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Top 50 Q&A: Russell Schulman, Krispy Kreme

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2019 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. You can find this year’s Top 50 report here, and see our previous Q&As here.

This week, Internet Retailing interviews Russell Schulman, chief marketing officer at Krispy Kreme. Russell ranked 25th on our list this year.

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

  • Krispy Kreme is working on building up its omni-channel capabilities.
  • The most successful businesses don’t see digital or innovation as a standalone function, but as a core part of every person’s role.
  • Logistics and distribution is the next major hurdle that needs to be navigated for the e-commerce industry.

Internet Retailing: What does an average day look like to you? What are the daily concerns?

Russell Schulman: I am lucky enough to have a broad remit that covers e-commerce, brand & communications, store design and product development so in an average day I get to think about and help the team make sure we give our customers a great experience across all of our touch-points – and I also usually get to try all the new doughnut flavours.

Our business trades across multiple channels with a made fresh daily product, so my number one concern each day is ensuring we engage with and give the best product experience to all of our customers no matter where they shop with us.

IR: In 2018-19, Krispy Kreme drove some interesting digital advancements – the delivery light and virtual pop-ups, for example – what have you been working on this year?

RS: This year has been a big year of growth with a 30% increase in our retail network, expansion into New Zealand across our own retail stores, a bespoke and unique customer experience in BP in New Zealand and with Uber eats as well as some major brand collaborations with our partner 7-Eleven, like M&M’s and Gaytime.

We also created some innovative digital campaigns with a Valentines day digital love-message maker and we turned our Instagram stories into a world first virtual retro arcade.

We then launched virtual Uber eats stores to launch our Bagels range and  targeted a whole new audience in the breakfast and lunch category.

Our future plans are focusing on converting our current multi-channel offering into a true omni-channel business by building an integrated digital ecosystem which will help us to continue to scale and grow into new markets and accelerate our digital revenue capabilities.

IR: You’ve held e-commerce and marketing roles across a couple of areas in the retail industry over your time in the industry – what do you think has been the largest change over the last decade?

RS: Business in general, but particularly marketing functions used to be very specialist driven.

There were people who looked after digital or retail or above the line and below the line and employees had very clear roles. These days, the focus has shifted towards agility, curiosity and cross functional teamwork to solve problems and unlock opportunities regardless of department or previous work experience. 

The most successful businesses don’t see digital or innovation as a standalone function but rather as a core part of every person’s role.

This brings with it a downside too as there are so many more options, channels and systems open to marketers that you can get lost in trying to make a new system or tool work for your business, rather than being clear on what you are trying to achieve and then finding the right tool to get to that objective.

It’s the paradox of choice that is very hard to stay in front of, so it always helps to have a clear brand vision and singular objectives for campaigns.

IR: Where do you see the e-commerce industry going? What do you think is the ‘next big thing’?

RS: It’s an amazing time to be in an industry which is revolutionising the way we live and where the best ideas can win, regardless of the size of the business.

I do think there will be a rationalisation and consolidation of some online players as the appetite for growth over profit begins to wane, there are some amazing niche players who are solving problems better than any large retailers which is the most exciting part of the industry and where true change comes from, but to truly grow and sustain yourself in the Australian market we need to work out how to take advantage of scale and build sustainable businesses.

The biggest unlock will be if someone can solve logistics and distribution so I believe a focus on driver-less cars and trucks, drones or some other solution will be a major focus as well as a continued focus on niche players taking more and more market share from established players.

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