In 2019, Team A Ventures plans to launch its own eCommerce store for Mothercare, an online marketplace for its range of footwear brands, and complete a corporate restructure around optimizing talent for strengths. The initiatives come on the heels of multiple setbacks, addressing internal and external challenges.
“In 2018 there was a big change, ” said Yasin Paracha, managing director of Team A Ventures, a multi-brand distributor & retailer for Mothercare, Debenhams, Next, and numerous international chains. “The economy [of Pakistan] was on the way down, so we had to rethink a lot of things that we were doing; we had wanted to get into the digital space for quite some time.”
In December 2017, Team A Ventures tested the waters with a digital solution initiated by the headquarters of Mothercare, which was rolled out globally. Due to unforeseen issues faced, the project was scrapped. With the hiring of Tariq Hameed Siddqui as the head of the digital commerce business unit at Team A Ventures, Paracha is confident that an owned solution will reap tremendous benefits in expanding customer acquisition.
We can’t do it half-heartedly, we have to consider it exactly as we would a brick & mortar store but with a different talent working in this store and that’s the direction we went on.
“We sent an email out last year, February or March, asking everyone to work harder,” shared Paracha.
“The value of each customer becomes very very high because the footfall isn’t that high. We have gone into putting up a whole digital team; the purpose is not just Mothercare – the idea is we want to take it big and hence doing it properly. We can’t do it half-heartedly, we have to consider it exactly as we would a brick & mortar store but with a different talent working in this store and that’s the direction we went on – that team is now 75% in place, so Mothercare [digital] will be the first solution.”
Paracha wants to highlight the brand identity and ethos of Mothercare with the Magento enterprise eCommerce store in order to preserve a consistent and seamless experience for the end customer. Broken down, Paracha sees that this will be accomplished by taking care to curate visuals, content, and experience around the customer journey, with the site created by RLTSquare launching in February or March depending on how long it takes to integrate with Mothercare’s systems globally.
“Moving forward, we would like to go into our own footwear multi-brand store, which is our own brand of multi-brand shoe stores,” said Paracha. “Hopefully the other international brands, that are very reluctant to work with partners will come on board. We feel that Pakistan is a massive market, 200 million people, the number of cities with over a million people is huge. [Pakistan] lacks a real estate infrastructure – there isn’t a high-quality availability of retail shops. In this day and age, it’s very difficult to compromise on that because people have a choice.”
Ayesha Amer, head of buying & merchandising for Team A Ventures, has been leading the Mothercare brand for over 13 years and has concluded that this is a category where the decision making of parents will not compromise on the quality of the product when it concerns their children, especially newborns.
“So people come in and sometimes irrespective of their background you would see that they are spending a lot of money on their children,” said Amer. “The customer is constantly changing. We do have these forms filled in by the customer in which there are certain questions in which we write their age, gender, and a bit about how many children they have. We need to deeply look at data even more and when we go online we’ll be able to target customers in a better way.”
With the bulk of the customers coming to the stores, Paracha admits that the company has not managed to log in as much data as they could, adding that customer surveys and focus groups manage to emanate a fair idea of the customer motivations and an old school understanding of the Net Promoter Score. He intends to implement a measurement method by which an understanding can be reached to determined annual store visitors, which of those are unique customers, and the in-store conversion rate.
“Where we need to start from is obviously a loyalty program which we used to have and we discontinued five years ago,” said Paracha. “We weren’t getting anything out of it and all that we were getting was some twenty thousand loyal customers. We are looking at starting a new one.”
Paracha intends to create a blockchain based loyalty program for all stores under Team A Ventures similar in concept to the Emirates Skywards program augmented with a framework under the blockchain. Paracha believes doing so will empower customers to decide what they want to do with their loyalty points and which brands will benefit from it.
“We found out that the talent available here just can’t deliver on that, it’s unbelievable like they say that we are blockchain specialists and it’s not there,” said Paracha, adding that he has met two of Pakistan’s largest professional service firms that claim to have capabilities in blockchain frameworks.
“Whether we do blockchain or not, our loyalty program is going to be the same across the brands because at the end of the day there is a lot of overlap,” said Paracha. “Even NEXT sells kids wear but [the captive market of NEXT] is different from Mothercare. So a lot of Mothercare customers [are first time parents] and will not think of NEXT [as their first choice]. It’s very emotional decision model.”
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