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Experts in the Room Podcast – Episode 2

The Experts in the Room podcast explores the evolving worlds of customer experience, retention and data with some of the leading minds in some of the fastest-growing and most competitive industries in the world.

To listen to episode two, Continuous Conversations, featuring the CRM and customer experience and engagement expert, Nicola Fox click here. Alternatively, you can read the full transcript below.

00:00:04:05 – 00:00:21:02

Will

I’m Will Hansen and welcome to the Experts in the Room podcast brought to you by Xtremepush. In this series, we chat with some of the leading minds working in the customer experience, retention and data space in some of the most competitive and fastest-growing industries in the world.

 

00:00:25:05 – 00:00:48:06

Will

In this episode, Continuous Conversations, I spoke to CRM and loyalty specialist Nicola Fox. Nicola has worked in retail marketing for over 20 years for some of the UK’s biggest brands and shared some awesome insights with us on best practices and customer experience and engagement. Delighted to have you on the podcast today. Nicola, thanks for coming on board.

 

00:00:49:01 – 00:00:51:09

Nicola

A pleasure to be here. Good. Thank you for having me.

 

00:00:51:12 – 00:01:20:05

Will

Yeah, I think the best way to do the introductions for your background and I think people will be massively surprised probably how they’ve been influenced and touched by probably some of the campaigns you’ve had a hand with, considering some of the brands that you’ve worked with in the UK might be just to give us a little bit of a rundown on your background working with both Holland & Barrett and Missguided and probably just some general background on yourself as a CRM and loyalty expert so fire away on giving us the two minute.

 

00:01:20:06 – 00:01:21:20

Will

Nicola introduction.

 

00:01:22:17 – 00:02:01:23

Nicola

No worries, yes, so I am well, I’ve worked in retail for over 20 years and I’ve specialized in CRM and loyalty in the last 11. And you’re right that that sort of plunge into loyalty was at Holland and Barrett. I’d been there a few years, but they were a kind of a brand at the time that had a big high street presence and lots of data about the number of pots of vitamins and supplements that they sold. Still, not a lot of customer data and they wanted to understand a bit more about that, there’s a huge benefit for that in the health- in the healthcare industry.

 

00:02:02:10 – 00:02:28:08

Nicola

So I launched their first and their current loyalty program, customer loyalty program, and it was from then on really that I started to develop that application into CRM, into email marketing, digital marketing, and I left Holland & Barrett and went to Missguided where I did a sort of a, a similar evolution really kind of. They had the opposite problem.

 

00:02:28:08 – 00:03:16:11

Nicola

They had lots of data but just weren’t sort of structuring it and using it very well. And so there it was more about kind of making that data part of our day-to-day lives. So yeah, Holland & Barrett and Missguided were big brands within my career history and really kind of defined what I do now as a freelance CRM and loyalty expert, because it was actually in exploring both of those brands that I realized just how important customer experience was within loyalty as a thing and, and also the sort of change management, how do we get our teams to adopt that kind of approach of making experiences great so that customers love us?

 

00:03:16:11 – 00:03:43:20

Nicola

And so now I work freelance with agencies, but also retail teams to make that strategy happen because I know that I felt in the role within brands that, you know, I was often an executor but not always able to make those big 500 slide strategy documents actually happen. And it’s frustrating. You know, you kind of you have all of these great ideas.

 

00:03:43:20 – 00:04:02:01

Nicola

You have lots of sessions about it, but then something’s stopping you from actually making it happen. So I now work freelance. I work with retail teams to make that happen and really focusing in on that change management. What does it take for our teams, our businesses, and our organizations to put this stuff in place?

 

00:04:02:07 – 00:04:20:13

Will

Yeah, I want to pull on that thread there around change management and just something that you’ve said there strikes me as interesting. Are you finding as a freelancer now that you’re having more influence on being able to take that strategic view because you’re not being pulled into other things? Is that why you’re finding that?

 

00:04:20:13 – 00:04:25:21

Will

Or is it just because you’re able to step outside of the organization and try and influence change that way?

 

00:04:26:06 – 00:04:55:09

Nicola

Probably a combination of both. I think when you are in a role when you are working within an organization, there are always other demands on your time. And we’ve all probably presided over that project list. That never gets done because you’re too busy with the day-to-day. So yeah, being freelance, being in a consultative format, you know, I find that I have got that ability to focus in on, on those things that you don’t always get to do when you focus in on a day job as well.

 

00:04:55:21 – 00:05:20:18

Nicola

And I think it’s also about having that very clear remit to make sure that change management and the adoption of the change that you’re doing happens. I think that is also, you know, part of the success. And yeah, of course, some of that does come with the fact that I’m my own person.

 

00:05:20:19 – 00:05:35:20

Nicola

I’m not kind of necessarily influenced so directly by what the brands are. But, you know, naturally, as any consultant will know, you’ve got to fit into the culture and you’ve got to understand and appreciate that culture. So yeah, a bit of a combination of both.

