Customer must remain at the heart of every decision

Rupkatha Bhowmick

One word that will dominate retail in 2019 is ‘customer’, stressed Mark Tesseyman, CEO, Liwa Trading Enterprises. The customer – who is far more dynamic in the digital world – has to be offered something that suits their needs and preferences. It could be the digital mode of purchasing or an experiential store, and retailers will have to meet those needs.

Taking the cue, Liwa will launch its e-commerce platform in July 2019, with around five brands, including Gant and Zippy. The number of brands represented online will increase progressively. “I have been part of four businesses where database management and intelligence around customers have driven 60-80% of the turnover,” Tesseyman recollected. “Over the last three years, we have built a strong database of 3.5 million people. Now we will leverage it, although we have not budgeted any revenues from this new platform in 2019. We have hired a third-party agency to help us with our CRM and loyalty initiatives by collaboratively working with our brand, IT and marketing teams. The idea is to make shopping a seamless experience for our customers.”

Liwa’s approach to doing e-commerce will be different, Tesseyman pointed out, in aspects like faster delivery and time to a market, a wide range of products, accuracy and efficiency will be pivotal.

“Currently, we don’t have an e-commerce presence. We are only present on some digital marketplaces, mainly selling distressed products from brands, which we have exited over the last 18 months. We are now working on a strategy for full-price trading on our digital platform and marketplaces. We will have a front-end platform for our bigger brands with their shop windows. We will not have a separate name for a website. A customer’s loyalty, after all, is to a brand and not Liwa. And consumer behaviour is different by brands, which necessitates us to have a suite of offers to meet customer preferences. A 70-year old will think and shop differently from a younger customer. Hence, we will spend the time to effectively engage with our customers to understand their requirements before launching the digital platform. The GCC is a classic scenario where retail groups hold a clutch of brands. But what they forget is that an umbrella – a one jacket fits all – approach to doing things is incorrect,” he emphasised.