You would be forgiven for thinking of THE ICONIC as a fashion company. It is after all touted as the leading online retailer across Australia and New Zealand, selling a variety of leading international fashion and sport brands.
But after hearing Kshira Saagar, Head of Analytics and Data Science at THE ICONIC, speak at our executive breakfast I’d be more inclined to call them a data or technology company – that just so happens to sell clothes.
Since joining THE ICONIC Kshira has set up and led a team of data scientists responsible for enabling data-driven decision making. Data and technology now sits at the core of this organisation – and not just any data. The actionable kind. Because data, according to Kshira, “is useless if you can’t take action”.
And the action they want to take? Enhancing the customer experience.
While selling clothing is what THE ICONIC ‘does’, what they aim to deliver is a seamless buying experience for their customers that removes friction, and makes it as easy as possible for them to find and buy what they’re looking for.
So, how do they achieve this?
Data drives decisions
As you can imagine THE ICONIC has a lot of data. Data about their customers – how they shop, what they purchase, what their favourite colour is, how they drink their coffee. Ok, maybe not that last one. They hold even more data about the products they sell: colour, size, style, brand, fit, type, which gender it’s been designed for, or material.
The focus for them ends up being how they can drive action with this data. How can the data they have on their customers and their products help make the purchasing decision easier?
Through the use of algorithms and a focus on ‘closing the data loop’ THE ICONIC uses all this data to recommend items, or even build a full outfit with their products based on a photo a customer has uploaded to their app.
Wait – hold on, what’s this data loop you mentioned?
You can look at data either as a pyramid, or a loop. In a pyramid data lives at the bottom, which feeds into insights, which sits under knowledge, which bolsters action. The problem with this model is that action is the goal, and once you’re there, you’re done.
However with the data-loop you’re looking at an infinite circuit. Action filters back into data, from which you can extract more insights, more knowledge, and drive more action.
And it’s this infinite cycle of data that enables THE ICONIC to continue to come up with new and innovative features to reduce friction in the customer shopping experience. And they have some cool new features in the works that will do just that.
Technology freeing up thinking
None of this would be possible without a solid technology foundation in which to house, process and access that data.
There’s a strong belief at THE ICONIC that humans should do what humans do best (which is think and innovate), and machines should do what machines do best (which is automate repetitive tasks). If you’re continuously having to run a report – that’s probably something you should get a machine to automate.
And it’s important for people to be able to easily access data to help them make decisions in real time – rather than months down the track when it’s no longer useful or relevant. The technology stack put in place has been specifically designed to do just that – and they’re continually looking at ways to improve it and make it easier for to extract the information they need.
They’ve managed to achieve this with a mix of enterprise and self-created systems, connected via a middle layer that houses data in a format that’s ready to be used. This not only allows them to extract data from disparate systems to deliver insights, but also allows them to be scalable and easily switch systems if required.
The technology structure is there to support the staff, to deliver actionable data, and automate processes. By doing this it frees up their time to explore new and better ways of doing things, develop new systems, processes or technology and continue to make the shopping experience even better.
Looping it back to enhancing the customer experience
These data and technology foundations ultimately support their goal of enhancing the customer experience, to make it easier for customers to decide what to buy. They’re continuously asking themselves ‘What more can we do?’, ‘How can we meet that customer need?’
Kshira explains that “THE ICONIC is very crazy about customer centricity – and not just because its ‘cool’ to have. With every decision we make the question is ‘will this make our customers happy?’. And when you have that kind of customer focus you realise that there are a lot of problems that customers are facing that you can build on.”
People shop for convenience, and online shopping can be fraught with roadblocks that can make it more difficult – from difficulty finding the right product, being unsure about size, and then having to return it if it doesn’t fit after all. By understanding these pain-points THE ICONIC can work on building solutions that reduces that friction – delivering solutions like 'Snap to Shop' which allows you to upload an image to their app and matches the clothes in the image to similar items they sell. Now you don’t have to go searching through their extensive range and experience ‘death by filter’.
It’s these types of initiatives and focus on the customer experience which has contributed to THE ICONIC’s success. Listening to their customers' needs, and solving their pain points, has led them to be able to deliver solutions that delight their customers and have them coming back again and again. It’s also their internal focus on using data to make decisions that needs to be kept in mind. This has enabled them to make better decisions faster, leaving time for people to think about 'What next? What else can we do to be better?'