 

00:05:35:20 – 00:06:08:00

Will

Great and so harking back to Holland & Barrett because I think that that’s a really good example of a massive brand with huge reach and huge history as well, having to navigate internally within a business to be able to drive something as new and as fancy. I’m sure at the time, ten years ago as a loyalty program driven by data and built around a customer experience, what were some of the challenges and some of the opportunities I imagine that came from trying to build out that program with a brand like that?

 

00:06:08:00 – 00:06:34:23

Nicola

Yeah. So I mean, Holland & Barrett was and still is a very successful brand in terms of product. They know what they’re doing and there wasn’t an awful lot that you could teach that group of people about what they were selling. But as I alluded to earlier, the gap that they had was knowing, well, who’s buying this stuff and why are they buying it?

 

00:06:34:23 – 00:07:00:18

Nicola

Because, you know, anybody who’s been in a Holland & Barrett store will see that there’s like, you know, thousands and thousands of SKUs. Most of them you can’t even pronounce, let alone know what they do. And the restrictions within the industry mean that you can’t be open about that with customers. So, you know, they had this gap of who’s buying this stuff, what are they using it for and what opportunities does that give us in terms of sales?

 

00:07:01:03 – 00:07:25:10

Nicola

Because anybody can put parts on a shelf and sell it at 50% off, but it’s in the understanding of why customers are choosing you, why customers are choosing certain products that then kind of leverages your ability to improve retention, reduce churn, and really kind of make customers feel like that, you know, that you’re the brand for them. It’s not just a kind of a race to the bottom on price.

 

00:07:25:23 – 00:07:50:03

Nicola

And so what, you know, on a very basic level, that loyalty program was what you, you know, what an A-level student doing with a slight interest in marketing would come up with okay? But it’s less about that it’s less about what the execution was because we just needed something that was very accessible for retail customers, something that everybody could adopt, everybody could understand, and then nothing too clever.

 

00:07:50:13 – 00:08:14:16

Nicola

But actually what it did for the business was it started to give us the ability to create things like product segmentations, profitability, segmentations, so that rather than talking to everybody about everything and hoping that they might understand and sort of connect with it, we were then able to sort of say, well, this group of people are buying into this group of products and are behaving like this.

 

00:08:14:16 – 00:08:34:09

Nicola

Where is this group of people buying into this group of products and behaving like this? So there are differences in spend and repeat purchase and retention, all sorts of things, and then start to apply that across your marketing, whether that’s about, you know, personalization, which was a big driver at the time. And I think personalization still is today.

 

00:08:34:09 – 00:08:54:03

Nicola

It’s still the thing that everyone wants to get right? How am I more relevant to the people that I’m talking about? But also underneath that, some things helped the business change. So they were going through a period of wanting to kind of reinvent some of their brands, particularly in kind of high city footfall stores.

 

00:08:54:09 – 00:09:26:08

Nicola

You know, how do we look different? How do we grow up? How do we become more, you know, more relevant to people who are catching on to things like plant-based and eating well and looking after themselves? And so that data was also beneficial to merchandizing, to buying teams in terms of telling them what’s selling where and what types of customers are going into the different stores so that you range in space, plans can change and all that kind of thing.

 

00:09:26:22 – 00:09:43:14

Nicola

So it had a benefit, a benefit in terms of just customer understanding, but it also then allowed us to kind of grow our digital strategies. But then also, you know, really important for a very traditional retailer, high street retailer, was to give them something as well that they could use from that data.

 

00:09:43:14 – 00:10:11:02

Will

Yeah, I think it’s so interesting and it’s I think there will be listeners out there that range from smaller brands in retail, always up to these enterprise-sized brands and would be surprised that a giant enterprise brand, like Holland & Barrett, might be having the same troubles that they are having with which is, you know, harnessing your data, being able to do proper segmentation and essentially monetize what you know about your customers and make sure that you’re driving the right products to them.

 

00:10:11:10 – 00:10:34:19

Will

You talk about the race to the bottom, and I know with your fast fashion background with Missguided, I can’t help myself but bring that up. How different a business was Missguided in the way that they looked at their segmentation and their data, were they looking at it from the same type of perspective where they’re trying to understand how best to engage with their customers?

 

00:10:34:19 – 00:10:53:02

Will

Or was it more driven around how they could shift stock, how they could move quickly? They have a very different business model, I imagine, from Holland & Barrett in the way that they’re trying to position their brand. It’s probably relevant given their performance this year, I think, and what’s kind of going on in fast fashion in the UK particularly.

 

00:10:53:03 – 00:10:56:00

Will

So be interesting to get your perspective on that. Yeah.

 

00:10:56:08 – 00:11:18:03

Nicola

Yeah. Massive changes there and you can’t talk about Missguided or at least you can’t work at Missguided and now talk about it without a sense of loss. Yeah, because something that was just so great and so exciting and engaging to work with, you know, I always kind of say it was not in a bad way because we were careless.

