Powering Human Experience

Season 2 | Episode 1 - Angus McDonald - Barbeques Galore

Ray Poynter
July 29, 2021
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Season 2 has arrived! Episode 1 features Angus McDonald, CEO of Barbeques Galore in Australia.

Below is a transcript of Ray's interview with Angus:

Ray Poynter

Hi everyone, Ray Poynter here with another Powering Human Experience podcast. I'm delighted today to invite Angus McDonald, the CEO of Barbeques Galore to join us.

Angus McDonald

Thanks, Ray. It's great to be with you today.

Ray Poynter

Thank you so much for making time. For our listeners outside of Australia, could you tell us a little bit about Barbeques Galore?

Angus McDonald

Barbeques Galore is Australia's largest specialty retailer of barbeques and accessories, outdoor furniture, and heating products. We've got 87 stores across the country, which provide a really broad assortment of product for really everything that our customers need, to make the most of their outdoor living area.

The business was founded in 1977. And so, over 40 years of history, with a really strong connection in the Australian market around what is a pretty special occasion, for many Australian households. And that is the great Aussie backyard barbeque.

Ray Poynter

Great, OK, that gives it a bit of context, I suppose the other context is the terrible year and a half we've had over the last 18 months with COVID. Thinking about the barbeques business, the change, how has all of that impacted you?

Angus McDonald

I guess, like many discretionary goods retailers, I best describe it as a bit of a roller coaster ride. If you think back to where we were, say, in March last year - that was that top of the roller coaster moment, when really we were all faced with some great uncertainty, no one really knew what was going to happen next. And we had all sorts of horrible predictions about how terrible things may become. Consumers, obviously, were very worried about whether they'll be able to continue to earn an income, and a lot of uncertainty about what support and other things would be in place. So clearly, for any discretionary goods retailer, that was a pretty challenging time.

However, here in Australia, just as in many other places around the world, not too long after that, a lot of additional supports were coming into place, governments were moving to put income support arrangements for anybody who may have been stood down from their work, and that really removed a lot of that immediate uncertainty. And thereafter, people then came to terms with the fact that they were going to be spending a lot more time at home.

As we've seen, right around the world, in Europe, in North America, and certainly here in Australia, as well, a lot of those DIY and at home categories have seen some pretty tremendous growth over the year or so that's followed. And that certainly has been the case for us at Barbeques Galore, really, from Easter onwards. We've seen some tremendous growth across all areas of our business, as people have really looked for ways to keep themselves occupied and make the most of the increased amount of time that they're spending at home.

Ray Poynter

Thanks, that’s great additional context. So, from a Potentiate angle, we’re really interested in listening to customers learning from customers, and consumers. How does this relate to Barbeques Galore, and the way that you run the business?

Angus McDonald

I guess it's important to start by recognizing that, as a discretionary goods retailer in a considered purchase category, you know, really, that engagement with customers is ever so important, because there are products that we sell that last seven or eight years, and if somebody isn't quite as engaged as they could be, it's very easy to defer or put off a purchase like that. So. if anything, we’re under more pressure than many other parts of retail, to work very hard at making sure we've got a really rich and engaging customer experience.

The work we do with Potentiate, to really help identify and draw out some very valuable insights from our customers, really helps us to get a clear understanding of what we're doing well, where our opportunities for improvement are, and any particular friction points that we really need to be most focused on.

Ray Poynter

You've talked about the importance of customers there. What do you see as the main challenges over the next few years?

Angus McDonald

I guess it's important to recognize that customers’ expectations are changing very rapidly. And often, retail was very regionally focused, I guess you could say that, in the global context, Australian retailers really only had to worry about competing with other Australian retailers, and so on.

What's happening of course now though, is the internet has really completely unlocked what is a borderless world of retail, and customers are able to set their expectations based on the things they're seeing, in terms of the best class in retail in all parts of the world. And they translate those expectations back into the experience they have every day, when they interact with their local retail brands.

