Cue Clothing Co.
Cue uses Infinity to deliver unified customer experiences that help drive sales growth
annual online sales growth
savings in shipping costs
online sales fulfilled from stores
Industry awarded and ethically accredited, Cue Clothing Co. is the largest local manufacturer of fashion in Australia. In recent years, Cue has shifted from traditional bricks-and-mortar retail to a unified commerce strategy that integrates its online and physical channels to give customers personalised and frictionless experiences across three brands, eight online stores, 240+ physical stores, concessions, shoppable screens and a customer care team.
Taking a new approach to retail’s multichannel challenges
Cue’s CIO, Shane Lenton, says that Cue’s transition to unified commerce was a phased approach that followed the launch of its website and move into multichannel retailing. “Our eCommerce site and physical stores were connected to an extent but we were not providing a seamless experience to our customers,” says Shane.
“At that point, we had many pieces of integration and technology,” he says. “We knew we had to keep pace with new technologies and changing consumer demands, but didn’t want to bolt on solutions for the digital space that wouldn’t easily integrate. We decided to move from multichannel silos and bring everything together with a unified commerce strategy.
“The reason unified commerce resonated with me is that it would give us one core platform do the heavy lifting and a single source of truth to manage the customer data, inventory and order orchestration, rather than relying on too many systems to push and pull data everywhere.”
Trusting Triquestra’s expertise to make the move to unified commerce
Triquestra has been working with Cue since 2008, providing retail, technology and digital product expertise and partnership. During that time, the Infinity unified commerce platform has evolved from handling Cue’s point-of-sale requirements to centralising customer, inventory and fulfilment data and transactions in real time.
“We decided to use Infinity to combine all our channels and touchpoints so that we could give customers personalised and connected experiences, plus access to our entire range of products from any location.”
Shane says Triquestra gives Cue the right level of customisation for its fast fashion requirements without compromising on its ability to consistently upgrade the platform. “That comes down to the agility and flexibility that they’ve built within Infinity, while still supplying all the core requirements we need out-of-the-box.”
Infinity is now both the foundation and enabler for Cue’s business growth.
“Today, Infinity is at the centre of everything we do,” says Shane. “It provides us with a core backbone by acting as the hub for all our channels, reducing integration, duplication and operating costs, while increasing efficiency and accuracy.
“Infinity is also our platform for innovating,” he adds. “It’s our springboard for adding new channels and services, giving us the ability to take advantage of new capabilities and deliver results at a speed and scale that would be unachievable within a traditional omnichannel model.”
The impressive results
Stores are now a competitive advantage
While Cue is Australia’s largest local manufacturer of fashion, it does not mass produce.
“We take a design-led approach to our retail,” Shane explains. “Each store gets a curated range which means not every store has the same styles.”
In the past, if a customer wanted to buy an item that wasn’t in stock, the store would have to transfer it from another location, call the customer when the item arrived and hope they returned.
“But these days customers want instant gratification and convenience – the ability to buy what they want and receive it when and where they want it,” says Shane. “So if your store can’t sell something a customer wants and you can’t promise they’ll get it quickly, they’ll go elsewhere. Historically, we would only have converted around 30 percent of those transfer situations.”
Now, with a ‘buy anywhere, fulfil anywhere’ strategy in place and Infinity’s centralised hub providing the inventory and fulfilment smarts, Cue is using its more than 200 stores across Australasia to create a competitive advantage, taking on online giants like Amazon and changing the way customers shop.
For example, ‘endless aisle’ capability lets customers access Cue’s entire inventory from any touchpoint. And Cue’s ‘store-to-door’ service uses its store network to deliver items to customers at their preferred location on the same day, via the fastest route at the lowest cost.
In early 2018, Cue introduced 3-hour delivery from the majority of stores across Australia and in mid-2018, it changed its click-and-collect offering to include in-store pick-up within 30 minutes, making it one of the fastest online order fulfilment options in Australia.
“Now, if a customer visits a store but the item they want isn’t there, staff can find and order that item from another store and that store’s staff can ship it to the customer’s preferred address,” Shane says.
In late 2018, Cue expanded its endless aisle initiative to include delivery from stores to any location nationwide or globally. Shane says the overall access to inventory increased eightfold to 80,000 items, leading to a 70 percent increase in conversions and a 130 percent increase in sales within the first week.
Cue also gives customers the flexibility of split orders when buying online, in-store or from its customer care team. According to Shane, this approach ensures a seamless and straightforward shopping experience for people who want to make one transaction, regardless of how many items they might be ordering or where they are coming from.
Cue was the first Australasian company to have couriers accept receipts printed on POS printers as shipping labels to shorten delivery times and reduce printing costs. “This has been a real game changer as we haven’t had to purchase label printers for courier parcels,” says Shane. “Together with our optimised delivery routes, we’ve achieved a 30 percent savings in shipping costs.”
