Conversations with... Alejandro Amado, Internet Commercial Manager at Easy, part of Cencosud Group
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Alejandro Amado is, since late 2016, Internet Commercial Manager at Easy, the Home Improvement division of Cencosud Group. Before that, he was the Category Management and Pricing Manager also at Easy. He holds an MBA from Duke as well as a Degree in Economics from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (Argentina).
TRC: Alejandro, tell us a bit about your career in Retail.
Alejandro Amado: My relationship with retail started back in 2012 when I did my MBA internship within the Supply Chain Department at Easy Chile. This 3-month internship allowed me to join the company full time in August 2013.
My first role was as Category Management and Pricing Manager. My main responsibility was leading the team in charge of adopting the Category Management ways of working which included actions such as alignment of product mix to strategy, store clustering, detecting assortment gaps, space productivity optimization, … This initiative delivered very positive impacts on key categories and set the foundations for the current Category Management team at Easy.
In December 2016 I joined the e-commerce team as Commercial Manager. According to results, we are doing a good job as sales and market share are consistently growing and prospects look promising.
TRC: For those who are not familiar with Home Improvement, what would you highlight of this sector?
AA: I would split the answer in three: customers, products and competition.
Regarding customers, they are very heterogeneous as the range of products offered meet very diverse needs, from building materials to home décor. This fact forces us to define core categories to become an obvious destination banner for our customers, as well as to decide which are the categories whose main goal is ensuring clients have a complete commercial offering. Unfortunately, you cannot be authority in all categories.
Hereafter, if you are willing to have a broad range of products to meet a specific need, then it is required to be very much in tune with the market to avoid excessive inventory and high levels of low rotation stock. Although this is critical in almost all retail sectors, the Home Improvement has two specificities that make it even more complex: a) the nature of selling by “projects” and; b) the size of many products on offer.
Finally, there is an intense competition as many actors compete in at least one of the Home Improvement categories, from specialist hardware stores to department stores, home décor and even supermarkets. That situation generates an intense competition, where the main players have different objectives and market practices.
TRC: Which has been Easy e-commerce department evolution until today?
AA: When I joined the department there was already an ongoing and solid e-commerce but with low maturity levels. The organization had adopted a new platform some months before and was in the process of improving the web experience, with focus in mobile.
From that moment on, customer options were significantly broadened, both from the assortment and the delivery angles: the number of “green” suppliers (that is, those with no stock in Easy warehouse) multiplied; Click and Collect and Ship from Store where are also added as delivery options. Moreover, we worked on increasing online product availability and ensuring a smoother site experience.
All these actions resulted in a high sales dynamism and the share of online sales reached more than 5% of Easy total sales (it was less than 1% just a few years earlier), making the .cl the most important store of the chain. This fact brought an increase in operations as orders for all the delivery models were multiplied, especially those for click and collect.
During the last months we have developed categories with a historical low contribution to web sales. As long as our technological and operational capabilities evolve, the natural path is consolidating Easy’s product offering in all categories no matter the channel.
TRC: Have you already developed an integrated (omnichannel) customer journey? Which has been the role of the physical store in the consolidation of the online channel?
AA: Even though we had significantly evolved in terms of design and development of the omnichannel journey, we still have a lot to do. In some categories there are still opportunities to bring more options to our customers, primarily in terms of assortment. In this regard, we are moving towards the deployment of in-store self-service kiosks whose goal is improving experience through a broader assortment and immediate collection.
The brick and mortar stores have been a key pillar for us, especially after the deployment of click and collect against store stocks. Nowadays this modality accounts for almost half of our online orders and reached this level soon after we enabled the technological and operative capabilities, which gives an idea of its potential. Apart from that, the level of exigency has been increasing and we are already offering same day collection or even 2-hour collection.
So, it is obvious that the physical stores are one of our competitive advantages as they provide us with many contact points with customers, capillarity that is highly valued.
For its part, we have different delivery models: home delivery from either DC, store or supplier. Collection from store is done against the store stock or DC stock. We also have collection at our logistics partners’ offices. As a result, we are present along the entire country.
TRC: From your experience, which are the key success factors when addressing the development of the online channel?
AA: I think is important to mind the entire experience.
The site should invite to a pleasant and seamless experience, the products must create value, the logistics has to ensure compliance to promise, and the aftersales service should quickly solve customer claims.
I think the importance of each of these capabilities may vary depending on the industry but if you don’t consider the experience as a whole, sooner or later, the thread will be cut by the thinnest and that will impact on customer´s choice.
In today’s world customers are highly empowered, they manage lots of information and they are very demanding. If the e-commerce falls short the brand damage might be irreversible.
TRC: After these years in the Retail industry, can you tell us an anecdote?
AA: Well, there was a huge sales event some years ago. Due to issues with the company’s logistics IT platform all the commercial team had to go to the DC to help processing orders for mattresses. When I say processing, I mean we were literally picking the mattresses and loading the trucks. This situation allowed us to understand the impact of our commercial definitions (or the lack of them) on the daily operations. Well, we not only learnt a lot but also made it to deliver many orders on time…
I´ve heard that the best way to test business performance is getting on a truck and start delivering orders to customers. That is one of the best ways to capture timely and real feedback.
TRC: And, the last question, if you were to define Retail with one Word, which would you choose?
AA: Ufff, maybe the most difficult question. Many words come to my mind but I choose “impact”.
Retail is permanently present in our lives as consumers. And it is also true that retail is always seeking to improve the customer experience, looking for the way to become more relevant for customers and generate loyalty. The potential of the Retail industry to impact in the people’s day by day is huge and there is where the main challenge lies.
TRC: Many thanks Alejandro for chatting with us. It has been a very interesting interview.