The retailer, which has been operating in Australia since 1977, has implemented a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which McDonald describes as the central nervous system of the business. Once it got that right, it has started to build out other layers in the digital transformation.
“We’ve implemented a new fulfilment capability which is really important in that omni-channel retail environment where you’re looking to leverage the inventory you’ve got out of your store network as well as in other areas of the organisation to most efficiently get product to customers,” he says.
It is also implementing a new e-commerce system and considering how it manages customer data to handle things such as warranties.
“The objective ultimately is about getting all of those different touch points of the organisation so we’re able to assemble a much clearer view of that customer. So that then, in any interaction we’re having with them, we’re able to give them that consistent message and experience that they’re looking for,” McDonald says.
It receives about 100,000 customers a week to its website and also engages with customers via social media.
McDonald says one of the challenges in digitising the business is that you can’t do it all at once. “And one of the biggest challenges is we can see exactly what we need to do. It’s just about making sure we carefully work our way through that and we do the job well,” he says.
In traditional bricks and mortar retailing, executives spend a lot of time trying to identify new market opportunities.
E-commerce is almost the other way around. “That list is huge and immediately visible. The biggest challenge actually is trying to pick which bits you’re going to do first and in what order, because you cannot do it all at the same time, because otherwise you’ll just spend an awful lot of money and drive a lot of disruption to the organisation,” he says.
James Johnson, director of retail industry strategy, Salesforce, says the 262 per cent in digital retail sales in Australia and New Zealand thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns “is not likely to be a flash in the pan”, increasing the imperative on retailers to digitise.
“This is an acceleration of a shift well understood by most retailers and it was those who had the culture, skills and technology in place prior to the pandemic which were able to capture the most growth. The challenge today is to continue to meet and exceed consumer expectations,” he says.
The trend is also changing the way retailers need to attract customers. Johnson explains: “Retail used to focus exclusively on bringing shoppers to owned properties, like your website or store. Now, it’s all about embedding commerce where shoppers spend their time, such as social media or with voice assistants. We refer to these third-party channels at the hypothetical fringes of brand properties as shopping at the edge.”
As the digitisation of shopping continues, the role of the physical store is changing. Johnson says stores will continue to be very relevant – but their role will change to support online shopping and services such as click-and- collect. The alternative is they will offer different in-store experiences, such as new layouts. A large footprint of small stores is a strong omni-channel strategy for retailers, he says.
At the same time as Barbeques Galore is working on its new e-commerce platform, it has also launched new store formats to respond to changing consumer demands. While bricks-and-mortar stores used to be little more than an assemblage of products in the showroom, consumers now want a more engaging experience.
Barbecues are in some way a unique retail product. As much as consumers like to research online and use click-and-collect to make purchases, they still want to see and touch their potential purchase. As a result, the stores have a greater emphasis on experience and customer engagement, doing cooking demonstrations to inspire barbecue users, for instance.
McDonald has one more piece of advice for businesses about to start on digitisation: “Good ideas do not cost more or take longer than bad ideas. Some of the best things that we’ve done, some of the best things we’ve put in place to improve performance or drive a particular outcome are actually very simple.”