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The secrets to customer-centric business

Barbour UK MD Ryan Llewellyn-Pace, Seasalt CEO Paul Hayes and Greg Petro, president and CEO of First Insight, shared their advice on building a customer-centric business at today’s Drapers Fashion Forum. 

Over its 125-year history, Barbour has endeavoured to stay close to the business’s “reason for being”, to maintain its relevance to the customer and today’s society, Llewellyn-Pace told delegates. 

“The further you go away from your brand, the more we find the consumer seems to switch off,” he said. “Customer behaviour does change, and the important thing for us is understanding where and how our customers are interacting with us, and what they want from us specifically.” 

As part of understanding its customers, Barbour launched its “way of life” initiative. 

“It wasn’t focused on product, but asked customers to come back to us with what does the brand mean to them,” Llewellyn-Pace explained. “We got more than 70 million impressions and things we wouldn’t have got from a CRM system alone. It brings a more holistic view of customers.”

He added that in an era when customers are bombarded with brand messages and technology, it is important for businesses to be unified in sharing one voice. 

“You have to try and get your one message through to the customer,” he said. “Don’t try to bombard them with hundreds of things, but use all of your partners to connect with customers through one message.”

At the helm of Seasalt, Hayes has taken the Cornish brand to a wider national and international audience. With this comes challenges of maintaining an authentic connection with customers. 

“Our brand proposition is very much focused on sharing our love of Cornwall, where every sales channel is evoking some kind of memory of visits there,” he said, explaining how Seasalt tackled this. “We now have 67 stores in the UK, and that has connected right across the country, and indeed internationally.”

He added: “It’s very much about focusing on a consumer – full stop. There is a fixation around product and the brand itself, but ultimately, if you’re not focusing on the consumer, you’re not getting the desired results.”  

Seasalt has been proactive in speaking to customers, Hayes said, even sending people to online shoppers’ homes to better understand their motivations. 

First Insight’s Petro told delegates that detailing in customer profiles has become much more minute. 

“You need to figure out what customers want on individualised or micro-category bases, and roll it up globally to give you a view of what your success model could be,” he said. 

“It’s now physchographically and behaviourally grouped, rather than by age etc,” he added. “Fragmentation of the market is occurring at a much faster rate, and you need to understand what the consumer values within your product.” 

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