 

00:11:18:03 – 00:11:44:15

Nicola

But, you know, it was like a playground. You know, you were allowed to do things, you were allowed to take risks. And I suppose the differences that I would draw between Holland and Barrett and Missguided was that when you move from something which is very high street focused, very traditional to something which is pure play and exciting and innovative, and as a marketeer and anybody slightly touching the sort of tech side, it’s a fantastic, exciting place to be.

 

00:11:44:15 – 00:12:28:01

Nicola

You can try stuff you can and you know, you can experiment. And, you know, it was a fantastic experience. And but yeah, I mean some similarities between Holland & Barret a Missguided in that they weren’t using data to the best of their ability but the difference was you know Holland about had nothing Missguided was swimming in the stuff you know we had so much data from lots of different places but it was it had fallen into the same pattern as many kinds of fast-growing new brands in that things were growing faster than you’d put the infrastructure in for.

 

00:12:28:16 – 00:12:50:14

Nicola

So when I joined, it was 2016 and they weren’t short of data, but they were short on how to use it and the technology and the infrastructure to make that happen. And that’s the change that I and the team were involved in putting in place. So it was saying, okay, what kind of data do we want?

 

00:12:50:21 – 00:13:15:12

Nicola

How do we want to be able to access that? Who needs to access it? And then what are we going to need to make that happen? And I suppose it kind of leads into what my current thinking is really on this and it’s informed where I sit now in that it is partly making data part of your day-to-day decision-making.

 

00:13:15:18 – 00:13:43:05

Nicola

Have you got the right technology to allow you to do stuff? Because if you can’t, your teams will be stuck in, you know, ten years ago where it’s hard work to get anything off the ground. So you need the right technology, but you also need the culture. The culture to make it happen. If you’re lacking in either of those two areas, then your ROIs going to be slow because you’re either going to have a team of people who can’t use a thing or you’ve got not going to have the right technology to make it happen.

 

00:13:43:12 – 00:14:14:19

Will

I think that’s really informative talking about the alignment between culture and technology. Now obviously coming from a technology company, it’s something that I’m talking about daily with managers like yourselves that are trying to manage change. Where do you stand on technology as a driver, particularly, I think around brands coming into it? And they have a plethora of choices with partners that they can choose from at the moment that’ll tick off pretty much most of their problems.

 

00:14:15:20 – 00:14:41:09

Will

I’m firm in the opinion that the build or buy argument has shifted a little bit and probably depends on the business type that we’re talking about. But where do you stand on that? In looking at your tech stacks when you come into these types of brands or when you freelancing and talking about what is needed, what’s superfluous, what is, what’s the best way to kind of approach building a stack like that?

 

00:14:41:16 – 00:14:49:23

Will

I think that’d be really cool to get your insights into that. Given you’ve built a couple from scratch and you’ve worked with plenty of partners in the past before too.

 

00:14:50:16 – 00:15:18:16

Nicola

Yeah. So I mean, I came into CRM and loyalty and used data within marketing with no background in technology. So I don’t sit here as a technology expert and everything that I know about the technologies that marketing teams can use is learned from being involved in processes to select it and to use it and being exposed, you know, through partnerships with agencies.

 

00:15:19:05 – 00:15:57:23

Nicola

And, and so I suppose what I, what I always kind of say is that, you know, it’s not about selecting technology based on reputation or the kind of newest cutting edge, you know, functionality say it’s about really understanding two core things: what do our customers need and what does our business need to make it happen? And that’s, I suppose, the part as the marketeer, as the change management and as a consultant, that I would always get teams to really nail down on.

 

00:15:57:23 – 00:16:17:22

Nicola

Because if you’re meeting suppliers who are showing you products, platforms, and technology capabilities and you don’t know what difference you want to make to your customers’ lives through this technology, then you’re not going to pick the best one for you. And also, you’ve got to kind of have a really good understanding of how you operate as a business.

 

00:16:17:22 – 00:16:50:11

Nicola

It’s the cultural element. I’m not saying that technology shouldn’t drive that culture change, but equally, if you adopt technology that is just never going to work with the processes, never going to kind of support how teams and departments work together and solve those those problems that you have. And then again, you’re picking the wrong one. So it is about requirements, it’s about need, but you’ve got to kind of look at it from what do I want to be able to do for my customer that I’m not doing today?

 

00:16:50:22 – 00:17:10:15

Nicola

And what do I need from this platform/technology provider? And you know, the people that you meet across the table, that report, right? I mean, yeah, you know, it’s you don’t make the whole decision based on that. But can I work with these people can I rely on them? You know, they’re going to be an extension of my team whilst I adopt the use of this platform.

