Coles Liquor CEO on embracing digital acceleration and the triple-win omnichannel opportunity

Coles Liquor CEO on embracing digital acceleration and the triple-win omnichannel opportunity

February 22, 2024
Cindy Panzera

Michael Courtney, Coles Liquor CEO, discusses the retail group’s plans for digital acceleration to create an easier, faster and more enjoyable omnichannel shopping experience, ultimately fostering a triple-win opportunity for customers, retailers and suppliers.

Coles Liquor CEO Michael Courtney was the keynote speaker at the Australian Drinks Association's first Network Breakfast of 2024 on Wednesday, 21 February.

Addressing around 190 attendees, Courtney discussed the retailer group’s strategic pillar in becoming a liquor destination that is digitally accelerated to deliver for the future.

“Our vision for Coles Liquor is to be a simpler, more accessible and locally relevant drinks specialist. Our strategy is supported by a ‘win together’ principle, which is around team, community, and suppliers. And it's supported by our foundations, which are financial discipline, technology and data,” said Courtney.

He explained that the company is investing heavily in customer experience as it underpins a winning proposition in omnichannel retailing.

“E-commerce will continue to grow as part of our industry and part of retail in general. But, depending on what forecast you look at, it will sit somewhere between 10-20% of sales. This means the customer interactions for the majority of sales and transactions will still occur in-store.”

He emphasised the ongoing significance of physical stores but stressed that a robust omnichannel focus was critical for the next phase of business growth.

“We now need to be thinking about whether we are still structured as a bricks and mortar business over here and an online business over here. How do we move to be structured as a true omnichannel business and ensure we can deliver optimised solutions for customers.”

Courtney also discussed the future role of GenAI, highlighting how customers will increasingly transition their digital interactions to adopt a more conversational tone.

“I think in retail, we're on the precipice of a change that's going to happen over the next five years, where the way customers interact with us through digital platforms and those interfaces will change dramatically.”

“We have been on this omnichannel journey for some time, and whilst as an industry we have been investing in digital, there is still a lot of change left to come, which only underscores why we need to remain focused on this as an industry,” added Courtney.

“From a retail perspective, digital engagement touchpoints in store are going to be key for us to be able to link the physical store and the digital and that's an area where we have a lot of work left to do. Having a unified experience across channels is really important.”

Courtney explained that digital and omnichannel provide the ability to create a large amount of data, allowing for faster learning and the ability to curate based on customer trends. These things, he says, create focus areas and opportunities for Coles Liquor to win with customers.

He concluded: “Omnichannel can be a huge unlocker for us. The rate at which digital is moving can at times feel overwhelming for our customers. If customer experience is done poorly, it can just feel like we're putting stuff on top of more stuff. Customer experience is key because it will drive share, which will drive scale, which will drive returns.”

Coles Liquor is a retail partner of the Drinks Association.


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