- Saad Usman, Chief Operating Officer
Miniso UK's Chief Operating Officer, Saad Usman, shares how Miniso UK is building scalable operations from the start with Retail Pro Prism for fantastic customer experiences across the purchase journey.
Tell us a little about Miniso.
MINISO is a Japanese-inspired lifestyle product retailer, offering high quality household goods, cosmetics and food at affordable prices. MINISO values excellent product design, value for money and comfortable shopping experience for its shoppers. The company was founded by CEO Ye Guofu, and the MINISO brand has opened almost 5,000 stores in over 90 countries and regions since 2013, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, Italy, UAE, India, and Mexico. We own the sole rights to operate as Miniso in the UK and Northern Ireland.
Miniso UK partnered with Retail Pro in 2019. What is the scope of the business right now?
We currently have 7 stores with several store openings planned for 2022. We're constantly looking for new locations across the country. When choosing new locations there are a number of factors that we take into consideration. These vary from logistical & operational (can we supply the stock to this area?) to size and location of the unit (does it have suitable footfall and can the brand provide its full spectrum of products?), and whether our target demographic is present and willing to travel.
What's the vision for Miniso UK?
The vision is to grow our business with Retail Pro Prism to 50 stores in 5 years. It's an ambitious plan, but an achievable one. The journey so far has given us proof of concept and shown us that consumers love our products and what we stand for. Now we know what we need to do to scale our business in a way that gives customers a fantastic in-store experience, and how we will build our business on the Retail Pro Prism platform.
When choosing your POS software, what were the main factors that made you believe you could build out this vision for Miniso UK with Retail Pro Prism?
One of the things that drew us in with Retail Pro Prism is that it's scalable, and we can tailor it as we need for our business. Retail Pro Prism is a comprehensive software package – we're still learning new capabilities all the time with assistance from our Retail Pro Business Partner, Pinnaca Retail Solutions, and the software has new updates coming. The fact that Retail Pro Prism can be cloud-based and that support is available remotely were also factors we took into account when we chose Retail Pro.
What are some of the ways in which you have tailored Retail Pro Prism to your specific needs as a business?
We integrated Retail Pro Prism with our warehouse management system. We've also explored how to integrate Retail Pro Prism to our web commerce, and these projects are supported by Pinnaca.
In the future, there will be further development, such as auto-replenishment. We've seen that this is possible with Retail Pro Prism and with Pinnaca's help and guidance we will adapt the software to our specific needs as our business grows and evolves.
When the integration between Retail Pro Prism and your web commerce is completed, what will omnichannel look like for Miniso UK?
The easiest way to describe a true omnichannel experience, both from the business' and consumers' point of view, would be to establish how seamless it is. Management of the stock, of ordering, setting prices, promoting offers, activating loyalty programmes – all of these capabilities and opportunities are crucial to be providing a true omni-channel experience.
Right now, we use Magento for our web commerce and it is cumbersome to manage the same set of SKUs, prices, stock files, sales files, etc. on two separate platforms. The plan is to have all data feed into Retail Pro Prism. This will ensure accurate reporting of the sales, better reconciliation, better stock management, more accurate inventory management across all the sites and hopefully allow us to further develop other aspects of the website such as click & collect, which will only enhance the customer experience.
As you grow, you need clear visibility on all parts of the business and we want to ensure we're not letting down one side of the business at the expense of the other – to be successful we have to develop the online and offline experience simultaneously, which we're trying to do. We are hopeful and confident that Retail Pro will be able to support us on this journey.
How did COVID affect Miniso UK?
It has been a very challenging time for the retail sector (and many other sectors, of course), and Miniso UK were no different. Repeated lockdowns, lack of availability of containers to import stock, increasing costs and inability to scale at the pace we wanted to were some of major challenges we faced. But it's a credit to the team that we understood the need to be agile and try and respond with new initiatives.