 

00:17:11:00 – 00:17:30:08

Nicola

So can I work with these people? Have they got my back? Have they got the same vision, the same way of working that we do within the organization? And if you end up knowing exactly what you want to deliver for your customer and exactly how that technology needs to fit around the way that you do your business, then that’s a good starting place.

 

00:17:30:08 – 00:17:32:07

Nicola

I think in making your selection.

 

00:17:32:14 – 00:17:49:13

Will

You’re giving the 1 to 1 to the sellers there listening on the call on how to talk to a CRM change manager and understand their business and their customer needs to be able to sell your platform. So I think that’s hugely important from that side. So that’s some great tips, I think.

 

00:17:50:05 – 00:18:09:24

Nicola

Like, I don’t know, ten or 15 years ago, these things were few and far between, you know, the best that an email marketer could hope for was that they were going to be able to do some sort of dynamic content, but it would still probably go to everybody. And any chance of personalization or targeting was really hard fought for.

 

00:18:10:09 – 00:18:28:08

Nicola

And so when you were looking at technology platforms back then everything was, wow. But now there are many, there are many platforms that are all doing the same thing. So it has to come down to how well does this fit within my organization and how well does this help me achieve what I want to achieve? It stands to reason, right?

 

00:18:28:08 – 00:18:51:21

Will

Yeah. No, exactly. I think I think it’s something that good partners do with each other as well as understand each other’s businesses and how to drive that forward. Touching on the customer because you’ve mentioned the word about 100 times today. I think this is a huge point being customer-centric and customer-focused. Let’s drop in the dreaded C word, COVID.

 

00:18:52:10 – 00:19:21:18

Will

How much do you think or how well do you think the retail industry and certain brands have adopted or I’d say adapted to the challenges that COVID has driven with their customers in the last few years? Like we’ve had unprecedented challenges around supply chains and logistics. We’ve had a drive to digitization. I know the statistics out there saying that e-commerce grew 20 years in two years, I think are some of the statistics going around.

 

00:19:22:02 – 00:19:45:12

Will

What are some of the brands and some of the strategies that you think have worked really well? Maybe some of the ones that you think have missed the mark or that are falling behind in this kind of post-COVID world where we’re looking at a real customer loyalty vacuum is what I would kind of call it, where people are very happy to shop around, very happy to find the best deal online and move quite quickly on it.

 

00:19:46:05 – 00:19:50:03

Will

How do you think brands have adapted to that, adapted to that challenge?

 

00:19:50:07 – 00:20:23:14

Nicola

Well, I think certainly as the kind of COVID impact started to settle and things started to get back to some sort of normal, there had to be a correlation between that and the fact that I, along with a lot of my other CRM and loyalty and customer marketing contacts, were getting loads of calls because everybody realized that during that time and I don’t want to make it sound like COVID was like the big thing that made everybody realize.

 

00:20:23:14 – 00:20:49:12

Nicola

So I think it was there, but I think what COVID did was make us all sharpen our pencils on how well are we executing what customers want? It’s okay us talking ourselves into feeling like we’re customer-centric, feeling like we’re doing the right thing for the customer, feeling like we’re solving for them. But it was far too easy not to do that when we had free, open markets and where people could go anywhere whenever they want it.

 

00:20:50:02 – 00:21:13:10

Nicola

All of a sudden we had this situation where people were in need. People needed empathy because, you know, I always kind of say, you know, a lot of the times people coming to your website might have been the first time they interact with your brand. It might have been the first time they placed an order online, and it might have been the first time that they experienced getting something from you and they were choosing you because it was nobody else, you know?

 

00:21:13:10 – 00:21:36:18

Nicola

Yeah, they were choosing you because you could deliver in somebody else that they might have chosen, couldn’t. So it was a distress purchase, a distress situation and the people who I think really succeeded were the ones who already knew how to solve for customers and were already doing that. Just part and parcel of every day. And all that they did was turn up the volume.

 

00:21:37:09 – 00:21:58:08

Nicola

The ones that got left behind were the ones who thought that they were doing it but were actually solving their business need rather than the customer’s need. So, you know, they wouldn’t necessarily have the kind of infrastructure in place to and, you know, to improve on their delivery proposition because they’d been doing it to solve the business need rather than the customer need.

 

00:21:59:02 – 00:22:22:18 

Nicola

And so, you know, what we’ve sort of ended up with afterwards is that you know, brands have acquired, you know, the ones that have done okay, have acquired new customers during that time. And they want to hold on to them, right? Because they, you know, they’ve probably had a bit of success. And what they’re doing is they’re looking at within the game, they don’t look anything like my normal customer.

 

00:22:22:18 – 00:22:48:22

Nicola

They look completely different. They’re behaving differently. They’re buying different things. They’re you know, it’s just not what I’m familiar with. And so they’ve had to kind of dig deep on, okay, it’s not good enough for me to just do what I normally do and my normal customers, you know, do what they do. I’ve also got to think about how was it and in what circumstances did I acquire these customers and therefore, what role do I play in their lives?

