‘The world doesn’t need another loyalty scheme’ warns Westfield marketing boss

John Batistich

John Batistich

The marketing boss of Australia’s largest shopping centre owner has warned retailers and brands need to forge direct relationships with their customers as the physical and digital retail world continue to collide, or risk being “dead in the end”.

John Batistich, marketing and digital director of Westfield owner Scentre Group, told a conference: “The world doesn’t need another loyalty program, it doesn’t need another reward scheme. We are full of that stuff. What we do need is a relationship with brands that we care about.”

The comments came as Batistich spoke of the “customer journey”, arguing that while the internet dominates the research phase, “something switches when it gets to the buy stage”.

“Still 94 per cent of the $270b spent on retail happens in a physical environment so consumers are very happy to search online but they want to buy in a physical environment,” he said.

Retailers unable to provide consumers with the full shopping experience, and who are unable to form direct relationships with consumers, will struggle, he said.

The remarks echo those of Deloitte Digital and Mash Up who, in announcing their merger earlier this week, said the in-store experience was still a critical part of the retail puzzle.

“We know in the future that every brand will want to have a direct relationship with the customer”, Batistich said, before warning the shifting trends could result in the “death of the wholesaler [and] the death of those brands that don’t own that relationship”.

Without it, the ability to collect data in order to create a personalised experience are “diminished significantly”, he said.

“You [as a brand] can’t create a relationship through a retailer. You have to have a direct relationship,” Batistich told delegates at the Association of Data Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) Global Forum in Sydney.

He said increasing numbers of brands have become retailers to forge those ties, identifying Samsung, Apple, Nivea and Nike as examples.

Nike“They are all going direct. Some of the world’s best retailers weren’t retailers. They were brands,” he said. “The most productive retailers on the planet, the likes of Apple and Nike, have only come to retail in the last 15 years.”

Batistich quoted Scott Galloway, a clinical Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, who believes pure play online players and bricks and mortar retailers who don’t have a great digital connection with shoppers have no future.

Online-only retailers cannot re-create physical elements of the experience and will be unable to compete, in the same way bricks and mortar retailers without a strong digital footprint will struggle.

“Omni channel and multi-channel are old language, they are old paradigms,” he said. “They are being replaced by one seamless experience. Your customers want one seamless experience across any channel at any time, anywhere.”

Batistich also spoke of the increasing importance of providing “context” to marketing, a subject that “doesn’t get talked enough about”, he said.

“The paradigms of media and advertising are over and being replaced by content in the right context,” he said, adding that a brand “really understands you” when it provides content “when you are in that zone, or have that need or in that location”.

Earlier, Batistich said some retailers are becoming increasingly savvy and using conversations on social media to shape the layout and content in their stores.

“Retailers are changing their content in real time. They are changing the store to meet the needs of that conversation,” he said. “We’ll start to see a lot more of that.”

He added that “faster fulfillment” will be one of the “critical challenges” in the future, as he stressed the deployment of drones to deliver product is “not just hype” but a reality in the US.

Steve Jones


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