In this podcast – which you can now listen to on either Apple Music or Spotify (finally!) – Ian Jindal and Jamie Merrick are joined in the second half by Dan Mahoney, Customer Director at Whittard Chelsea. Carry on reading for a summary of the highlights.
Part two with Dan Mahoney
Mahoney has an extensive background in ecommerce and has worked at Whittard for the last 3 and half years. In his role as Customer Director, he is responsible for all of the marketing efforts, digital preposition and customer service.
Over the last few years, the company has seen exciting growth in China after opening up a store via Tmall, a global online marketplace, in 2016. Whittard were also named a Top250 retailer in our RXUK Top500 report 2020 which provides a unique performance-based index of the UK’s largest retailers.
During the full podcast we delve into the fascinating world of hot beverages, as well as learning about the impact of lockdown on Whittard’s physical stores and how the retailer is planning to up its digital game and customer focus in 2021.
For now, here are the key take-aways:
About the company
“We are Whittard of Chelsea 1886, which means we will be 135 years old next year…that feels like a big birthday. We have just shy of 50 stores in the UK, we have an ecommerce business which you can see at whittard.co.uk and then we have a growing international business.
“I’d say the three key moving parts are loyal customers that come back for products that they trust and believe in: some to go on a journey and explore new flavours; international customers who believe that the brits do it best, in terms of heritage tea; then the gifting solutions that we have.
“As a brand, we are very focused on selling the finest tea, coffee, hot chocolate – we want to be a drinks business and we want to have this unique multi-category preposition for our customers.”
How do you stay relevant?
“We’ve tried to become more digitally native; our store footprint has changed over time, if you go back 10 years or so, Whittard had nearly three times the amount of physical coverage in the UK. So it’s been about finding new ways of showing customers that we’re here, we’re more alive than ever, that we’ve got classic products that people know about but we’ve also got new innovation coming into our range.
“We want younger consumers to see Whittard as the best place to be buying their premium tea and coffee and that it’s not just a brand that’s just for older generations.”
On additional products
Next, we asked Mahoney if Whittard were looking to expand their product range beyond the realm of hot beverages:
“That’s certainly a big opportunity for us in terms of having branded equipment in the customers’ house – so one thing we love is our iconic Whittard caddy, because if that can be sitting on the side, on someone’s pantry and they’ve got guests coming over and seeing our brand sitting on the side, that’s a really positive thing.
“Also the concept of a caddy being empty tells you, you need to fill it up so you have that whole retention cycle or reminder that you need to buy.”
On customer communication
“One of our biggest opportunities is how we can be the approachable authority across our three categories and make it accessible to people.”
He explains that lockdown has opened up new opportunities for Whittart to showcase its products, now that people are working from home rather than buying coffee on the go:
“But also helping people make that transition from what is the equipment that I need to drink coffee? It’s all about making this information easy for people to digest and that’s a big focus for a lot of our content. We’re starting to amp up a lot of our video content that we’re building as a brand that we’re trying to do in our way that’s approachable, accessible and informative.
“We don’t want to be a beard-stroking coffee roastery – we want to be a brand where people can actually figure out to break into this thing that is loose coffee and come on a journey and just have consistently great products.”
On marketing goals
“Two big areas we’re trying to crack is how we can come up the marketing funnel – so be less focused on transactional marketing and how we can actually be more focused on brand development and brand engagement.
“Then also have a brand marketing model that is unique – we need to build our own marketing strategy that is very unique to us, that isn’t off the shelf. Then we’ve got to figure out how we use that to grow and develop a new market which is a big strategic focus for us as a brand.”
Next, we asked what it was like to maintain a business perspective amidst the Covid-19 pandemic:
“It’s definitely been tricky at times, as a business, company wide most people have been trying to phase into what remote working means to us – what is flexible working? That was a huge cultural change in how to think, how to work.
“As we go forward – and we’re looking at a fairly busy few months ahead – to maybe bring some people into that team and how we do that onboarding onto a service team, front-line dealing with customers, wanting to deliver this amazing memorable brand experience. It’s more tricky to bring in someone who is a temporary team member remotely to understand and feel the brand and how we try to talk and deal with issues.”
Mahoney also reinforces how important sharing customer voice is to the company and an issue which is spotlighted in the weekly trade meeting in order to better understand what Whittards consumers might be struggling with.
“There are bad experiences that are being had and we should talk about that and not sensitive to it…we should all be aware of it and try and do something about it so that’s really good and is helping us think differently.”
How are the next couple of months looking?
“We’re going to have to change our customer experience so that it’s safe and comfortable for customers,” he explains.
“On the digital side, we’re planning for it being really crazy and there’s a lot of operational readiness to that; everything from our site experience, inventory availability, fulfilment and carriage is going to be really interesting – we need to be ready.
“Also looking into next year and thinking about the future of our business, short to long term has to be digital. We need more capabilities, we need to have better, more localised customer friendly customer propositions in some of our key markets .
“Knowing we need to build capabilities to sustain our future – there’s a lot to do.”