 

00:22:49:11 – 00:23:08:18

Nicola

Because that’s what you’ve got to keep doing to keep hold of those people. And so, you know, maybe, you know, to make it very, very simple, it might be that previously delivery and delivery proposition was not a massive thing, but now it is because people you delivered something during COVID that people are now thinking that that’s just the norm.

 

00:23:09:17 – 00:23:25:11

Nicola

And so you kind of got to keep up these things and, you know, the need for that data, the need for that insight, because actually the longer that you keep them, the more you’re going to have to know about them to meet their needs and meet their expectations of you as a brand.

 

00:23:25:18 – 00:24:01:14

Will

I think one of the points you just made there is really interesting that push and pull between brands that think that they’re customer-centric and customer-centric in what they’re solving for. But the pull that comes with all businesses and all marketing managers are probably sitting on the call thinking this It’s all good to say we’re customer-centric, but when a CEO comes knocking around revenue and around, you know, your marketing budgets and your spends being able to stand up and defend the activity that you’re doing from a customer-centric perspective, what of what have been some of your experiences in and around dealing with that?

 

00:24:01:14 – 00:24:26:24

Will

Now I’m getting into the weeds here of some specific stuff around management and probably managing up. But I think it’s interesting because, you know, brands that I always seem to see to work are ones that de-silo and de-couple their revenue out of their different functions. So not having a procurement function that’s not talking to their marketing function, that’s not talking potentially to their delivery functions and so on.

 

00:24:26:24 – 00:24:39:00

Will

The brands that seem to be siloed work better in generalities. So is that something that you see or have seen in some of the bigger businesses that you’ve worked with? What are the challenges there that you’ve found?

 

00:24:39:01 – 00:25:20:22

Nicola

Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. Really. I think, you know, let me be clear that I’m not somebody who’s going to kind of profess that it doesn’t matter about making money from this stuff. You know, it absolutely does. We’re all within digital marketing for performance-related reasons. And I suppose what I see and how my opinion has developed over the last sort of ten or 12 years is that whilst we used to get that performance from just sending more emails and or whatever communication is, we now don’t get that same return.

 

00:25:21:12 – 00:25:48:09

Nicola

And so actually what we’ve got to understand is that customers are changing faster than we are changing the way that we communicate with them. And so if we don’t think about continuous conversations and making sure that all of our messages to individuals connect across all of the different channels, then it becomes very detached from a customer’s point of view.

 

00:25:48:09 – 00:26:17:19

Nicola

So performance is driven not just by doing more, but by doing what you already do better incrementally every day. And you know, it’s not about when that when we talk about customer experience. I’m not pink and fluffy about this. You know, it’s not about just giving people gifts and making people feel warm and cosy. That happens when you do stuff well when you understand who your customers are, and the role that you play as a brand in their life.

 

00:26:17:19 – 00:26:42:14

Nicola

And then you do that a lot. You do that with excellence and for different, you know, sectors, for different industries, for different customer groups, that role will be different. So you have to understand what the data is telling you and what your customers are feeding back. Well, then do that. Well, you know, and it might be that like the least lovely thing to do for customers, but actually that’s the role you play in their life and you’re doing it well.

 

00:26:42:14 – 00:27:05:24

Nicola

So they’re happy. And I think what happens then is you start to see that that is rewarded in the metrics that you’re trying to measure for performance in retention. We always kind of try to look to repeat orders or, you know, retention rates as an indicator of loyalty. And I, I always pull people back from that and say, look, that is one factor.

 

00:27:06:04 – 00:27:31:03

Nicola

You know, people reordering. And with you people shopping with you again is one factor in among lots of different things that are telling you that this customer is loyal. So really kind of look at all those different factions around advocacy, around visit frequency, that kind of thing, because people visiting you are still people, you know, loyal to your brand because they’re seeking you to solve that problem, understand that and then do it with excellence.

 

00:27:31:11 – 00:27:51:03

Nicola

And then, you know, you do have to push back. I think, you know, this kind of change, this switch from kind of saying, well, never mind, we’ll just lose customers, but we’ll bring some more in the front door. It has to change, but it has to kind of change from the top down because you can’t just do that from one area of the marketing team.

 

00:27:51:03 – 00:28:22:19

Nicola

It’s got to be all the way down and the reason for that is the point that you made about working in silos. If we continue to manage chat marketing channels and areas of businesses in silos because that’s the easiest way for us to organize our teams and our expertise and our skill sets. We’re missing that opportunity to make a difference to new customers, existing customers, high-value customers, whatever however you want to call and however, you want to group them.

 

00:28:23:17 – 00:28:47:20

Nicola

Bringing together really skilled people from across your business and then saying, Right, how are we going to make the experience for new customers? Absolutely amazing. From the first time that they hear about us through to, you know, their second or third or fourth order. And once you kind of get people from all areas of your business talking together and planning in that way, that’s when the magic happens.

