Chill

#034 : Suzie Young @ Signet

Today on Chill, we’ll chat with the great Suzie Young from Signet about B2B and B2C commerce, leveraging content & an innovative tech-stack to drive personalised experiences, and how to stand out in 2021.

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Suzie Young @ Signet

#034 : In this episode of Chill, we chat with digital passionista Suzie Young at the Australian B2B brand Signet. As Head of Digital and Direct Marketing, Suzie drives growth through digital strategy, ecommerce, and data-driven digital and direct marketing.

Suzie and Overdose Melbourne MD Laura Jackson discuss B2B commerce, using an innovative tech-stack to drive personalised experiences, and the challenges of maintaining corporate culture in 2021.


Signet

From its humble, family-owned business beginnings 50-odd years ago, Signet, a supplier of packaging and industrial products, now sits comfortably as one of the top 100 private companies in Queensland. With a current staff of around 300, and an extensive nationwide distribution network supplying the biggest retail and FMCG manufacturers in the country, it’s still a family-owned business. Their global brands include 3M, Velcro, Tesa, and Uvex; and they manufacture their ‘Signet’s Own’ brand—a range including stretch films and plastics, marking paints, inks and aerosols, and labels and signage.

Signet and their sister company, Insignia, a label manufacturer and distributor of top international thermal printing and coding solutions, together make up the Winson Group.

Suzie Young

Suzie says she’s one of those rare species of people that’s been with the same group for her whole corporate career. She started at Insignia in B2B sales and says what she loved most in that role was learning about the businesses and the inspiring brands she worked with.

It was 2001 when Suzie joined the Winson Group and, in the past 20 years, she says she’s seen the business double in size, twice. With growth comes opportunity, and Suzie has never been afraid to run with the bulls.

Her career pivoted when she returned from maternity leave and was asked to spearhead a project to look at integrating a new CRM across both Insignia and Signet. She jumped in and worked closely with the IT team to select and implement the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform across the group’s sales and customer experience teams. Simultaneously, they executed marketing automation across the call centers.

Later, she worked on a digital transformation project with Insignia’s field service and technical service departments. They went from using dockets and very manual triple, or quadruple, key-in processes, to re-platforming (Microsoft 365) and automating texts with mobile apps.

She became Head of Customer Experience and worked steadily on website and digital marketing, which was quickly becoming the number one lead source. As that channel grew, she was heavily involved in SEO and paid search—an area of her role she especially loved.

Just when Suzie was realising she wanted digital to be her specialty, some divine timing occurred­­—the group’s MD approached her with an opportunity over at Signet to head up the Digital and Direct Marketing team. “Our GM of Signet is Matt Henry, who is really well known and regarded as a great digital guy in the Australian industry and has an awesome management team of people who are quite specialised in their field. I was like, okay, I’ll jump brands and go work for Signet.”

The MarTech dream team

Moving into her digital role has been the highlight of Suzie’s career. She speaks passionately of the people and culture within her team­­­­—she says they jokingly call themselves ‘a MarTech dream team’. There’s an admirable, seldom-seen symbiosis between the marketing and IT teams­­—one that is highly productive and underpinned by mutual respect.

One of her first tasks was to look at a re-platforming of the website. They’d been on a custom-built site for 12 years, and it was time to get onto a best-practice platform with more security and stability.

The transformation project and partnerships

As Suzie’s team embarked on a journey through significant tech stack selections and a platform migration, they put out an RFP for an agency partner. After a thorough process, they chose to team up with Overdose.

Knowing it was going to be a long-term process, Suzie explains how having a cultural fit was critical for them when selecting a digital partner. Reflecting on the process, she says from the start, there was great synergy with Overdose and that played out beneficially as the project progressed and as they had to jump hurdles—like global pandemics—along the way.

“It’s a big commitment. You’re signing on for a couple of years of your life and you’re going to spend a lot of money and you want to make sure that the partner that you’ve chosen can not only do the work technically, but you like them, and you want to spend all that time with them.”

“It’s almost like being in a relationship,” Overdose’s Laura agrees. “Particularly in that delivery stage and it’s probably a good three, four, even more, months where our clients speak to our team every single day—the same time every day—and it can be monotonous.”

Fortunately, the cultural alignment was there, and they are all still happily on speaking terms.

The digital transformation took almost two years to get to their current point where they’ve moved to Magento and simultaneously built two new sites—one for Signet, one for Insignia.

Maintaining culture through Covid

There’s a new, Covid-induced reality where we are forced to be online more, and face-to-face less. In this new environment, it can be tricky to uphold a sense of culture and keep up human connectivity, especially for a business, like Signet, where culture is a much-revered value.

Covid has also delivered a new era of working arrangements. Many businesses, including Signet, have implemented a system of coming into the office two or three days a week and working from home a couple of days a week. Suzie considers it a positive change. “Prior to Covid, I was in the office every day. As a full-time working mum, that could be really hard to manage. Even though there are challenges working from home and having kids at home as well, there’s something really nice about seeing your kids more—even if you are working, they can come and say hello.”

