Getting omnichannel right. The PAS Group is on track
The PAS Group operates a diversified portfolio of omnichannel designer brands including Metalicus, Review, Yarra Trail, Black Pepper and Marco Polo to name a few. Each business is run as a separate entity and each brand has its own general manager, head of marketing and separate design team. Many of the material patterns are designed in house and samples are sewn up within the premises. This provides agility and competitive advantage in the highly competitive fashion industry. Internet Retailing founder Mark Freidin speaks with Anna Samkova, head of digital and loyalty at PAS Group.
“It’s not a job, it’s an entrepreneurial journey,” smiles Samkova, as we settle into her bright and naturally lit office at PAS headquarters in Melbourne’s South East. Elegantly dressed in a black top, matching scarf and white jeans Samkova points out that all team members across the businesses get an allowance to purchase clothing. She then continues enthusiastically at a fast pace running through her role and her team. “Hire for energy and attitude,” says Samkova, “you’re only as good as your team.”
MF: Your title is head of digital, loyalty and strategic partnership, that’s a lot of responsibility across so many channels. How is this segmented and how do you manage and oversee all these areas of the group?
AS: It is a very dynamic role and I have to ‘switch hats’ constantly as all brands are different. I am as good as my team and I have amazing people working with me. I heard Phillip Corne, CEO of Louise Vuitton, mentioning that they hire people for their energy and attitude. It resonated well with me as I tend to do the same.
There is a saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” so facilitating the right culture within my team is very important for me. With so much on my plate, at some point, I had to hire a productivity coach which was a big help. Meetings can be very time consuming so most of the meetings I facilitate don’t go for longer than 30 minutes. I am notorious for having a meeting agenda with a clear goal and the desired outcome.
MF: Loyalty programmes appear to be an important part of your ongoing success with loyal customer databases as part of your omnichannel journey. Can you tell me a little more about this and its importance in the sustainability of the business and how it is done across businesses? What are the smarts in doing this effectively?
AS: The core offering is a monthly loyalty voucher, the value of which is tiered based on customer’s previous monthly spend. The amount is uploaded on their loyalty card in the beginning of each month and must be redeemed by the end of the month in-store or online. Based on customer’s feedback, we do offer a two-week expiry extension which has been very successful. I often compare loyalty to a friendship and look at the consumer/brand relationship as a blossoming friendship. We have to listen to our customer’s feedback and give them more. Like any strong friendship the relationship blossoms when nurtured with attention and understanding. We launched the loyalty app two weeks ago which has many features customers have been asking us for.
I drive the strategy and my online manager helps as she collaborates each week with the marketing managers from each brand and at the same time we have a loyalty manager who oversees and manages the loyalty programs program. Success is measured three business days after an email marketing campaign. A/B split testing of email titles continues to amaze me, I often figure I’m on the money with a what I think the winning title will be and I get trumped by our customers, so you never really know without split testing.
MF: Is personalisation something you are able to do, ie: segment your database and send more targeted emails?
AS: We moved away from blast emails to more targeted communication a while back. We send more email types to fewer people, and the relevance of communication is increasing. Our segmentation is mainly based around, engaged, disengaged, lapsed customers, as well as geo-location. We are currently working on introducing dynamic content into our emails.
MF: What digital marketing channels do you use and which ones are showing better signs of engagement?
AS: It varies by brand but Instagram definitely stands out with a higher engagement rate. We introduced a user generated content marketing platform to increase brand awareness and engagement and leverage social influencers. This initiative has driven the highest online conversion and has increased an average order value. This platform also allows shopping direct from Instagram.
MF: The PAS Group has a dynamic and fairly broad range of different websites catering to different niches in the apparel space. How do you keep all this together from an e-commerce and omnichannel point of view?
AS: We have a customer-centric culture and focus on what omnichannel should really mean to the customer which is a seamless and frictionless experience. It is challenging but achievable. In the ideal world, the customer’s experience should be with one channel, regardless of whether that shopper is in the store, on their mobile device, or shopping from their laptop. We want the experience to feel all inclusive.
MF: With such a large portfolio of websites built on different platforms such as Magento, Joomla, core PHP and Adobe to name a few, how are these managed? do you have an in-house team of developers that manages the portfolio of sites?
AS: Yes, we do have the in-house development team to support all sites. The business has five front end and back end developers plus approximately 11 IT/ERP staff. There is one point of truth for all the data in the business which is in the Apparel 21 ERP system, quite a feat and something most organisations should strive to achieve. Jets and White Runway are recent acquisitions based in Sydney, currently they run on independent systems and will eventually be integrated.
MF: What about SEO and PPC?
AS: It’s still a challenge to find competent SEO and PPC agencies. I think that although SEO is important, it’s not as big a deal as people make it out to be and over time our team has upskilled and know what is required in-house in terms of titles and content that converts well on search engines. The fact the brands are well known and household names means that a lot of traffic to the sites is direct and they are generally the best performing keywords too. Search is managed across multiple agencies; this allows the digital team to benchmark performance against agencies. The SEO agencies are required to provide a monthly report which is scrutinised and reviewed. Retargeting is a technology of choice. The technology platform used for retargeting (Criteo) has fantastic top level reporting yet, I question the attribution reporting and the ability to control the number of times a viewer gets retargeted.
MF: Is there any crossover of offers between your different brands, i.e. do you present customers of one of your brands offers from another similar or complimentary brand?
AS: It wasn’t before but with the latest Jet’s acquisition we now offer the swimwear in Metalicus stores that are based in airports.
MF: E-commerce and retail, in general, are extremely competitive at the moment, what are the challenges you are seeing for the immediate future as so many retailers clamour for consumers share of wallet?
AS: It is a challenge but instead of thinking how competitive it is, we shift our focus on putting the right product in front of the right customer, provide service of convenience (click & collect and store-to-door), deliver an exceptional customer service in-store and online.
When asked what she has most recently worked on, she excitedly explains how her team recently launched Net Promoter Score (NPS) which measures the loyalty that exists between The Pas Group and their customers. Live chat was also added. This reduced traffic to the Contact Us page which was the 3rd most visited page on average across all sites. In January Afterpay was launched on the Review site, a third party tool allowing customers to buy now and pay out the balance of their purchase within 3 to 4 weeks. 25 per cent of transactions are now done via this payment option and not surprisingly the average order value is higher.
Samkova then demonstrates her favourite tool, PIxlee(see image above) a user-generated content platform that is at the footer of the Review Australia site. It allows customers to upload images of themselves wearing Review clothes and it offers the item from Review stocks so viewers can add to cart. Samkova is excited about this as it brings the Review range to life on the site as it tells the brand’s story. Clearance is done through outlet stores, and a tab is available on websites, however in the spirit of Nordstrom Rack, the intent is to have separate websites for their clearance lines.
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