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Retail trailblazers say customer “obsession” is the magic ingredient

Capital Markets, Corporate and M&A
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The founders of three of Australia’s most successful retail business – Zip Co, MECCA Brands and Kogan.com – agree that, while most retailers genuinely believe they put the customer first, their businesses are not geared up to do it effectively.

Zip Co’s Larry Diamond, MECCA’s Jo Horgan and Kogan.com founder Ruslan Kogan told guests at a Future of retail panel discussion hosted last week by Arnold Bloch Leibler that being “obsessed” with the customer was more critical than having the best product or service.

“Everyone says they’re customer first and it’s really easy to say that,’’ Larry told an audience of more than 100 retailers and business leaders. “‘You have to look under the hood at what’s happening inside the company – how are they digesting data and researching and talking to customers, how are teams being developed so they can respond quickly. A lot of companies aren’t architectured properly under the hood to be customer first.”

With a spread of clients including Kogan, Zip and Mecca Brands, Arnold Bloch Leibler is at the forefront in advising the new retail sector, where only the best survive. As the implications of last month’s federal budget sink in and Melbourne slowly re-emerges from lockdown, partner Jeremy Leibler organised the virtual gathering of clients and contacts.

The discussion, facilitated by partner Jonathan Wenig, explored how retailers succeed in circumstances where so many forces are working against them – COVID just being the latest.

Reporting on the event in today’s AFR, journalist Sue Mitchell focuses on the central take-out of the discussion that retailers “need to make sure they have the culture and structures necessary to enable them to survive amid unprecedented disruption”.

Mitchell quotes Ruslan Kogan: “Our internal mantra over 10 years is there’s always a better way, everyone is allowed to question every decision. Everything is up for grabs and everything can be challenged.’’

MECCA’s Jo Horgan said that when she launched the business 23 years ago customers had to come to stores to shop and if the barriers to purchase were not too high they would make a transaction. ‘‘Digital has turned that on its head and put control firmly back with the customer, where it should be,’’ she said. ‘‘That means the whole industry, whether you’re bricks and mortar or online, really needs to reframe how it focuses on the customer.’’

To read the full AFR article, click here.

To view a recording of the discussion, click here.

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