 

00:28:47:20 – 00:28:57:16

Nicola

And that’s when you start to kind of come up with things that make a difference to customers. And, you know, over time you will see that in the performance. You just got to be a bit patient.

 

00:28:58:01 – 00:29:40:14

Will

Yeah, patience is the key. I love one of the terms you drop there around, you know, continuous conversations with your customers, but also continuous conversations early, sorry, internally with your brand. One thing that has jumped out at me, I’ve been running the conference circuit over the last few weeks. There was a point made around CRM managers and essentially being data scientists, which I think is part of what what we’ve talked about here today, like understanding your data and being able to utilize it, that the brands are sometimes forgetting that they’re also brands and how important, going back to your core brand values of what you’re offering your customer, that sets you apart from the other online retailers that’s in your space because competition is so fierce at the moment.

 

00:29:40:14 – 00:29:55:17

Will

Do you talk a lot about brand within your CRM teams or your loyalty programmes and have that at the core of what you drive for, for the busineses that you’re working with?

 

00:29:55:17 – 00:30:23:07

Nicola

With that up. So I mean, I think yeah and I think we’ve had so much focus and the speed and the rate of change in eCommerce has driven us down this route of just making sure that our checkout journey is brilliant, you know, completely barrier-free, complete, completely smooth, completely effortless. And of course, we’ve all got Amazon in our mind, but we’re trying to do that yet.

 

00:30:23:07 – 00:30:45:07

Nicola

But for me, when I think about what my role is, you know, very often my role is described as retaining customers and keeping customers with us. That’s got nothing to do with getting people through a checkout. It’s got nothing to do with conversion and it’s got nothing to do with repeat orders because that’s the job of the trading team and the e-commerce team in the CRT.

 

00:30:46:02 – 00:31:19:17

Nicola

My job is to make sure that all the way through, in whatever touchpoint the customer has with our brand, they come away feeling good about it. Even if they didn’t end up feeling good about it, leave feeling good about it. Because, you know, you’re right that when we when we sit down to think about, I want to buy something or I need something, we we are thinking about our needs, but we’re also thinking about who can solve those needs linked back to the COVID situation.

 

00:31:19:23 – 00:31:52:00

Nicola

I’m at home. I need this. I can’t get it for myself. Who can bring it to me? And it is carried over. It’s the same. And so we have to think about ourselves as brands. We have to think of ourselves as groups of people who customers are looking to, to solve their problems. And when we do that and we think in that way, what we do for our customers is less about just getting them through a checkout and is more about how it feel to go through that checkout.

 

00:31:52:00 – 00:32:11:12

Nicola

You know, and the best physical example I can give, you know, is that kind of adage of Aldi, isn’t it? Yeah. I go through Aldi checkout and I go through it fast, but I don’t feel good about it. Nobody’s having fun here, so I’m going to go back because it’s a necessity, but I’m still not having fun.

 

00:32:11:12 – 00:32:38:24

Nicola

And so the moment that somebody steps into that gap of, I need stuff with a more fun execution, with a more fun experience, I’m going to like that more. And I think that’s just always what we’ve got to kind of bring ourselves back to you. People have so many choices today. They can pick any provider, any retailer, and any brand to service their need so that the USP is not about what you do and the price you offer, but it’s about the experience that they have.

 

00:32:38:24 – 00:32:39:12

Nicola

When you do it.

 

00:32:39:18 – 00:33:05:13

Will

You’ve hit on a sore point for me there. It was my university job for five years. I was working on a checkout at a couple of supermarkets in Australia and so I was part of the change group as they stripped out all the checkouts and put in Self-Checkouts. My most hated thing in a retail experience anywhere on the planet is going through self-checkouts in the big retailers in Australia or Tescos or Sainsbury’s or wherever it might be.

 

00:33:06:05 – 00:33:23:17

Will

Not only because it takes jobs away from people, but as you say, it destroys the brand experience. And I think that there’s a massive rollback on a few of those brands now when they’re looking at what they’ve done with that and how they’ve damaged some of the ways people shop with them. So anyway, sorry, I’ve gone on a tangent there, but I couldn’t help myself.

 

00:33:24:00 – 00:33:29:24

Will

So I call out to all the checkout girls and guys out there still plugging away and doing some proper customer service.

 

00:33:29:24 – 00:33:48:16

Nicola

But I think that’s what confirms in my mind that these things are important because people, when they talk about them, they’ve got a really strong opinion about it. Yeah, it’s like delivery. I always used to say at Missguided, delivery is are a core, you know, wasn’t their core weakness. But you know, it’s a core weakness because people feel so passionately about it.

 

00:33:48:21 – 00:34:10:04

Nicola

I’m giving you some money. I want my stuff and you’re not going to give me stuff and I’m going to feel quite strongly about this. So, you know, if you want people to feel good about you, then you’ve got to take all of those pain points away. You’ve got to take all of that disappointment away and just make it as, you know, as, I don’t know, as pleasant as possible, I suppose.