A flexible working environment adds to the challenge of keeping a corporate culture alive. Especially given people often chose to work for a particular company because of the culture, the people, and the office environment. At Signet, they’re working on finding a way to get everyone to connect as a group at least once a week.

Ultimately, it comes down to striking a balance between connectivity and flexibility.

A culture of cultivating talent

Laura and Suzie have a shared passion for providing opportunities to young people—helping them get a start on their careers and then nurturing their talent and growth. Signet and Insignia have had a graduate program in place for about 20 years. It’s a structured, two-year program led by the Head of CX in collaboration with their People and Culture team. Suzie explains that all graduates start in the call center because, as a B2B company, the business has a large phone and email channel. “When they start there,” Suzie says, “they get that real foundation across the whole business—they get to know and learn our customers, our product, the culture, how things work, our ERP system, our CRM system. And then they tend to branch out from there.”

Aside from learning on the job, the graduates are taken away for conference weekends involving guest speakers on a range of topics, although Covid put a halt to this for a while and they had to change tack. In lieu, they ran a virtual webinar series with external speakers to keep stimulating the graduates and encourage their professional growth.

They run anywhere from 20 to 25 graduates across the group. In the past, the majority were sales and marketing graduates, but these days is more of a mix with supply chain graduates and HR. Many of the grads go into permanent roles—Suzie says about half her team right now has come through the graduate program. And, many have progressed to senior leadership positions, which really goes to show how successful a graduate program can be when offered by a company dedicated to, and passionate about, fostering young talent.

Signet’s digital journey—Tech stack choices

Signet had some pretty major changes during their digital transformation, especially migrating from a custom ecommerce platform to Magento. Although it’s still early days, Suzie says the tech stack choices all seem to be panning out really well. “I think we’re definitely happy with the selection of Magento and could see throughout the project how complex some of the requirements were, and we just wouldn’t have been able to do these things with some of the SaaS platforms we had thought might have been an option.”

Giving B2B customers a B2C experience

At Signet, they’re consciously using a B2C approach, which, for a B2B business, is a really forward-thinking attitude. They recognize that at the end of the day, business customers are still people who deserve enjoyable customer experiences. “Our big focus this year is personalisation,” says Suzie. “We’re using the Nosto platform for that—both for the product recommendation, but also for the content personalisation.”

Integrating the tech in a complex environment

When a B2B business uses consumer tech, there can be a lot of customisation required, and Signet has especially found this with the email platform, which is taking longer than anticipated to integrate. “Probably in hindsight, it would have been good to be working on that one a little bit earlier than we had planned,” says Suzie.

Also, at Signet, there is a massive range in the purchasing power of customers—from Client X who’s spending half a million dollars a year, to Client B who’s at $50,000—mum-and-dad businesses versus the top-end-of-towns. These ecosystems of client groups, all with their different pricing structures, provide many layers of complexity. “When someone from a company logs in to our website, we want them to see their negotiated contract price,” Suzie explains. “Or, when the customer does an on-site search, or if product a recommendation is made to them, it’s got to be their price.”

Another big consideration when selecting the tech stack was the need for out-of-the-box integrations between tool X, Y, and Z. In a B2B environment, that’s particularly important because of the need for more customisation, or for creating different workflows, or to cater to those different customer groups at different pricing levels—not to mention the sheer volume of SKUs and product categories.

Perseverance in working through all the challenges has culminated in a sophisticated, all-encompassing ecommerce solution with all the bells and whistles—UX, SEO, information architecture, keyword research, performance marketing, fee connections.

The digital transformation outcome

Signet is predicting some really significant growth in the coming year, driven by their new digital landscape. Reflecting back, Suzie says while they always had a very solid, well-performing website, they were really ‘standing still’ with the previous technology. It was custom, but not best-practice, which meant even small enhancements would cost a lot of money and there were a lot of things they wanted to do but couldn’t. “Now we’ve re-platformed, we’ve got heaps of plans. And I think even just little things, like now we can integrate with a better Google shopping feed—something we couldn’t do before because of the platform. That’s already giving us extra results.”

Other benefits include Magento’s superior handling of SEO and greatly improved responsiveness on the mobile site. Before, they didn’t engage in mobile advertising because the site was awful from a UX perspective.

Another area Suzie says she’s excited about is the AI-driven personalisation and cross-sell, which was also not possible with the old platform. “We’re so excited to be using Nosto and see what kind of results we can get from that, especially because we’ve got that really large SKU count and lots of different categories and so many opportunities there.”

With their best-practice tech stack in place, it’s going to be all the little things that contribute to growth. After what was a massive year re-platforming, Suzie says it’s time to give the team a little bit of a break now—they’ve done the hard work.

Now, it’s the technology’s turn to shine.

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