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Q&A with Deborah Papazoglu of JD Sports

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. See our previous Q&As here.

This week, editor Heather McIlvaine interviews Deborah Papazoglu, head of multi-channel at JD Sports in Australia. Before joining JD, Papazoglu was head of e-commerce at Topshop and Topman in Australia.

Short on time? Here are three key takeaways from the interview:

  • If you’re not ready to capture customers anytime, anywhere, your competitors will be.
  • Too many retailers are focused on the now, and not investing enough in future technology.
  • Before Topshop and Topman in Australia went into administration, online sales were growing in the high double-digits.

Heather McIlvaine: Did you always want to work in e-commerce? How did you get your start?

Deborah Papazoglu: When I started my career in e-commerce, believe it or not, e-commerce was a buzz word in Australia. I identified that the future is digital and it was going to change the way we interact, socialise and I wanted to own it. It very quickly became a passion rather than a job. The key moment for me was when I was working in a corporate organisation with millions of members and I thought, Why don’t we sell complementary products to this engaged database? Other people in the business didn’t even consider how big e-commerce could be. I took the initiative, built a business case and presented it to the GM. I asked for a small investment to prove the concept. I didn’t have funds to buy stock so I struck up consignment deals with brands and people put their trust in me. In the first week we went through six shipping containers of one item. Very quickly, I had the attention of everyone around me and I knew I was onto something. The rest is history!

HM: What do you think has been the most important trend or innovation that has brought online shopping into the mainstream in recent years?

DP: The most impactful change that has become mainstream over recent years is really the seamless shift to using mobile devices for payments, shopping and socialising. Along with evolution of how we use data online to find, persuade and educate consumers, personalisation is now the norm. The connections we can create with the use of insights we gather are becoming more powerful than ever before, not just for the retailer but for the audience as well.

HM: You have had a strong focus on omnichannel retail throughout your career. Which retailers do you think are doing omnichannel well – in Australia or elsewhere?

DP: As much as I have always loved the online channel, very early on I was a big believer that physical retail and other channels are just as important to the consumer. You need to make sure you are ready to capture the consumer anywhere and anytime. If you don’t, your competitors will. It’s really important to remember that we ourselves are consumers and we just want convenience and great service. JD sports is doing a great job globally with a dedicated team focused on delivering a great customer experience online and in-store. They are constantly looking to innovate and push the envelope in the omnichannel space.

HM: What do you think is the biggest challenge Australian online retailers are facing today?

DP: Retail is volatile and it’s not an easy game. Too many retailers are focused on the now and not investing enough into the future of technology and innovation. We need to drive the growth of the digital space and double the focus it has been given in the past because it’s truly a limitless channel. We are only scratching the surface of what can be achieved.

HM: You oversaw the launch of e-commerce sites for Topshop and Topman in Australia earlier this year, shortly before the company closed. Do you think the relatively late move online played a role in the company’s struggles?

DP: Topshop always had an online channel in the Australian market. Localisation of content, technology, customer service and a multi-channel offering was only established more recently. However, the Australian business was restricted by the speed of implementing local strategies and seasonally relevant product by Arcadia Group. The launch of the local end-to-end e-commerce platform was one of the highest returning business cases I worked on, seeing high double-digit growth in sales. Online channels are key to the success of every business and the late introduction of us having full control wasn’t ideal, however, there were several other key factors that contributed to the struggle of the business in the market.

HM: You recently took up a new position at JD Sports. What’s on your plate at the moment?

DP: JD Sports is another major UK retailer looking to dominate the Australian retail space. It’s really exciting to be working for a brand in the early phases of its launch in this country. The main focus right now is to drive growth in the market build a solid local team. For the rest, you will have to wait and see. 🙂

HM: What most excites you about working in e-commerce?

DP: There are no limits to where we can take e-commerce. We can continually create and push the boundaries. The consumer and technology is moving at lighting speed and our job is to make sure we are thinking fast about what we need to bring to life for our customers. Personally, [I think] the e-commerce industry is not just about selling product, it’s about shaping the future of how we behave and consume information.

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