And the other thing that we're seeing at the same time, along with those escalating expectations, is that the brands that are becoming most successful are becoming more tribal as well. And so that's particularly the case in a discretionary high-involvement, high-engagement category, like the one that we participate in. So, there's a bar that's continuing to lift there about what customers are looking for in terms of the experience that retailers can provide and create. No longer is it simply good enough just to have a product at the right price, we're looking at how we can really build a much more immersive and engaging experience to help our customers to get the most out of that product that they might buy from our brand. It's more than just selling them a barbeque, we're actually helping them to cook the perfect steak!

Ray Poynter

I think that's really interesting when you talk there about becoming more tribal, because we're seeing that in all sorts of areas. Can you just say a little bit more about how becoming tribal relates to identifying with Barbeques Galore? And maybe a little bit about how the journey then goes on, because they buy a wonderful product, and you say they might have that for seven or eight years. And you've got to keep contact with them during that time.

Angus McDonald

That's absolutely the challenge, like many durable goods retailers, they look at the end of the day, it is not many products, if any products, that we sell that you couldn't possibly buy somewhere else. And with that borderless world of retail, that's more the case today than it's ever been before. And so, to have a meaningful connection with our customers, we've got to invest a lot more in developing a really rich level of engagement, that goes well beyond just having a broad assortment of products, or thinking a lot more about the occasion in which the customer is likely to use it. And how we can put a lot more richness around that experience to really help them get the most from that.

That then actually becomes a point of difference in the experience that we can create, in that we'll do more than just sell someone a product, we're actually helping them to find the right one. And then when they get the product, to really maximize that product and get the most out of it. Going beyond that is actually then also about that ongoing level of engagement. So, some of the most important areas of growth in our business over the last few years has actually been really focused on all of those things that you can do with your barbeque, in between barbeque purchases. That's thinking about accessories and rubs and sauces, and how we can help people in trying different styles of cooking. These are some of the most exciting areas of our category. And they come from engaging with a really highly-immersed customer. These are people that are really passionate about barbequing, and really passionate about exploring and trying different styles of cooking.

Ray Poynter

If Potentiate could wave a magic wand, what would you like us to be able to do for you in terms of customer insights, knowledge etc.

Angus McDonald

I guess we're in an age of data, where everything is about how we can draw insights from data and become maybe shifting from being reactive to being more predictive. And I think that's absolutely a journey that many retailers around the world are on. If we think about and use the example of how we're using things like NPS surveys, it's all about reacting to feedback that our customers provide us. And that's really valuable and important to us and helps us to improve our customer experience, moving forward. But a real opportunity, I think that we're seeing today with data, data analytics, and how we can draw a lot of those behavioral inputs to become a lot better at actually predicting things before they happen, perhaps having those opportunities to identify when we may need to do something differently or better.

In terms of delivering a customer experience ahead of time. I think that's some of the some of the great opportunities that we see coming along. And Ray, my background previous to Barbeques Galore was in another retailer, where I spent a significant period of that time leading our e-commerce business. And so, this is something that's very commonplace in e-commerce businesses, using machine learning and other things to try and develop a better and richer, more engaging experience around the customer.

What I think is really exciting now is we're seeing some of that thinking actually spreading to the more traditional path of retail, and it's all about using some of those insights to really help tailor and enrich the experience we're able to create.

Ray Poynter

Agree, there’s such a lot of growth in what we call either predictive analytics or sometimes prescriptive analytics.

Angus, thank you so much for your time today. That's been fantastic.

Angus McDonald

Thanks, Ray.

About Angus McDonald - CEO, Barbeques Galore

Prior to joining Barbeques Galore, Angus was a senior executive at ASX-listed Super Retail Group, and was included on Internet Retailing’s 2018 list of the top 50 people in ecommerce. Angus is also a member of the Advisory Board for the National Online Retailer Association, holds a Master of Business Administration, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Angus is the Chief Executive Officer at Barbeques Galore, a retailer of Barbeques and Outdoor products with a network of 87 stores across Australia. Since joining Barbeques Galore in 2019, Angus has led the development of new store formats, acceleration of new product development, and investment in brand and omnichannel capability. During this time, Barbeques Galore has been recognised as one of Inside Retail’s 20 coolest retailers in 2020, and has also been a finalist in the NRA National Retail Awards, and the 2021 Australian Retail Innovators Awards.