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News Plus 19 Apr 2022 - 3 min read

Omnichannel hedge: $3bn global Geelong powerhouse Cotton On re-platforms ecom in bid to boost CX, loyalty, hires Adore’s Michaela Michaut to spearhead acquisition, mulls in-store rethink as pandemic shopping habits swing

By Brendan Coyne - Editor

Michaela Michaut joins the global group from Geelong as it plots post-Covid path of physical and digital transformation.

Cotton On Group, the global fashion juggernaut operating out of Geelong, has overhauled its e-commerce operation and hired Michaela Michaut from Adore Beauty to spearhead customer acquisition. The firm is also grappling with how best to harness its 1,300 physical stores as international economies emerge from restrictions and shopping habits begin to swing back. 

What you need to know:

  • Cotton On Group has 're-platformed' its e-commerce operation to boost CX and better harness data.
  • Adore Beauty acquisition and retention lead Michaela Michaut hired as Head of Customer Acquisition.
  • Global retailer taking omnichannel focus as physical shopping habits settle after forced online shift.

Cotton On Group, the circa $3bn global clothing firm operating out of Geelong is backing an e-commerce overhaul and in-store rethink to drive growth as retailers grapple to gauge where the physical-digital balance will settle after two years of Covid disruption.

Started from the back of a Ford Bronco in 1988 by Nigel Austin, Cotton On's first store opened three years later. Annual sales are now circa $3bn and the firm operates in 22 countries, 18 directly, employing 1,800 staff across 1,300 stores, roughly half of which are in Australia, with South Africa the US its next biggest markets.

Cotton On, Cotton On Body and footwear and accessories brand Rubi are the largest in the stable with widest international footprint. Other brands include Ceres Life, Factorie and Supré. The Group also owns Typo, which started out as a stationary brand but has since branched into homeware and looks to be developing into a broader marketplace.

Now the retailer is backing a newly re-platformed e-commerce operation – with brands sub-domained rather than the previous single umbrella structure – to improve customer experience and unlock data that can better harnessed across the global business.

Under e-commerce chief Brendan Sweeney, Michaela Michaut has been hired from Adore Beauty to head customer acquisition.

Michaut helped build a loyalty programme at Adore that has delivered double-digit order value increases from members versus non-members. Ahead of the ASX-listed beauty retailer's next set of results Michaud could not disclose numbers, but hinted strong loyalty growth has continued after notching 180,000 members within the first six months of the programme: Now 12 months since launch it is "well into the hundreds of thousands of members".

She hopes to repeat the trick at Cotton On Group, where the Perks loyalty programme is of a different order of magnitude, with millions of members able to earn and use points across all brands in the stable.  

“Each of the brands have their own customers. But Perks means an apparel brand customer is also incentivised to buy stationary from Typo, so it encourages cross-brand shopping,” Michaut told Mi3. A key aim of the new platform structure is “to better understand how to optimise experience for each brand, but then under the Cotton On Group umbrella, harness all the learning and the data to drive better CX and better results across the business”, she added.

“It’s a global group, a global plan, great brands and I’m incredibly excited to see where we can take things.”

The firm is simultaneously focusing on physical regrowth in a bid to drive stronger omnichannel growth after Covid accelerated e-commerce shifts already underway.

Globally retailers are finding that so-called omnichannel customers, those that shop both in-store and online, are most loyal. Now they are working out how to drive growth through those cohorts as clicks and bricks customers also act as a hedge against post-Covid buying habits that have yet to settle.

Cotton On Group is still opening outlets in Australia and the US, underlining its faith in the future of physical retail. But like all retailers emerging from the pandemic, it is rethinking the role of stores and experiences as data emerges from countries learning to live with Covid at different speeds.

As customers relearn habits curbed during restrictions, a sprint for physical transformation may now be required in tandem with retailers' recent massive digital investments.

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