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Bunnings MD discusses digital transformation with AFR

IKEA Australia has introduced an app through its stores in Queensland that will cut wait times at the checkout

Bunnings Group managing director, Michael Schneider said the retailer's digital makeover is about improving the customer experience as well as encouraging a friendly environment for "digital natives" - people joining the business who are accustomed to digital - and existing employees. He recently gave an interview to the business column Chanticleer in the Australian Financial Review (AFR).

Part of the retailer's tech transformation has been targeted towards its trade customers. It recently launched a new website for tradies that is mobile friendly, replacing the old process of an email system with a click and collection option through a smartphone.

Bunnings' product finder app has also been updated with interactive store maps that show customers the best and fastest course around the stores.

Mr Schneider said Bunnings is gradually moving all of its customer data to a cloud-based platform, which will support the entire group's operations, including inventory management. This project is due for completion by June next year.

It was reported that most of the digital transformation is being done by an in-house Bunnings team, not an outsourced IT provider. Mr Schneider told the AFR:

We partnered up with some fantastic external partners, but we also built this wonderful team in-house, which shows a different way of thinking about it. We've now got just over 500 team members in our tech and digital division under a dedicated chief technology officer, Leah Balter.

Bunnings' digital investment has been about building deeper engagement with its employees. Mr Schneider said:

This thing for us is not about maximising sales online. It's about improving our business so the next generation of people who are working here can put down roots and grow and build a career.
Sure, we want to give our customers a compelling offer. But what's been fantastic in doing the work we've done in the digital space, has been thinking about the customer journeys and the blend of our long-term team members and our new people.
People who understand the Bunnings way understand our product and understand the way that the customer experiences feel, [and] are sharing their knowledge with people who are joining the team.
We've now got really fantastic tech skills, digital skills, code-writing skills, digital marketing skills and data personalisation skills. That sort of collaboration between the long-term Bunnings team members and newer team members is giving us a best-of-breed when it comes to the customer experience.

Bunnings has been using social enterprise tool, Workplace by Facebook which developed it as a way of creating online communities within companies and facilitating greater co-operation among staff. Mr Schneider said:

We've got over 40,000 of our 53,000 team members really active on their platform [and] that's allowing us to keep them informed on what's going on. We've built two production studios in our national support centre where we develop training material, deliver live content, and really connect and engage.
If you're a buyer, and you bring a new product to life, you can speak directly to the team members who are selling that product and hear feedback on what's working, what's not working with your customers.

Mr Schneider spoke at the Workplace Transform APAC 2021 Facebook live event earlier this year.

Facebook's Workplace for employee engagement at Bunnings

Mr Schneider said he wants to send a "subliminal message" to employees that Bunnings is "a place you can actually hang around for a while and have a bit of fun and do something different". He said part of the challenge of digital adoption within companies is demystifying technology for staff members who have been there for 20 years while making it a place tech-savvy young people want to work.

The new Bunnings tech support centre is based in the inner Melbourne suburb of Cremorne which has been developed as a technology precinct by the Victorian state government. Mr Schneider said he is keen for Bunnings to be on the radar of graduates considering a career in tech.

...We are deep in a really genuine tech transformation - we're going pretty solidly at it, both from a resourcing point of view and an investment point of view.
Those are the sorts of things that when you're wanting to build your career in the technology space, you're really looking for, and Bunnings is providing that, alongside all the things that we're famous for in terms of culture.

Related: HNN has reported previously that as Bunnings launches into digital, it's likely to encounter the need for deeper change.

Bunnings upshifts digital - HNN Flash #17, October 2020

Related: Bunnings has produced another strong result.

Bunnings results FY2020/21 - HNN Flash #60, August 2021

IKEA app in QLD stores

IKEA's mobile checkout technology allows customers to scan products on their phone and pay on the way out without needing to unpack their trolley. It is being used at its Logan and North Lakes stores in Queensland in the lead up to Christmas.

The home improvement retailer plans to roll out the technology across all Australian stores in 2022, according to The Courier-Mail.

IKEA's country customer manager Christian Becker said it took an average of six minutes to stand in line and unload and reload items. The app should make shopping easier for customers. He told The Courier-Mail:

Our co-workers can now also support more customers where their help is most needed, which is super important in the busy Christmas shopping period. Our goal is to provide our customers with a consistent, seamless, and efficient shopping experience across all channels.
Mobile check-out is a first for home furnishing retailers in Australia, and we're proud to lead the way with this initiative with the aim of creating a no-wait checkout experience for our customers.
  • Sources: Australian Financial Review, Motley Fool and The Courier-Mail
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