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Innovation, personalisation, resilience: Keys to accelerating in the novel economy

Last week’s Salesforce Live for Retail and Consumer Goods event was packed with great advice to help consumer goods companies and retailers accelerate out of crisis and to growth. Here we’re sharing the highlights.

Retail and consumer goods companies face very different challenges and opportunities at the moment, dictated by both a business’s ability to move quickly and innovate, and whether its target industries are distressed or surging.

But regardless of a retail or CG brands’ current opportunities or challenges, we’re seeing an acceleration of digital transformation across the board. It was already upon us, and has only accelerated with COVID-19.

It used to be that big beat small, Rob Garf told us – the enterprise’s controlled messaging, supply chain and channels were a strength, and brands aimed for mass appeal.

Now, Garf said, fast beats slow. Brands need broader access to supply chain channels, and we’re seeing a democratisation of choice.

Next, retailers and consumer goods companies will operate on relevance and agility. This means they need:

  • Accelerated innovation
  • Deeper consumer personalisation
  • Resilience through ecosystem agility

They have to be scrappy, and prioritise digital channels and apps, support for digital employees, and the growth of digital communities.

Customer Trailblazers from My Muscle Chef and Super Retail Group shared how they’re knocking innovation, personalisation and agility out of the park, and a panel of sustainability champions told us how they’re reaching the conscious consumer by focusing on values.

My Muscle Chef: personalisation at scale

“At the start it was a side hustle,” My Muscle Chef co-founder and CEO Tushar Menon said of the company he and his brother founded, in a Q&A with Roula Psomiadis. “Fast-forward seven years and we sell 300,000 meals a week.”

Most of the time, that story would be of the plucky co-founders operating out of a bricks and mortar storefront, dipping a toe in online retail, and finding immense growth in digital. My Muscle Chef though? The opposite – it’s digital-first and, until relatively recently, digital-only.

My Muscle Chef started selling meals in small grocery stores based on feedback from a loyal customer base who wanted to be able to find the meals on the go, and the initiative is now credited with providing broad brand awareness, as well as an opportunity for consumers to try the products with low commitment and low investment. Physical retail is a bolt on, a means to an end – and that end is digital growth.

At the start it was a side hustle… Fast-forward seven years and we sell 300,000 meals a week.”

When the significant impact COVID would have on retailers became clear, that digital heart meant My Muscle Chef was able to easily re-allocate resources to the digital side to support increased online orders, Tushar’s co-founder and brother Nishant Menon explains.

Nishant credits the highly personalised experience on My Muscle Chef’s digital platform for improved conversion rates, explaining that the personalisation is a result of deep research into the core customer base and how they interact with the brand.

My Muscle Chef, Nishant explained, moved from a transactional business to a lifestyle business, and personalisation was part of this. The result? Improved retention rates, longer initial subscriptions and improved retargeting.

Unlocking our customer data has shown us who our customer really is, Tushan explained, not just who we thought it was. Our five-times revenue growth is down to that deep customer knowledge and personalisation, and our product quality.

Super Retail Group: innovation at speed

“Our customers are passionate,” said Super Retail Group’s GM omni retail Brian Townshend, explaining that those customers visit a physical store knowing their passion will be met with knowledge and advice.

The team noticed a shift with COVID though – consumers were researching more online prior to quick, low-contact purchases in-store.

SRG responded quickly – providing that information online, and launching free, contactless click and collect.

“When COVID started, a lot of activities we hit pause on,” Townshend explained.  “We assessed the right things to do for our customers and for the safety of our employees.”

When they decided contact-free click and collect was the goal, speed came from no siloes, no hierarchy and compromising on scope – and a minimum viable product launched within days.

“I’d love to tell you how many people used [click and collect], and how it performed!” Townshend said. “But compromising on scope was absolutely essential for our speed.”

The key lesson for Townshend through the crisis has been the importance of giving all the energy to the ideas and initiatives that are most important – or as he says: you have to prune your rose bush frequently and ruthlessly.

SRG Chief Strategy and Customer Officer Katie McNamara called this ‘ruthless prioritisation’ in a later Q&A with Brian Solis.

“Our role as the exec team was to shepherd the business,” she explained. “You can’t do everything in a constrained environment.”

The key to those priorities – voice of the customer (VOC).

“We’ve always been a VOC-focused business. But that doesn’t mean anything unless you actually use that information,” McNamara said.

“It’s very easy in a corporate environment to get carried away and forget the customer in all your decisions.”

Enter, Scout.

Compromising on scope was absolutely essential for our speed.”

Scout represents the customer and always sits at the table, McNamara said, ensuring that no decision is made without the customer top of mind.

McNamara also credits the speed of SRG’s response to agile approaches: daily meetings of the executive team to clear roadblocks, and cross-functional teams to take ownership and make decisions quickly.

“You tend to pull teams like this together for projects but, funnily enough, we’ve seen now that works really well across the board,” McNamara said. “It’s something we’ll continue going forward.”

Partnerships to meet conscious consumers

A panel of sustainability Trailblazers joined Luigerr Ramos to discuss increasingly conscious consumers and doing good while doing well.

Australia Post has the largest fleet on the road every day and the largest retail footprint in the country, said Chief Sustainability Officer Susan Mizrahi.

And while neither point sounds like a sustainability manager’s dream, Mizrahi sees opportunity – community access that’s second to none, and the reach to form partnerships that will drive positive systemic change.

“Everybody has the ability to have a positive or a negative impact,” Mizrahi said. “Go away and look at the SDGs [that’s the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals] and see how you can advance them”.

Everybody has the ability to have a positive or a negative impact.”

Leanne Wall, Jeanswest Marketing and BDM, is heartened by her team’s ability to have authentic conversations with customers as retail stores reopen, pointing out that many of the store managers and staff know customers and locals by name.

This makes their partnership with Good360 more than a sustainability driver – it’s a meaningful way to contribute to those communities on a regular basis.

“End of line products are usually marked down or donated in bulk,” Leanne said. Recently though, a Good360 partnership has seen each of Jeanswest’s 90+ stores matched with a local organisation that needed those goods – so the store teams could know they were contributing to the local community they live and work in, and the local communities that support the retailer on an ongoing basis were benefiting too.

“We really think businesses can do well and do good – and we help them with that,” said panelist Alison Covington, founder and Managing Director of Good360, which matches surplus and excess goods to organisations and people in need. “These community organisations could not partner with such big brands, but they can through our partnerships.”

Catch up on all 34 sessions and bonus on-demand videos from Salesforce Live for Retail and Consumer Goods.

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