Immediately, we started testing our products on eBay and Amazon. We didn't really plan to have ecommerce, especially not within a year of opening our first store. Ecommerce is not usually the go-to option for a high-volume / low-margin retailer such as ours. But when COVID brought things to a standstill we said, ‘Alright, let's test the waters, let's see if there's a response'.
And there was a fantastic response! We were selling plenty of home fitness equipment and office electronics. Considering no one had heard of us and we didn't have any Amazon spend, suddenly, we were shipping out 10-15 yoga mats a day. For a brand that didn't really have a presence in the UK, it was eye opening to discover that we can potentially have a substantial business online.
From there, we went all in. We launched our website at the end of September in 2020 and we've not looked back! It's a learning process but we're seeing there is constant potential to improve the customer experience with our brand on the website. We're constantly testing which products work online. You can't put the full set of 10,000 products that we have in the physical store up online. So, we have about 1000-1500 items online at any given point – with a small team and a limited budget it's remarkable that they have been able to manage the majority of the activities in-house, such as taking the pictures, making sure every product is clearly described, liaising with couriers to deliver the products on time and handling in-bound returns.
We have a small but very strong-willed and highly skilled head office team which we were able to mobilize to respond to COVID and keep our business open. So we've slowly seen our ecommerce business grow and it's developing into its own arm within Miniso UK. We even have smaller versions of our shop on Facebook and Instagram for people to buy from there as they're following us on social media.
The way we look at it is if COVID never happened then maybe we wouldn't have gone ahead with our website so soon in our journey. There are always silver linings and learnings that we can take from difficult moments, whether that is in life or in business.
How are you managing fulfillment?
We fulfill from our London store, with local couriers collecting on a daily basis.
How do you manage returns from online purchases?
There are a couple of different ways this can be done. We can arrange for a collection to be done from the home, but we also provide a return address where customers can return the products and there's more information with each of our deliveries.
It's one of those small things that you don't necessarily think about but when your team is hands-on with the dispatch and returns process, you start to see details you can fill to make the customer's experience a little smoother. We are constantly tweaking the process to make it more user friendly, because that's vitally important to us. The customer wants a smooth process from start to finish and the ‘finish' isn't just when they get the product. It's also the after-service that we put try to put care into as well. Ecommerce adds in a new layer of complexity to post-purchase service that isn't required to the same extent with purchases made in-store. We're far from perfect, but we're constantly learning, and we won't stop until we get it right.
Are you seeing a lot of your online shoppers starting to cross over and purchase from you in-store as well? What does the customer data and engagement strategy look like so far?
We do pay attention to shopper information for our customers who purchase from us online, especially the feedback they give us online, on social media, and in-store. Some customers will mention that they saw the product online and are here to buy it in-store because maybe the store is near their home, or maybe they didn't want to pay for delivery charges – even though we have free delivery for orders over £25. We want to make it as easy for the customer as possible.
We're going to start using the email receipt feature in Retail Pro Prism, so that will help us start building our base of customers to stay in touch with and keep them up to date on new products.
We'll also keep them updated on promotions we have for spring, summer, back to school and other seasonal events or flash sales. Retail Pro Prism is great for promotions, and we are very much using these capabilities in the product for our customer engagement strategy.
We also have a regular newsletter, which we share with our subscribers. It's a valuable tool to keep our growing customer base informed with the latest offers, new store openings, and product and range launches, and the feedback we get on the newsletters is to keep them coming – so we will!
What are some of your plans for the future?
One of the things we want to implement in the future is next-day delivery, and we're focused on doing it right to be able to scale operations and keep that level of service. We want to keep our customers happy, so we need to make sure we’re doing it absolutely right. And that's the thing – whilst some organizations can rush and give customers everything from day 1, we're trying to take a more measured approach so that what we do – even if only adding in one feature or service at a time while we're growing – we will do at 100%. It's not the quickest way to see a return, but for us it's about making sure the customer's entire experience is nothing less than fantastic. Because if it's less than fantastic, then we're not doing what we set out to do.