 

00:34:10:04 – 00:34:31:18

Will

Yeah. No, I think there are some core takeaways from that. What was good marketing 30, 40 years ago before we had all these digital tools in our hands. It’s still good marketing now, but just done digitally, and done in a way that’s enabling. And we don’t know what the channels coming down the line will be, as you said.

 

00:34:31:18 – 00:35:02:13

Will

And I think that’s one of the huge challenges for CRM teams out there. As we wrap up, I want to ask you a couple of different questions. You’re a young marketing executive entering the world of CRM, retention and loyalty today coming out of university. What are Nicola’s top tips on things to get over with? Or to learn and to start to put your knowledge base together so that you can go in and pick up work in some of these great companies and retailers that are out there?

 

00:35:02:13 – 00:35:06:02

Will

What would you be looking for in a junior exec at the moment? Okay.

 

00:35:06:12 – 00:35:32:02

Nicola

So the first sort of elephant in the room is you don’t need to be a data scientist to understand and appreciate data. It helps if you naturally understand your numbers, you need to understand how you’re getting data. But be humble enough to say I don’t know, but I can apply myself to understanding because for me data is about telling stories.

 

00:35:32:02 – 00:35:51:03

Nicola

And so for every person who’s excellent at mining data and, you know, coding data to come out with an answer, and we also need people who can then turn that into a story and land it with the people who need to understand. So then that’s the first and foremost. You don’t need to be a data scientist to get to work in data.

 

00:35:51:10 – 00:36:27:12

Nicola

I think the second part is kind of challenging what you think about when you think about loyalty. So we’ve talked about the Holland & Barrett experience. For me, you know, 12, 15 years ago I would have said it’s all about plastic cards and points. Nowadays every time somebody talks to me about loyalty, I absolutely, categorically disagree that it’s anything to do with plastic cards and points, and it’s all to do with really understanding what motivates your customer, what annoys your customer, and then really diving into what you can do as a brand to fulfil your role within their life.

 

00:36:27:12 – 00:36:55:02

Nicola

So really kind of challenge your thoughts around and then you’ve preconceptions about what loyalty is and then finally leap to that start to get clear on how you measure that because like we said before, we’re not here for fun. We’re here to drive performance and when working with retail teams is to get them a credible seat around the board table.

 

00:36:55:02 – 00:37:16:11

Nicola

Yeah, we need data to be as valid around that board table as sales data. So you’ve really got to understand if this is how kind of how I’m valuing loyalty, these are the things that indicate loyalty from my customers. This is how I’m going to measure that so that I can demonstrate that we are moving the needle.

 

00:37:16:11 – 00:37:52:14

Nicola

We are actually, because otherwise what happens is you just end up being shoehorned into, well, we’ve got to measure it somehow. So it will be a repeat order, right? Yeah. And of course, everybody knows that you’re selling sofas. That’s a pretty hard job. Yeah. You know, so yeah, I would say that. I’d say, you know, being able to tell stories around data really challenges your thinking about what loyalty means and how you can identify it and then really get very specific on how you’re going to measure things so that you can credibly say and justify and demonstrate the value that it’s bringing that great.

 

00:37:52:14 – 00:38:15:23

Will

I think there are some good tips in there. We feel like we’re always accelerating in this industry, in the e-commerce industry, in the retail industry. What is your kind of predictions, if you can? It’s probably pretty difficult given how quickly everything moves. What do you see coming down the pipeline in the next year or two? The brands that are going to win and be really pushing the envelope.

 

00:38:15:23 – 00:38:31:21

Will

Were there anyone out there at the moment that you particularly think they’re doing a really good job with their customer experience, with their brand positioning, and you see them as someone that could be succeeding? Someone worthy of copying, I imagine, will be the thing that most of our listeners will be thinking about.

 

00:38:32:01 – 00:38:34:21

Nicola

And in loyalty or e-commerce.

 

00:38:35:02 – 00:38:37:04

Will

Let’s go to loyalty and we can keep it broad.

 

00:38:37:10 – 00:39:05:23

Nicola

Yeah. Okay. So I think it kind of leads to what I was just saying really about the plastic card and the points. So we have this opportunity now, particularly within loyalty, to use the technology that’s available across e-commerce to help us spot loyalty indicators. So we we don’t need to do that kind of very straightforward exchange of you give me some data and I’ll reward you.

 

00:39:05:23 – 00:39:25:17

Nicola

It doesn’t mean that it’s worthless within the suite of things that you might want to do, because naturally customers do respond to those sorts of things and it resonates with them. But I think what I would say the brands that are going to do well are the brands that spot that they can drive loyal behaviour without having to invest in a loyalty program.

