the potential of e-receipts, not just as a wishlist or ledger, but as a vehicle for a personalised and ongoing dialogue between the customer and the in-store staff around the products that interested them and when inventory or prices may change. If we capture information, we can create a dialogue, and if we create a dialogue, we will retain customers.

It’s easier to create loyalty and drive business results if you remember that customers are not statistics. The ongoing pandemic has further demonstrated the dangers of business silos and relying on a fragmented view of customers. It is essential that Retailers gain a wholistic picture of consumers, that they look beyond their own data and implement a strategy that is driven by numbers, not a narrow-focussed impression of these numbers. How can Retailers build this capability?

There is a hygiene level when it comes to technology and data, a baseline of proficiency and functionality that Retailers must meet. We must continually invest in our digital capability to keep pace and remain in consumer consideration as this baseline rises. But technology only goes so far – it can help you find an audience, but it can’t create the message. It is vital to recognise that the most powerful brands alive are increasingly tribal, inspiring a more emotive following than others have in the past. While the historical levers of differentiation were incredibly rational, now people are motivated by brands they can align with on a deeper level. To resonate in this way, Retailers need to have structures in place that empower creative thinking. We need to approach challenges on their merits rather than retrospectively fitting the outcomes that our current technology accommodates.

We can only truly know our customers if they trust us. Retailers should aspire to build trust with personalisation rather than erode it by being overly familiar without context. We are custodians of data that customers own, and we need to reflect this ownership by implementing robust, consent-driven capabilities. Loyalty and retention have shifted away from reward programmes towards creating intimate experiences at scale. Strong, consensual data practices are the bedrock for creating authentic consumer experiences. Without it, your commerce infrastructure is vulnerable and your potential for knowing your customers is limited.


The pandemic heralded great change and uncertainty for the nation’s Retail community. In many ways, the extreme conditions of the pandemic provided consumers and retailers alike with a rare opportunity to reassess their relationship. In response to the ambiguity and chaos, Retailers found opportunities to reflect on the role that consumer experience will play in the sector moving forward. While many challenges lay ahead, there are real opportunities to elevate and improve the ways we connect with consumers in a meaningful manner. Connect Media and SAP will continue to connect Retailers with the aim of furthering this dialogue, combating shared challenges and enlivening collective opportunities.



The COVID-19 pandemic is a paradigm shifting event, a crisis of health and a business revelation. The ongoing pandemic has not so much altered businesses environments as it has uprooted them. The pertinent question for digital leaders in the face of such unprecedented change is not how we restore our pre-pandemic work environment, but how we improve it.

This question is, at its core, one of design; we must identify which business structures are weight-bearing and must be reinforced, which systems can be reengineered, and those processes that can be abandoned. This sweeping recalibration will distinguish the resilient from the vulnerable, the flexible from the rigid, and our future leaders from followers.

NextDC and Connect Media recently invited CIOs from all sectors of the national economy to interface digitally and discuss this reinvention of the workplace. From compressing transformation timelines to advancing communication and security infrastructure, we unpacked the decisions digital leaders are making to lead business transformation and secure advantage amidst uncertainty.


The sheer pace of the pandemic forced nations and businesses to respond with reciprocal intensity. From international border closures to remote work transitions that, from an aerial perspective, more closely resembled office evacuations, governments and businesses made decisions of severe consequence at unprecedented pace.

These were not acts of transformative ambition, but acts of survival: processes, layers and timelines were reduced by the logic of necessity. The pandemic cut through cultural aversion to transformation on a revolutionary scale and reaffirmed our will to change. And change we did.

The rapid uptake of remote work practices is a shining example of the capacity for business leaders to communicate and act resolutely. But now, the context that enabled this bold decision-making is changing. While the pandemic continues to define our social and business environment, we are adjusting to its presence. Flexibility may well be the new normal, but normality exists to stifle urgency.

In a mass transition instigated by deep crisis, it is vital that momentum for profound organisational change is preserved and we do not revert to pre-pandemic levels of complacency. Business leaders must inject their organisations with a different sense of urgency.

The challenge for business leaders is to dissect the consequences of our instinctive leap to remote work practices, protecting and amplifying new sources of value while mitigating new structural and personal vulnerabilities.


Businesses are learning to communicate in an operating environment defined by distance. We are all learning how to live in isolation, or at least, how to interact in a world where the human touch has been muted. Whether as a commercial necessity, or an act of collective empathy, businesses have amplified the importance of employee wellbeing.

Communication strategies and the channels our voices and faces travel on have developed to facilitate closer, more authentic connections. Executive leadership have become more visible and accessible, inspiring confidence, reigniting motivations, and connecting separated employees to a shared ambition. As a broader consequence, the spaces separating professional and personal life are shrinking, a collapsing of realms that is at once both an affront to privacy as well as an opportunity to amplify real identities and expressions in the workplace.

Increasingly, employees are being empowered with the tools and trusted with the autonomy to deliver business outcomes – outputs, not inputs, are being assigned value. These are paradigmatic shifts that signifying that technology itself is not the answer – it is the enabler, granting employees the options to be flexible, resilient, and empowered.


As the context for work evolves, the parameters for secure work have fundamentally shifted to create new vulnerabilities. We are witnessing a fundamental, digital expansion beyond fixed perimeter defences – an expansion that is particularly fraught because of the very pace at which it is unfurling.

Rapid change breeds exceptional risk, and as a company’s digital footprint expands to lay tracks in new territory, the unmapped attack surface available to cyber actors grows in unison.

Attack vectors are being remapped to directly target home environments, and there is a distinct danger that employees are becoming apathetic towards, or at the least unsure of, expectations around data handling and remote information exchange in this new context. Businesses cannot afford to remain vulnerable to dangers borne from the pressures of expediency.

Responding to these risks requires a whole of organisation approach; a cyber-security lens must be applied to every aspect of the enterprise; risk assessments must be embedded in all cadences of activity; and a deep interrogation of existing infrastructure must take place.


The rapid transition to distributed workforces has reignited debate on the core capabilities and limitations of the nation’s infrastructure. The Coalition Government has announced a further $4.5 billion investment in the nation’s broadband infrastructure.

It is hard to deny that the NBN has performed admirably during the lockdown. And while using the pandemic as a retrospective justification for the decision to expediate the rollout of the NBN is rhetoric befitting scrutiny, it is clear that improving our nation’s infrastructure will further empower businesses to operate remotely and improve our digital competitiveness as a nation.

The impacts of the pandemic on our environment are not transient – already our CBDs have been challenged by a growing movement towards decentralisation. Australia’s vast ecosystem of corporate and market partners must continuously ask how they can both leverage and advance the fundamental architecture underpinning the way we work.


The pandemic has forced us to remould social and professional patterns. While change has been mandated by forces larger than any single corporation, it is our individual, digital leaders who remain largely accountable for the experience and precise direction of that change.

Enabling remote workforces, not only on a digital and structural level, but on a human level, is a severe but surmountable challenge that can only be accomplished by dual-wielding technical knowledge and emotional intelligence.

Our digital leaders must work to actively resolve security vulnerabilities, adopting a framework that is directly suited to remote work. They must ensure that digital infrastructure is scalable, flexible, and highly responsive, enabling the business to operate with confidence and lead through a climate defined by uncertainty. And they must communicate tirelessly and openly throughout this entire transformative process.

Only with continuous dialogue, collaboration, and the support of trusted partners will businesses be able to lead through this crisis.