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The Great Reopening: Bríd Drohan-Stewart of Woolworths NZ

Since the start of 2020 the world has faced immeasurable challenges as a result of the pandemic – economic, health, social, emotional – Covid-19 has impacted every aspect of human life around the world. Whilst we may never be Covid-free again, we are forging ahead nonetheless. With our national vaccination goal creeping ever closer, we can now look to the future with hope and begin to envisage our community thriving once again.  

We are on the cusp of this transition to recovery and as New Zealand’s largest Out of Home media company, we are incredibly excited about the fact that Kiwis will soon be able embrace life outside of their homes again, very soon.

oOh!media is proud to support the TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards and the category of Marketer of the Year. As part of our Great Reopening series, oOh!media and NZ Marketing magazine want to gain insight into how these esteemed marketing leaders are planning their roads to recovery, and get their views on what lies ahead.

First up, Bríd Drohan-Stewart, General Manager Brand at Woolworths NZ.

What are the emerging trends impacting your industry as we approach the great reopening?

Coming out of the year we’ve had, there will certainly be a sustained focus on safety and wellbeing – both from a customer perspective and a team perspective. We’ll continue to have all of the usual health and safety measures in place, and will communicate those to our customers, but we also need to look at how we tackle some of the by-products of lockdowns and Covid-19 too. We’ve seen plenty of changes in how people treat each other in our stores, with a huge increase in verbal and physical abuse towards our team especially. Our approach will be one that calls for our customers to just be decent and to remind them that a little common decency goes a long way.

How will your approach to consumer engagement change with summer on the way and an increase in in-store shopping and socialising predicted?

With Christmas travel around the country now looking possible, we expect to see the usual migration of Kiwis to their favourite holiday spots – particularly Aucklanders who will be itching to escape the city. We have a really robust online shopping offer, with increased service in holiday hot spots to meet this demand with contactless delivery, which means we can deliver a great, safe summer for all Kiwis’ regardless of their location. For our in-store customers, we’ll be getting into the Christmas and summer spirit while also making sure we’ve got measures in place to keep them safe. 

How do you think the marketing industry will adjust to the new normal? 

The marketing industry has actually been quite resilient and adaptable to the changing landscape – we’ve become very good at pivoting at very short notice and considering what our customers’ priorities are in a world where we’re living with Covid-19.

Over the coming months, I think the industry will continue to adjust to where our audiences are. I suspect that linear TV demand will fall as audiences look for more digital content in new and emerging channels, particularly as they get out and about this summer and spend time with family and friends.

Personalisation now an expectation.

When Covid hit digital transformation accelerated overnight. Consumers have been conditioned to expect a level of hyper-personalisation that marketers must deliver. The customer expects so much more than just a seamless digital transaction, they want frictionless, anticipatory, personalised experiences across the entire customer journey. Business will need to adjust to meet the expectations that have been set, not only by competitors but business in general.

Purpose is critical.

There is growing recognition that social, economic and environmental challenges are systemic and need to be addressed as such, people are looking for daring approaches to effect true, transparent, inclusive change. Which is why New Zealanders are wanting businesses to take a stand on their behalf when it comes to issues we face in society. Businesses can no longer sit on the sidelines, people are expecting businesses to take a stand and lead the change. Consumers will continue to vote with their wallet and hold business accountable for the contributions that they are making towards change. If we don’t communicate our purpose on a greater level we will be dismissed. 

In a crowded market, how important do you think it is to integrate channels and campaigns?

Countdown customers interact with our brand across such a wide variety of devices and channels, so it’s critically important for us to understand which touchpoints and channels will resonate best. How we measure our campaigns and how we move our customers from consideration to purchase is key when making decisions about our channel mix.

Integration within campaigns is no longer a nice to have, it is imperative. The fragmented media landscape means that there is no longer a single customer journey. There is now a plethora of touchpoints which need to be considered.

Although the channels and the way that customers are interacting with different platforms is constantly evolving, one thing should remain consistent throughout, and this is the message itself.

Integration ensures we have coherence, meaning our different communications are logically connected. It also delivers consistency, so our multiple messages support and reinforce as opposed to contradict. And finally an integrated approach is complementary and synergistic meaning the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, delivering higher overall brand impact.

How have your marketing/business priorities changed? 

As a retailer, we need to be responsive to changes in shopping behaviours. For example, lockdowns have meant that our shoppers are visiting our stores less frequently, but their basket size has grown. Regardless of the changing environment, value for money the best of fresh and providing the right products at the right price remains an important customer need and ongoing focus for us – particularly as we move into a period of inflationary pressure and rising interest rates coming out of the pandemic. 

International shipping delays and supply chain challenges will continue to cause some issues for us here in New Zealand. We’re continuing to work hard with our suppliers to make sure we’ve got all of our customers’ favourite brands available on shelf or online each week. 

We also remain focused on not just meeting our ambitious sustainability goals we have set, but also on how we can communicate these efforts to our customers who are increasingly making environmentally focused decisions when doing their shopping. Telling our customers about all of the little things we do across our business to help make kiwi’s lives a little better every day for a better tomorrow will be a key part of that. 

How are you celebrating our summer of freedom?

Personally, I’m looking forward to playing some golf around the regions in Katikati, Mount Maunganui, Taupō, and Rotoura and doing some trails on my new lockdown purchase – an e-mountain bike! Of course, I’m also looking forward to having some good food and nice wine with my husband and certainly not doing any video calls (although I may visit a few Countdown stores along the way to buy some great food & wine and to say hello to the team).


Bríd Drohan-Stewart is a Marketer of the Year Finalist in the 2021 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards. You can watch our Virtual Awards Show right here on December 2 at 12pm.

About David Nothling-Demmer

David Nothling-Demmer is Editor of NZ Marketing magazine.

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