April 20, 2018
Mark is the Chief Digital Officer at the Australian footwear giant Accent Group. The vastly experienced eCommerce guru is also a self-confessed sneaker addict.
Mark, you’re speaking at Imagine next week. What can we expect?
I’m going to talk about the journey that Accent Group has been on, in terms of achieving our growth. But when you go to a conference, I believe what you really want to hear is: ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly.’ So that’s what I’ll share. What worked and what didn’t? And why? I’m going to be really transparent about that.
What can we learn from your epic growth in Australia’s footwear industry?
I’m going to talk about some work that we did around generational change in Australia. We’ll look at the demographics and what’s forecast to happen over the next 15 years. And we’ll do that through the lens of what’s happened in the last five years. If we thought the last five years was fast…the next five years are going to be even more extreme.
Will there be shoe stores in the future?
I think physical stores absolutely have a place in the future. I think they’re going to continue to evolve. You can create an amazing digital experience through a mobile or whatever device. But you can still only engage with a handful of the senses. Physical retail is tactile, it's about touch, sight, feel, smell. I know that sounds a little bit odd in the footwear space, but how does something taste?
How do you connect shoes to tastebuds?
If you look at some businesses, they now fuse ice creamery bars with sneaker stores or have fried chicken counters in sneaker stores. They are blurring those boundaries. It’s about creating a unique experience.
How is Accent Group blurring the boundaries between online and in-store shopping?
One of the most successful strategies that we rolled out in the last twelve months has been ‘ship-from-store.’ We call it ‘click-and-dispatch’ in Australia. It transforms the digital experience for consumers because there's now more inventory. Now our entire catalog from 435 stores across the country, that can be shopped online.
And in store…?
Yes... we are now reversing that….and providing that functionality called ‘endless aisle’ to our stores. So, our stores can now tap into any piece of inventory that exists anywhere in our store network and have it delivered to the customer free of charge... next day. And that’s a pretty phenomenal experience.
How did you get your start in eCommerce?I set up a business with a mate of mine called the Shoe Superstore. We had one store and a website. Somebody needed to manage the digital side and the eCommerce, I had always been interested in product and technology, so I did that. I think in our first year we must have done fifty or sixty thousand dollars in total turnover online. This was amazing for us back then, but then I think about the tens of millions of dollars that [Accent Group] generates through that channel today. It's been really interesting path. But it was a great opportunity to learn the space.
2005 was such a formative year in online shopping.
In 2005 I would have been 23 when I started the business. So, I was young too, but I was also a young consumer. so I was interested in the concept of buying online. I was incredibly interested in the whole experience and the ease of transaction.
I see there’s a large quote behind you on the wall.
It says “Follow the customer, and you will never have to look for growth.” I can’t claim that one, it’s by Sir Terry Leahy, the former Tesco CEO. That really drives all of the focus and the decision making here, it is the lens we put over our strategy, and what ultimately determines what we deliver for our consumers.
At Magento, we had the phrase ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ on our office window.
Well, great strategy is built around a culture of understanding the unmet need of the consumer. What is the problem you're trying to solve, or, what is the experience or service the consumer is looking for.
What unique challenges do you face in the footwear business?
If you think about consumers and fashion in particular, the thing about footwear that’s universal is that shoes don't make you feel fat or thin. They just make you feel good. Your wardrobe will have an impact on your general kind of mood. Shoes make you feel great.
Are you a sneakerhead?
I have to admit to owning more pairs of shoes than my wife.
What’s your prized sneaker possession?
I think if I went through the archives…It would have to be… definitely something in the Nike family. It’s probably one of the original Nike Air Max 1 Atmos releases.
What was your last online purchase?
It was a pair of Nike Air Max 1 ‘Animal Pack’ which was an extremely limited release product that was launched in March. The original one was launched in 2006, and you know, brands have a phenomenal way of reimagining things for the future.
Does shoe collecting become competitive?
Yes, it certainly can. The wonderful thing about this space is there are apps out there like StockX or GOAT, who have digitized the trade of collectible sneakers. But there is still nothing quite like walking the halls of sneakercon trying to fill the gaps in your collection, or getting your hands on your ‘holy grail’ sneaker...and when you invest in these kinds of things they generally appreciate over time. Some of my shoes that I bought for $200 are now worth in excess of two or three thousand dollars today. They can be quite profitable….if you don’t wear them.
Finally, what’s your number one productivity tip?
I stumbled across a product called SaneBox, an email management software. It’s been a life changer. It sends me a report every week for how many hours it’s saved me.