 

00:39:25:20 – 00:39:51:18

Nicola

Yeah, but really understand what that means for that brand. So there’s regrettable and if I could write one, then I might be very rich. But yeah, there’s no blueprint, there’s nothing that you can say to implement that, and it will drive loyalty. It’s about really understanding your business, your customers, how they respond to you when they don’t respond to you and then trial and error in some things that move you towards that.

 

00:39:52:05 – 00:40:19:00

Nicola

So I think it’s about understanding that you need to challenge what loyalty means within your business and using some of the kind of non-transactional indicators as well. So this isn’t all about the order, it’s about other things that people do when they love you as a brand. And that varies, doesn’t it? I mean, you always end up kind of going into the apples of this world, which, you know.

 

00:40:19:01 – 00:40:38:13

Nicola

Yes, you’re trying to avoid cliche. You don’t want to. But what do people do when they engage with your brand? What other stuff is in their life? What’s driving them to you as a brand and what do they enjoy? And if you can tap into some of that and build in those sorts of communities is those common interests between your brand and what your customers do.

 

00:40:38:24 – 00:41:06:04

Nicola

Then there are some non-transactional indicators there of them being loyalty because what you can then do is sort of say, well, if my customers are interested in this and they spend their time doing this and we as a brand fulfil a role within them doing that thing that they love, then all of a sudden there’s a connection between the two things, and as a brand, we’re bolted on to their experience and their pleasure in doing that thing that they love.

 

00:41:06:21 – 00:41:34:10

Nicola

And I think if you can do that in a way that then allows you to be part of their lives day to day, then again that drives some loyal behaviours. So I think the brands that are going to do well are those that connect into that and move away from this very, you know, limited exchange of transactions or points and prizes and start to realise that loyalty is about love, loyalty is about choosing you over everybody else.

 

00:41:34:19 – 00:41:42:21

Nicola

And loyalty is about more than just giving them a discount. And as soon as you do that, then you you form this part in their life that they don’t want to be without.

 

00:41:42:21 – 00:42:01:04

Will

Yeah, some unbelievable themes in there. Nicola, I think you’ve nailed it on the head in some of the brands that stand out and exactly what you’re talking about. The paradise or the Mecca that we want to get to as brands to drive that love and drive that loyalty. Sometimes it’ll win with some customers, and sometimes you got to accept that.

 

00:42:01:04 – 00:42:20:09

Will

A few will move on, of course, and you’ve got to keep filling your pipeline and everything. I want to fire off the last couple of questions. One-word answers to a couple of different things. A fast five or ten, one-word answer to anything that I yell out here that’s relevant to a CRM or branding team: TikTok

 

00:42:21:01 – 00:42:21:23

Nicola

Complicated.

 

00:42:26:19 – 00:42:27:09

Will

Email.

 

00:42:28:10 – 00:42:29:05

Nicola

Still alive.

 

00:42:29:07 – 00:42:30:02

Will

SMS

 

00:42:30:08 – 00:42:31:05

Nicola

Expensive.

 

00:42:34:24 – 00:42:35:12

Will

Apps.

 

00:42:37:00 – 00:42:37:19

Nicola

Had their day.

 

00:42:37:24 – 00:42:40:09

Will

Yeah, interesting. Facebook.

 

00:42:44:10 – 00:42:45:00

Nicola

For my mum.

 

00:42:45:24 – 00:42:55:16

Will

Yeah okay, I think there’d be many users that would appreciate that Instagram I’ll go to their other products to see if you can give them a positive um Instagram.

 

00:42:56:04 – 00:42:58:08

Nicola

Um, underused.

 

00:42:59:13 – 00:43:03:14

Will

Yeah.

 

00:43:03:14 – 00:43:10:10

Nicola

UPS, um, there are other providers.

 

00:43:11:00 – 00:43:23:02

Will

Yeah. Again, I wanted to drop that in and just drop in delivery providers. Right. And then the very last one and you can be nice on this Xtremepush.

 

00:43:23:02 – 00:43:23:17

Nicola

Relevant.

 

00:43:23:20 – 00:43:49:21

Will

Yeah. Thanks. We’ll take that as the plug. No, Nicola, it’s been excellent talking to you. I think some great themes coming out here today on, you know, what it means to drive proper loyalty programs, what it means to be a brand in the modern age, dealing with a plethora of data that comes in from all different areas of the business and being able to use it, utilize that as a marketing function.

 

00:43:50:05 – 00:44:03:00

Will

I want to thank you for taking the time with us today. I know our listeners will have gotten a lot out of that. If you do want to get in touch with Nicola about any projects, give the podcast a shout and we’ll be able to put you in touch for sure. But thank you, Nicola, for your time.

 

00:44:03:04 – 00:44:05:07

Nicola

You’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure. Good to talk to you.

 

00:44:05:13 – 00:44:18:09

Will

Cheers. Thanks for joining us. For the Experts in the Room podcast brought to you by XtremePush. Subscribe now for more episodes in our series. This podcast was produced by Record Media.

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