As an iconic Australian fashion retailer, Cue is known for providing expert knowledge and styling advice in over 200 stores around Australia. Our operations were put to the test when foot traffic fell and stores closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Our response was to open up a conversation with our customers; we asked them early on in the pandemic, ‘What do you want to hear from us?’ The Cue customer is very loyal, and they understand the brand, so we trusted them to guide us.
Fast delivery to loyal customers
The first change we needed to create was a supercharged online shopping experience.
At any time, we have around 10,000 units of stock in our warehouse but close to 80,000 units across our network of stores. And in any given week, we'll release about 30 new styles. Our customers love that newness and freshness, but what it means is that sizes sell out quickly in certain locations.
Over the past few years we’ve been working very hard to ensure customers can shop the entire range from an online experience, by automating fulfilment from any store as well as our warehouse. We call this the ‘Endless Aisle’, removing out of stock frustrations for online or in-store shoppers by fulfilling a purchase from any location, regardless of the order touchpoint.
Our partnership with Australia Post already enabled direct to consumer delivery from our warehouse or stores nationwide. Our fulfilment system can accurately pinpoint the stock that is closest to the customer for every order. The store then generates a consignment which triggers a StarTrack Premium collection. Every store has its own StarTrack account and can generate labels through its POS system.
As a result, when we had to close some stores during lockdown, we were quickly able to turn them into ‘dark stores’ for online order fulfilment – ensuring our retail staff could continue working and helping to keep our local manufacturers in business.
New style for a work-from-home world
Our customers also told us that their style needs had changed as they stayed at home, with their work and social lives all online. As an event-driven fashion retailer, this posed a challenge that was met with styles perfect for wearing while on a Zoom call, and accelerating the implementation of new technology that we had in the works.
We saw the need to deliver a more personalised online shopping experience – one that went above and beyond the standard online store.
Our virtual stylist experience is the culmination of years of tech investment. This platform keeps retail staff connected with our customers – and the fulfilment systems were already in place to ensure stock could be delivered direct to consumers.
Whenever we look at developing new ideas, the ultimate goal is to create the best customer experience. All the underlying technology – Artificial Intelligence (AI) recommendations, the booking platform – is what enables our stylists to provide such a personal experience during a virtual session.
Customers book an appointment online with their preferred stylist and are asked a series of questions about their needs and preferences. If they have purchased with us before, our team has their history along with AI-generated recommendations.
The stylist has a dedicated area in the store and, armed with a video tripod, earbuds and a rack of outfit ideas, guides the customer through their selection online.
There’s no pressure to buy: favourite items can be added to the customer’s wish list for later, and the styling session is currently free of charge.
However, this personal touch is clearly working. Conversion rates for virtual styling sessions are consistently over 60%, and average transaction values are over five times higher than normal.
The power of connection
When the pandemic hit, we deepened our connection with our customers, and we’ve been amazed by the support they gave us in return.
Providing customers with an in-store level of experience, along with the opportunity to shop when and how they want, has been powerful for Cue.
We gave our Cue Club Black members priority access to the virtual stylist platform, before launching it onto social media. We were just blown away by the response to the initiative – the excitement was fantastic.
Amid COVID-19 restrictions, it was clear just how much customers valued – and missed – personal connections. This sense of connection has been a huge catalyst for the success of the platform, and has given those customers who only shop online a chance to have what was traditionally an ‘in-store only’ experience.
I’m proud to say that, more than ever through this period, we’ve been guided by our customers.
Having spent the time adding a strong technology and fulfilment foundation to our quality fashion philosophy, Cue is in a solid position to keep meeting the needs of our loyal shoppers – both in-store and online.