The uptake and response to all the new services has exceeded expectations
of all sales are online
of online sales are via mobile
of online sales are fulfilled through stores
of online transactions are click-and-collect
of people buy an additional item when collecting their first click-and-collect item
fill time for click-and-collect
of online sales are fulfilled by 3-hour delivery from stores
sales from store-to-door
hub for all channels
APIs help build a partner ecosystem
Cue uses APIs to expose data and functions and easily plug in and deploy new services, channels and devices. That makes it easy for Cue to partner with startups and tech companies outside the retail industry to take advantage of new capabilities and deliver results at a speed and scale that would be unachievable within a traditional omnichannel model.
For example, Cue was the first brand to launch the ‘buy now, pay later’ Afterpay payment option in stores and one of the first online. In 2018, it also launched mobile payment platforms Alipay and WeChat Pay, making it one of the first fashion brands to help visitors, students and ex-pats from China use their preferred method of payment when they’re in Australia.
Cue was also the first Australian bricks-and-mortar retailer to offer nationwide 3-hour delivery by partnering with shipping platform Shippit and launching the service in record time – a process that takes most retailers six to 12 months to complete, was implemented by Cue in only one.
Personalisation is a game-changer
Cue was the first Australian fashion brand to give customers a visual search tool to improve the shopping experience on mobile devices. Cue’s Style Finder lets shoppers search for styles by uploading saved images from their phone or by taking a live photo of something they wish to purchase. Developed in partnership with Alibaba Cloud, the search tool uses machine learning to improve its results and product matches over time.
Shane said the growth of mobile commerce was a key reason they launched Style Finder.
“Mobile purchases are our number one source of online revenue, with 60 percent of sales and up to 70 percent of traffic to our website on mobile devices,” he says.
Shane is also investing in AI. Last year, the team launched personalised e-receipts for in-store purchases that include targeted product recommendations.
AI technologies are giving customers product recommendations on the website, based on their behaviour on the website and CRM data. And AI helps to inject product recommendations into customer communications and optimise their timing. “We are not only personalising content, we are releasing it at a specific time when the individual is most likely to engage with the communication,” explains Shane.
Technology empowers employees as well
Prior to launching its ‘buy anywhere, fulfil anywhere’ initiatives, Cue worked with Triquestra to develop solutions to manage the end-to-end process and eliminate any channel conflict so that in-store staff could see the benefits of eCommerce sales and support tight order turnarounds.
At each step of the process, service level agreements (SLAs) are set, with onscreen, email and SMS alerts for issues and exceptions. “These metrics ensure a consistent and high-quality customer experience, without any additional staff or overheads,” says Shane.
“We devised a way to incentivise multiple teams for fulfilling an order without making it difficult for the finance team to attribute the sale. Now both the store providing the customer service and completing the transaction, and the store filling the order are rewarded with the sale. This extends to the individual packing the order so that there’s an incentive for in-store teams to action orders straight away.”
Cue tweaked its returns verification process to push refunds and exchanges back to the original sale location, so stores no longer had to carry the negative impact from online returns.
“The Infinity dashboard lets our Head Office team oversee store fulfilment. They receive an alert if a click-and-collect order is not acknowledged within 10 minutes and contact the store to action the order.”
“We’ve automated the entire process and put controls and alerts in place to ensure the best outcome for the customer,” says Shane. “It also gives the stores a clear understanding of what is required of them, and in what period of time. There are no unknowns or ‘I’ll get to it when I can’; it’s a very tight process.”
Agile drives collaboration and speed
Shane says a lot of vendors and retailers talk about 'partnership' but it's difficult to achieve true collaboration in a traditional hierarchy with a top-down model of management focused on outputs.
“Our success is in large part due to the way we work with Triquestra,” he says. “Two years ago we moved to an agile, team-based approach – a collaborative working model focused on delivering value for our internal users and consumers.
“We have self-organising, cross functional teams from across Cue and Triquestra. This means our users are highly involved in every stage of the development process, reviewing the product at every phase and making suggestions for improvement.”
Shane says it’s been an important way to extend our internal team, build deep collaboration between the IT team and people responsible for customer experience, and really leverage Triquestra’s strengths.
“With our people working closely with Triquestra in an agile environment, empowered and galvanised around a customer mission, they are more engaged and productive.”
Innovation pays off
With Infinity as Cue’s stable core, APIs to build a community of third-party apps and systems, and agile working to deliver high-quality products faster, Cue is focused on disruptive innovations that accelerate business agility and competitive advantage.
“The business results have been incredible,” concludes Shane. “We’ve increased our ability to get products and services to market faster and are on track to increase annual online sales by over 130 percent.”
Cue grew its international revenue by 100 percent in 2018, and its New Zealand online revenue is on track to increase by 300 percent.
Its success hasn’t gone unnoticed. Cue won the ‘Best In-Store Initiative’ at the 2018 Online Retail Industry Awards, and Shane was recognised and ranked #25 in the 2018 CIO50 Australia’s most innovative CIOs, #3 on RagTrader’s ‘Power 30’ of the most powerful people in the fashion industry, and #4 in Internet Retailing magazine’s Top 50 People in E-Commerce 2019.
Shane says that Cue’s unified commerce platform and cross-platform experience ensures its strategy for engaging customers and encouraging repeat purchases is ahead of its competitors. “Infinity is our platform for innovating. It’s at the centre of everything we do. Adding new channels and services is no longer a case of ‘how?’. Instead we think ‘what’s next?’.”