Collapses, takeovers and boardroom ructions, it would be true to say Aussie surfwear brand Billabong has had its fair share of ups and downs in its lively 42 year history. But, to its credit, it still continues to thrive and remains one of Australia’s most iconic home-grown fashion labels.
The company’s group ecommerce manager, Tora Brophy, is loathed to talk about past difficulties but tells B&T the Billabong brand has an exciting future both in Australia and globally.
He believes Aussie shoppers are “catching up to global shopping habits”. We’re becoming “multi-channel dimensional,” he says, where “shoppers demand service, convenience and personalisation”.
Brophy says: “A major area for Billabong is to firstly understand the customer journey across each channel and then evaluate how we can improve our brand experience at every point of interaction. Today a customer’s journey may spark from a blogger’s Instagram post, cross to a print ad, research online then purchase in-store; however we’re only touching the basics of a connected shopper.”
Despite his ecommerce role, Brophy says he’s still a big fan of ‘bricks and mortar’ and says the two – online and traditional retail – need not be mutually exclusive. He says the whole shopping experience – “omni-channel retail” – means brands must empower the customer no matter how they may choose to engage with it.
“It’s about providing the same great brand experience across all channels, be it in-store, online, customer call centre, social, etc and because it’s built around the customer, for the customer, they have the freedom to shop what they want, how they want, when they want, where they want,” he says.
The rise of data is also essential for Billabong and Brophy admits that being a youth brand and having a customer base that’s very digital-centric means data is easy to collect. However, he says the company is still “refining our processes around effective ways to use it”.
He adds: “This could mean shifting our email marketing to deliver targeted and highly relevant messages, curating our product collections to trends, delivering personalised remarketing messages, or using product feedback to improve our garment design.”
Nor does Brophy believe a brand fast approaching its 45th birthday is no longer resonating with a younger crowd and that’s where digital and storytelling has such an important role to play.
“Gen Ys are channel agnostic and have a massive hunger for distinctive content,” he says. “One example is social. We leverage our social channels to help tell our stories and drive brand awareness among the youth through fresh, new content which directly appeals to the target market.
“The content our brands are producing talks back to our brand DNA from multiple angles; swimwear campaigns in Tahiti, athletes catching the latest swell to hit Hawaii, the latest performance board short to arrive, and global surfing events in Tahiti and Hawaii to mention a few.
“I believe our job is to unlock this content and inspire our youth audience through telling these unique brand stories,” he says.