In another move forward for the SBIA Awards, we introduced the Retail Digital Marketing Award in 2018.   Judged by an independent panel lead by Carla Bridge from Shop! Australia & New Zealand (formerly POPAI), this award was designed to recognise and celebrate an independent retailer who has excelled in digital marketing initiatives and strategies over the past year.

In its inaugural year, the Retail Digital Marketing Awards was awarded to The Central Style Surf Gifts, a family owned and operated business, who opened their doors in 2015 in the South-East Corridor of Perth.

Post awards, we spoke to Garrett Chapell from The Central, who heads up their digital and social activities to get his view on retail digital marketing and how it has helped in driving awareness and promoting growth for their business.

Garrett Chapell

Lyndall: Congratulations again on being awarded the winners of the 2018 SBIA Retail Digital Marketing Award! You must be very proud of your team for being the first independent retailer to win this award?

Garrett: Yes Lyndall, so proud of our little team here at The Central Surf Style Gifts. In the scheme of things we are one of the little guys, so it was a big deal for us to be recognised against the fierce competition out there who sometimes have a lot more disposable resources.

Lyndall: Can you give us some back ground on The Central Style Surf Gifts Store and business?

Garrett: Well, our family has been involved in the surf industry since the establishment of our first store ‘Action Surf’ which operated from 1994 – 2014.

Inspired by our eldest sibling whom has always been the keen surfer, Wendy (Mum) entered the industry due to this joint love for the ocean, outdoors, and the product exclusive to industry retailers. She was drawn to the flexibility of owning her own business so that our family could all be involved in its operations.

The Central Surf Style Gifts (formerly known as just Central Surf) was established in March 2005, inspired by myself to establish a surf shop in our suburb’s newly proposed shopping complex and to maintain a monopoly over our catchment area. The store traded for three and a half years before the shopping center expansion allowed the business to relocate and expand from 120sqm to 250sqm in September 2008. The new shop fit (now with large format feature walls, hidden change rooms and aquarium at the store entrance) enabled us to compete with the industry’s top players by complementing the excellent service that staff had been trained to offer since our journey began.

In 2013 after success with various new brands and product lines, the store name changed to ‘The Central Surf Style Gifts’ better reflecting the store in a changing market. Today women’s product in particular encompasses traditional surf wear through to the quick-to- market fashion styles as well as an extensive range of homewares and body products.

Just as our name has changed over the years, so has our brand. Change is important in every industry to grow and we have done so through the evolution of the product we offer our customers and also where we source these products from.

Garrett Chapell & Wendy Chapell at the 2018 SBIA Awards

Lyndall: Can you give us some background on how and when your digital activities kicked off?

Garrett: We were quite early adopters of Facebook for business back in 2007 only two years after establishing The Central. Previous to that, aside from our website we were purely dealing with print media for all marketing activities. Instagram was our next expansion into the realm of social media in 2013 and then and in 2014 we got involved in a little known startup called ‘Rewardle’ for our consumer direct marketing.

Lyndall: How long did it take for you to gain some traction and see some real measureable ROI from your digital efforts?

Garrett: In relation to Instagram we really didn’t take it seriously until around 2015 when we started to see the success our competitors were having in relation to promoting themselves on the platform. We then appointed roles within the business specific to social media management and it became part of our daily operations. Our weekly management meetings would then include discussions on consumer feedback and queries via the platform and also measurable data on our posts in the form of followers, likes, comments. This also extends to customer feedback on social media in-store from what they’d seen online. In relation to ‘Rewardle’ we saw an almost instant traction as people were keen to get involved in signing up via the interactive platform in-store in exchange for their details. In turn we were then able to communicate directly with these members by forwarding our digital marketing direct to email.

Lyndall: How is your digital marketing managed at The Central? Is there a team? Do you have an independent photographer, copyrighter, etc.

Garrett: Our digital marketing is managed all in house. Lucky for us I’ve previously studied Graphic Design which comes in handy but the marketing of the actual business has been a process of trial and error with successes since prior to the use of digital. Everything in relation to social media and online presence has been self-taught and has just been something we’ve worked through one hurdle at a time during the course of weekly management meetings. We work through our copy as a team, we discuss results and progress of campaigns as a team and then I’m usually the one to go away and transfer our ideas into image. The truth is however that anyone can do this these days with the array of free apps available to download on your mobile devices and utilise on the go. Apps offer template ideas, free samples and it’s just up to you to set aside the time (yeah, because we all have so much of that). More like, make the time to prioritise specific time frames towards digital marketing each day because in most case that’s all it costs you, time.

Lyndall: Can you give us your view on how you successfully merge your operations across online and offline?

