Coles Liquor paces itself during digital stock-up surge

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Coles Liquor paces itself during digital stock-up surge

Says years of background prep enabled its systems to scale.

Coles Liquor has credited several years’ investment in systems, processes and “stress testing” for helping its three retail brands ride a surge in online traffic and purchases every time the Government utters pronouncements about COVID-19.

Liquor - which is home to the Liquorland, First Choice and Vintage Cellars brands - had “been quite privileged to be able to continue to trade” and stay operational, at a time when digital platforms underpinning many retailers were being significantly tested, martech and performance manager Juan De La Pava told a retail event Tuesday.

“Every single time the government makes an announcement, we see a surge in purchasing and visitors,” De La Pava said.

“Information is key - making sure that you're still letting the customers know that ‘these stores are open’, that we still have stock available.

“[It’s also about] making sure that the systems are in place so we don't have issues like other retailers have done where they had people queue just to get online, as well as operational and logistics [aspects], making sure that the stock that we have in the warehouse and the DCs [distribution centres] is easily accessible by online and offline.”

De La Pava and his colleague, ecommerce specialist Brandon Briz, noted that COVID-19 had exposed retailers’ setups that could not scale to keep those businesses 100 percent operational.

“We have been doing a lot of stress testing over the last couple of years since I joined Coles,” De La Pava said.

“We've changed a lot of things that allow us to be able to trade the way we're trading right now; having the capacity in place. 

“We were also lucky now because we were planning for Christmas last year, like six months before, and now we're seeing the same surge as what happens at Christmas.”

On a specific martech front, De La Pava believed COVID-19 would drive a lot of retailers to “start playing with, trialling and testing new things”.

These could help retailers stand out, particularly as retailers of all types invest in online operations in search of growth and revenue during the pandemic.

De La Pava said email would continue to be an important communications channel, together with segmentation and profiling of different customer audiences.

“We've done quite a fair bit [of segmentation and profiling] within Coles Liquor,” he said.

“We obviously use a number of different tools and platforms. [Digital marketing platform] Insider is helping us as well in order to make sure that we're communicating the right things to the right customers, and that we're making sure that we're displaying the products that they want to see.”

De La Pava said the company also relied on a suite of reports “that allow us to pivot from things to things - promotional activities, tactical activities, online promotions, etc.”

He highlighted the importance of giving customers - particularly those that are new to online ordering through Coles Liquor’s businesses - a good experience.

“We understand that there's a lot of customers out there that don't know about Liquorland, First Choice or Vintage Cellars, so we're investing quite heavily in prospecting, and making sure that we're driving these people in, and that they [then] understand the great offer that we have at Coles,” he said.

Briz said that fast, open and transparent communication with customers was crucial in this period, particularly with a view to forming a relationship that would continue once lockdown subsides.

“When you've got change happening so rapidly, you need to communicate that as openly, transparently, quickly and clearly as possible to the customer,” Briz said.

“I think that ultimately takes top priority because unless you're able to deliver a great experience as well as a safe service - and by safe I mean the 'no contact delivery' that carriers are doing at the moment - I think you're going to find that you're not going to be earning yourself a long term customer.

“At the end of the day, for long term revenue and benefit, I think you really want to have that customer that's going to keep coming back to shop with you on a week-to-week or a day-to-day basis.”

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