This year will certainly go down in history as one of the hardest and strangest for businesses all around Australia.
But throughout the unprecedented challenges experienced since bushfires drove state emergencies late last year, Liquor Marketing Group (LMG) has only strengthened its resolve to meet its primary goal – supporting members.
Gavin Saunders, LMG CEO, told National Liquor News: “Calendar year 2020 has been extraordinary in many ways. We have seen some extremely positive outcomes alongside once-in-a-generation challenges, all occurring within a short period of time.”
For some LMG members, the uniquely tough times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded what was already a difficult year, after bushfires and floods impacted retailers in January and February.
“For LMG, our single focus of supporting our members has never been so important. We have had to move quickly and adapt to new rules, restrictions and shifts in retailing and consumer spending. Fortunately, LMG was extremely well positioned to be able to support members during these challenges,” Saunders said.
Some examples of how they’ve been doing this includes helping members adapt to an increasingly digital and virtual focused world. E-commerce has been particularly important for business success of late, illustrated in the increased success and speed of uptake of LMG’s e-commerce solution for members. Since mid-March, two new stores per week have come on board for e-commerce, with quick adoption by local customers too.
“We have seen an incredible escalation in both orders and customer numbers during this period, and we have now rolled out the e-commerce solution to 159 stores,” Saunders said.
Another important area in the digital sphere where focus has been successful is social media – where LMG increased promotional support for members by more than 500 per cent during the initial COVID-19 peak to drive more customers. This, combined with a revised promotional program, helped drive loyalty of existing shoppers as well as attract new ones at a crucial time for the industry.
Technology is also at play behind the scenes, and a greater focus on data insights through electronic means has helped LMG BDMs provide tailored support to members, even when the pandemic meant they couldn’t be in-store.
After weathering challenges with the support of LMG, member stores are returning positive results, that Saunders said puts everyone in the best position to pull each other through the pandemic.
“The results derived by LMG members through their retail trade have been extremely pleasing and we hope that these make a partial offset to the impact on other areas of their operations,” Saunders said.
“Moving into FY2021, LMG is in a strong position to continue to provide unwavering support for members with continued increase in investment into our programs, marketing and promotions to enhance LMG members retail offers.”
That position was so strong earlier in the year, that it was leveraged to assist members with cash flow. March 2020 rebates were estimated and paid early, giving much needed support at a critical time for businesses across the world, grappling with the impacts of COVID-19.
The end of the financial year, despite looking quite different to the norm on most fronts, also brought some great positives for LMG. Although the pandemic has caused significant challenges, it didn’t stop the group from gaining 22 new member stores in the March – June quarter.
Saunders said: “This result is extremely pleasing and highlights that during testing times, it is incredibly important to have the right offer for consumers with the ability to reach them through all selling and promotional mediums, including e-commerce and social and digital.
“The efforts of the LMG BDMs have been extraordinary. While maintaining social distancing and restrictions, they have collectively supported both new and existing members with fitout upgrades, relays, in-store execution, and our e-commerce roll out including member POS connectivity to provide shoppers the full store range and pricing.”
Moving into the second half of the calendar year and the new financial year, it’s expected that the pandemic will continue to impact Australian businesses in ways never before seen. To combat potential negative effects LMG will continue to focus on opportunities for member success. From advocating with organisations and policy makers, to maintaining open and prompt communication, all the way through to fostering adaptability and customer retention, Saunders said LMG will be doing whatever it can to lift members up in their times of need.
“The focus for LMG does not change, it is all about how we best support our members,” Saunders said.
“This support will be enhanced during the second half of the year in terms of both the investment of LMG into promotional plans and the ability to target consumers through our traditional marketing mediums (catalogues, press, radio, etc). We have also made exciting advancements in our social and digital promotional platforms and our customer databases for both e-commerce and electronic direct mail. The ability to send offers tailored to individual consumer preferences has encouraged both awareness and conversion and has driven greater sales results.”