Robbie Tutt, Myer’s general manager of omnichannel, said that having been in operation for more than a century, the retailer is “very traditional” and has been very slow to adapt and change.
Mr Tutt, who has been with Myer for two years and previously worked for UK department store Marks & Spencer, admitted that the company’s board was initially “really nervous” about exposing itself to customer scrutiny and feedback on how it could improve.
But doing so, he said, revealed some core truths for the business, which have enabled it to embark on a massive program of change and innovation.
One of the simplest learnings was in wording questions to customers in a way in which they can relate.
He said that in polling 400 in-store customers, his team asked whether omnichannel retailing was important to them, but “no one put their hand up”.
So they asked whether, for example, the customer had visited Myer’s website before coming to the store, and found that many of them had.
“Customers don’t think about their behaviour, they just do it,” he said.
Yet, Myer was hamstrung in its ability to improve its shopping experience because its channels had operated as very distinct, separate silos.
“Until four weeks ago, there was no single database for our customers… across all of our channels,” Mr Tutt confessed.
Merging these different data sets of customers – online, in-store and other channels such as its Myer One club – has been key to enabling it to better capture spending insights.
Mr Tutt said that Myer has been able to determine that customers who buy both in-store and online spend 2.8 times more than those who shop solely in-store, giving the retailer a clear view on where to direct its efforts for improvement.
In the last two years, having undertaken a number of projects to integrate its sales channels, such as introducing click and collect, same-day delivery and digitising its returns process, Myer has seen 50 per cent growth in each of the last two years in this side of its business.
According to Mr Tutt, customer insights show they are “not fully happy yet, and we’ve still got a lot more to do, but customers are happier”.
As such, he denied that department stores have become irrelevant in the modern marketplace.
“I think they are [relevant], but they have lost their way,” he said.
Mr Tutt concluded, rather candidly, that “Myer is a bit like the sibling that has pissed you off”, with a love-hate relationship, but that ultimately there is room for this sibling to grow and change and improve its standing within the wider family.
Mr Tutt was speaking at the Online Retailer Conference in Sydney.