While 2020 has of course been dominated by COVID and its impact on the retail landscape, there have been other challenges for sports apparel firm Champion, not least a planned shift to the Magento open source e-commerce platform. It was a challenge that had to be met, as Senior Digital Marketing Specialist Geeta Randev told a recent online debate organized by content marketing platform provider Yotpo:
We always had it in [the plan] to relaunch the website on a new platform, Magento, in 2020, and we actually started the programme of work last year. I really think that the steps we took last year really helped us to meet our go live deadline. One of the key things we did is we were very, very careful about the SI agency that we selected at the beginning. We went through a really incredible vetting process because our business right now that has 10 shipping markets, we cover four languages.
We have a team who were tasked with launching a website at the same time as running business-as-usual on the old platform. So we invested at least three months last year to find the right partners to work with and I'm really glad that we did that. We actually invited some of our trading partners to be a part of that process...We had a really hard deadline to relaunch by the end of May, driven by the fact we had to be off the old platform.
All of the recent work had to be done at a time when lockdowns were in place and remote working was the norm:
People weren't working 100%. They were not in the office. They were working from home, and to keep that structure and routine honestly we thought was going to be quite hard. But we realised that we had trusted partners and we had to put faith in each other in terms of having to manage a team, through that entire process. We finally did it all online. Our consumers engage with our content online, whether it's off site on social or obviously on site on the website.
And actually we managed it completely online. We did not have any face-to-face meetings for the back end of the project. It was stressful, but we planned ahead and I think that really put us in good stead. We've been live for seven weeks and we're kind of enjoying ourselves. We feel like it's day one again for us. So [it was] stressful, but we survived.
Randev is quick to pay testament to the team around her:
I am surrounded by a team of high achievers, high performing, really energetic incredible motivation. We've just gone through one of the biggest projects that we've got in the e-commerce space. Just the pizazz, the attitude that I've seen from the team has really inspired me. We can be influenced and inspired by so many people around us, people that are well-known and people that are maybe not so much well known. But actually the team that I manage and that I look after every day, they inspire me. Every day we have challenges and we get through them. I think that resilience that we show, this is why no two days are the same for me. You wake up in the morning, you have a plan of action, but actually the day doesn't tend to kind of follow that roadmap. I love the unknown and I cope with the unknown
As a female business leader, Randev is conscious of the equality challenges that are still rife in industry, although Champion stands as a best practice exemplar:
The majority of our team are female-led, but actually all of my team are based out of where our headquarters are in Italy and I sit in London. So, in terms of diversity and trying to bring everybody together, I like the fact that we've got different cultures working in different markets and we can share knowledge.
For her part, Randev identifies some areas where she can apply influence, including speaking at industry events and sticking to the same narrative:
Leading from the front is really, really important. I still feel like there is a fear factor that if a woman puts a foot wrong, it could jeopardise her career and where she goes next…Sometimes there are some terms that are used, for example, ‘Act like a lady, think like a man’. All these kind of terms that we've got in our psyche that are just everyday language, they do make a difference.
So I'm kind of starting small. With the teams that are around me, the people that are around me, I try and make them acknowledge the language that they're using, because it does have an impact. If that's embedded in you at the very beginning of your career, it's going to go with you as you move forward. I've always been about the narrative and when I hear somebody say something that I don't think is correct, I will call it out. And I encourage my team to do the same thing. I think transparency is important, but I always try and reinforce that there is an open forum here where you can talk about issues without the fear of being held against you further down the line.
Her own career in e-commerce actually came about inadvertently. Randev recalls:
I actually landed in e-commerce completely by accident. Like many people when you leave university you kind of don't know what you want to do, but you want to do everything. My original intention was that I wanted to work for a magazine. I wanted to work for a print publication. So I applied to nine magazines and I created my own personalised magazine and sent it off and got some incredible offers. But like we all know, when you're starting out and you're an intern, you don't really tend to get paid that much.
So I was kind of in this space where I wanted to work in magazines, but actually I couldn't really fund my lifestyle and where I was living. I realised I had to get an office job and the office job happened to be for a B2B company selling printing solutions. Really boring when I think about it looking back, but that's where my addiction to online consumer behavior started. Since then I've been in the digital marketing space and I've tapped into e-commerce and I've never looked back.
In her current role with Champion, such is the strength of the brand and the loyalty it inspires that there is a very firm bedrock upon which to build, she says:
We've got customers who wore Champion in the 90s and now we've got a whole new arena of consumers that are just discovering the brand. It's how we evolve it in front of minds. Our brand right now is so in demand with the younger generation…so honestly in terms of marketing, I don't have to go and find the consumer. They're there in their droves. But I do want to deliver the best experience. We sell Champion in many stores. We've got other competitors and it's about convincing [customers] to buy direct from us. The value add is you become part of ‘Club Champion’. It is about the CRM, it is about the post-purchase experience and keeping that long term retention.
The ongoing challenge is keeping aligned with - or ideally ahead of - consumer trends, she adds:
We are going to see a bit of a shift in consumer behavior and how they're buying online, especially because of this year and not just because of COVID, but because of all the other huge conversations that we are rightfully having right now. I kind of coined the term that we're going to see a ‘Mindful Shopper’, where the motivation to purchase isn't going to necessarily be a promotion or price or free delivery or how we can get it. Actually there's going to be some new pillars that consumers will use to decide if they're going to buy directly from you. And that could be anything from how you're performing the sustainability space, are you investing in it, are you changing your business, all the way through to how you were empathising with the current conversations. So I think a ‘Mindful Shopper’, coupled with all the new technology, this is a really exciting time for brands and it's how we prepare for that [that matters].