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The road to Wesfarmers’ stable

There’s more to Wesfarmers’ acquisition of Catch Group for a cool $230 million than Australia’s largest retailer simply adding an online business to its retail stable.

Yes, Catch has become the country’s largest online retailer with over 1.5 million customers and 2 million SKUs in a little over a decade.

But Wesfarmers’ deal should be noted for what the conglomerate has indicated provides the strategic impetus for its move: taking advantage of Catch’s leading technology and data capabilities, which will be leveraged to grow and accelerate the consumer-driven, omnichannel initiatives across its department stores Kmart and Target. 

Poplin Data has been a key partner with Catch over the last two years and contributed to driving the e-commerce data initiatives underpinning the online marketplace’s success.

Far from being just another industry buzzword, data is now recognised as crucial to success in digital commerce. 

Poplin CEO Narbeh Yousefian says that after 10 years of dabbling with the deployment of data within an organisation’s framework, now there IS a strategy on how to use data and analytics within a retailer’s operational processes.

“Companies actually organise themselves around data and that’s more of a top-down focus, it’s becoming more involved with decision-making,” says Yousefian. 

“The big driver there, is the consistency within the business to be able to make sensible decisions and that’s more of a strategic focus rather than a department seeing parts of the customer story.”

Retailers that are successful, says Yousefian, understand it’s not just about modularising a particular part of the process but instead looking at it from a broader perspective to see how individual teams within businesses are adapting to the use of data effectively.

“Adaptation here means that in the last 20 years, we’ve gone from overnight-like decision making to essentially real-time decision making. That makes a massive impact for businesses in terms of how people work together.” 

But what happens when sets of people within the organisation need to communicate in real time?

“If the business is not ready for it, we’ve seen that they fall apart,” says Yousefian. 

“Successful digital businesses mirror the technology to the process that it operates in. If you can’t do both, then the technology means nothing because you’re going to have a group of people that don’t know how to take it forward.”

Offline opportunities

Yousefian adds that there’s a general assumption that those that are offline retailers will get smoked by those that are online. 

“Actually, those that are offline have got lots of money to invest in what the future of their business is and they’ve got different ways to solve the problem,” he says.

“The riskier part for digital-first businesses, those that have invested in the technology stack in the last 10 years are already needing to look at where efficiencies will lie to scale their business. Those businesses are in a far more precarious position than the offline bricks-and-mortar businesses that are now looking at a digital first approach with their offline businesses acting as a distribution.

“That’s a far more valuable proposition than those online businesses looking at fulfilling orders in what you’d call the last 10 per cent of your retailing experience.”

Learn more about Catch Group’s data journey at Poplin Data’s upcoming breakfast event for retail and e-commerce leaders which features Catch’s chief product officer Liron Nehmadi; Narbeh Yousefian CEO and founder of Poplin Data; Mike Robins, CTO from Poplin Data; and Google cloud engineering manager Daniel Entin.

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