Stack it high and watch it fly: Hotfoot head on retail miracles and lying about her age

Stack it high and watch it fly: Hotfoot head on retail miracles and lying about her age
Juanita Neville-Te Rito, chief executive of retail agency Hotfoot, talks eagle costumes, the WWGLL factor, and looking beyond the four Ps.

Juanita Neville-Te Rito, chief executive of retail agency Hotfoot, talks giant eagle costumes, the WWGLL factor, and looking beyond the four Ps. (More industry musings can be found on her blog, Retail Geek.)

juanita neville-te rito hotfoot idealogHow did you first get into retail?

I lied about my age to serve at the counter of a bakery to earn $4.20/ hour selling buns & bread. In Australia you had to be 14 to get a job but I had just turned 13 and was desperate to get out into it.

The first real grown-up role I did in retail out of university was in the marketing department of Eagle Boys Dial-A-Pizza. These were a bunch of young cowboys with huge ambitions, energy and creative ideas who took on the big boys and won (Pizza Hut later bought them out here in New Zealand but they are still going strong in Australia).

I learned so much in the role from having a unique market strategy – such as having a regional strong-hold and strong franchisee engagement – about what you could do to engage shoppers' hearts and minds by building a compelling and differentiated proposition and delivering on it. I also learned that wearing a giant pink eagle costume can be dangerous and bad for your health.

What is it about retail that has you hooked?

I love the vibrancy of transactional storytelling – the way you take a product and create demand where sometimes it didn’t even exist by delivering a 360-degree experience through sights, sounds, smells, textures, interactions and selling dreams. It’s what I call a little retail miracle, when you transform a shopper into a buyer.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I have been fortunate to work across a number of different retail businesses; big box, QSR [quick service restaurants], multi-national and everything in-between. I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to help turn around the culture, engagement and sales results of retail businesses on both sides of the Tasman.

I've also enjoyed bringing to life the value of shopper insights and the use of shopper data to entrench engagement and advocacy of a shopper and in the past few years getting retailers heads around the fact that retail environments are not simply about a store design – they are spaces to create 4D experiences that capture the shopper's heart and mind resulting in them shopping with the retailer more and more often.

What's Hotfoot all about?

Hotfoot exists to provide retailers with the best insights, engagement strategies and brand experiences to ignite shopper’s desires and generate transactions at the till. We help New Zealand retailers turn shoppers into buyers by making retail happen.

Having been a retailer for 20 years myself, alongside many of my Hotfoot team members, we have what we call the WWGLL factor in our DNA: We know What Good Looks Like.

By applying our retail nous to businesses we work with our clients to deliver creative business strategies, marketing and communications plans and solutions plus everything in between. For example, starting from the store environment right through to the advertising campaign to how you engage your teams internally to deliver the promise, plus a whole lot of other touchpoints. We transform retail performance in measurable ways that influence the KPIs of the business.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for retailers today?

Retailing as a generalisation in New Zealand and Australia is pretty mediocre. For a long time retailers have been able to stack it high and watch it fly. However, the emergence of digital transferred the power to the hands of the shopper rather than the power being in the hands of the retailer. 

As an industry we have underinvested in our physical assets, delivering poor experience to shoppers, under-invested in technological solutions to optimise performance and solutions for shoppers and been really slow to innovate with new categories or ways of doing business. You can see some of this changing now, though.

The biggest challenge for retailers is to transform their thinking, organisation structure and culture to become curators that deliver content storytelling with transaction retailing. The key is being on the shopper's terms, so an evolution from segmented customisation to seriously individual customisation. This might sound all fluffy and big gesture to the retail fraternity but by offering a 360-degree experience a shopper can experience, be entertained, surprised and delighted. Retailing is global and there is no place to hide what good can look like, so you need to have strings to you bow beyond the old 4 Ps (Product, Price, Promotion, Place).

It’s the up and coming generations who will have expectations that means retailers have to get with the programme now or be obsolete. The other biggies for retailers are smaller more nimble 'glocal' concepts and providing a shopping experience that's seamless whenever, whenever the shopper wants to interface with it.