Garrett: Having a long standing reputation for high standards of print media this is not something we wanted to lose as we increased focus on digital. Not just that but our revenue is still brick and mortar focused and print media, shop signage and promotions are integral as part of the in-store experience. When we discuss at our meetings what upcoming promotion we are working on, we’ll start with an overall campaign and specific message we want to get across. Basically we simplify everything down to what you would expect in a poster that hangs in our window. This design is refined and then we produce variations to cover all digital platforms and print media. Starting with social media Instagram posts, Facebook updates, paid boosts and ads across both platforms targeting our desired demographic, posts through shopping centers social feeds and websites (which we organise through Centre management), direct email distribution through our ‘Rewardle’ customer database and if relevant notifications direct to their mobile apps, printed signage for relevant in-store racking, ceiling banners, window signage and vinyl decals.  Just as you would expect from any big name, the desire is to have all aspects of these graphics possess the same look and feel.

Lyndall: Can you tell us which digital channels you use and the importance of each in elevating the customer experience?

Garrett: The main digital channels we use include Instagram (predominately) as social media with Facebook being secondary, and our digital membership program through ‘Rewardle’ in which we utilise customer direct emails and in app messaging. Instagram of course is where things are at the moment in relation to social media (unless of course you’re brave enough to be chartering the waters of Snapchat). Instagram allows us to not only engage visually with our customers and supply direct feedback, but we link our account to Facebook so that all media filter through to people that are not on both platforms. Facebook is integral to have as a business…. not only does it allow you to gain access to business features in Instagram to run adverts and access your customer insights but it’s also a main source of supplying information to Google which is still hands down how majority of new clientele are searching out your business, whether it to find your address or call your store. They have always said that customer databases are your business’ best friend and while we always utilised mailing lists in the early days, it was time consuming and labor intensive with our staff folding, stamping and labelling all envelopes which eventually reached the thousands…. not to mention the cost of postage!!!! Once we were digital with ‘Rewardle’ we only had to conduct one major campaign push with our old customers to convert them over to using our new membership system and now it’s as easy as preparing a message and sending it out at the push of a button, we can stay front of mind and relevant to what’s going on in peoples inbox’s.

Lyndall: As retail customers ourselves, we’ve learned to tune out the noise and hone in on the content that appeals to us. Describe how you continue to stay front-of-mind with your audience and keep them engaged.

Garrett: Look, this one is about always staying open to what’s going on around you, keeping an eye on your competitors, what’s being pushed throughout your local community and even what draws you into something on your own inbox (I know your all signed up to some other business or website that’s not your own). One interesting thing we’ve noticed over the past twelve months is the fact that our local Jay Jays has been running the exact same campaign for an entire calendar year. Basically it’s a BUY 1 GET 1 HALF PRICE offer but all they do every 4 weeks is change the wording and the colour of their signage, in-store flyers and their window displays. It’s pretty basic and yet to the customer who’s not grabbing a coffee outside their shopfront every day it looks like and amazing new sale, that’s just started and you should go check it out before you miss out. Similar with us we know what promotions have worked in the past as we can just tweak them to be more relevant to an audience to keep them engaged.

Lyndall: Over the last 12 months, have you seen a real measurable success from your digital efforts?  i.e. increased foot traffic, gained and retained social media followers

Garrett: We’ve definitely seen an organic increase in our social media following (happy to say we have never paid for followers or likes on our social media platforms) and while our numbers are low compared to some of our competitors, we have a much higher engagement rate with comments and direct messages (and we reply to each and every one). Our biggest campaign in the last twelve months was our annual VIP evening which we rolled out in August. It was the biggest turn out we’ve had to date, following that we were still ahead of budget for the September period with sales compared to the previous year. This was a really big indicator that we were front-of-mind with our local shoppers.

Lyndall: Moving forward does The Central have any plans to move towards an online store?

Garrett: Well… we’ll never say never. We did try it for a twelve month period back in 2013 however the volume of sales didn’t warrant the extra time and effort it was taking to upload product and maintain stock information across online and in-store. However so much technology has advanced and been released over the past 5 years to assist small business enter the online realm that it’s always a possibility. We have the capable staff and the resources it just comes down to having a system that allows our online and in-store inventory to link with one another so we are no longer double handling the process of stock management and inventory levels like our first attempt.

Lyndall: We look forward to seeing what you have instore (excuse the pun) for 2019. We hope to see you enter again next year.

Garrett: Again, thanks so much for the recognition. I wish everyone out their all the best for the upcoming Summer and Christmas period and encourage anyone not involved in the digital real to get involved, download some apps and just start practicing, you’ve got to be in the race to win it.