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Client Stories - Lorraine Lea

Wild & Wolf

Building a community: the background

Lorraine Lea is one of Australia’s largest social shopping enterprises (party plan sales model) for linen and homewares. Since 1986, the company has been building its reputation by working with a handful of independent stylists who engage with customers via in-home shopping parties to sell its range of linen and homewares. Lorraine Lea’s point of difference is that the company not only sells beautiful homewares but also provides a business opportunity to interested customers. The traditional business model consisted of independent Stylists selling Lorraine Lea products to customers via in-home shopping events. Three decades later, Lorraine Lea has flipped the traditional in-home party model on its head, taking a digital and e-commerce first approach working alongside our team at Pronto Woven.

As more Australians shifted to online and digital channels over time, Lorraine Lea needed to adapt its traditional in-home party sales model to accommodate the rapidly changing needs of its customers and sales team (the stylists). Woven worked with Lorraine Lea to facilitate a digital transformation that has allowed the company to expand its business model despite the impact COVID-19 has had on the retail industry at large. Lorraine Lea is now harnessing the power of omni-channel marketing to engage with its customers through new sales channels such as ecommerce and social media.

The need: pain points

With the fast-moving economy and evolving retail landscape as well as the shift in their target market's lifestyle, Lorraine Lee identified they were at a crossroad. Their traditional business model though previously served them well was becoming less relevant and starting a downturn trend. Today's customer is empowered and demand so much more than just exceeding personal service but a complete seamless experience. To really penetrate the market, Lorraine Lea knew they needed to renew the thinking within their organization and externally in how they engage with their independent stylists and customers. As the company searched to continually grow, they understood how crucial it was to continue attracting new independent stylists. Supporting their Stylists with the flexibility and control over the hours they work, and the income they can earn was key.

In order to remain relevant, we needed to transform our business model, the world was changing and we needed to change with it. The project was driven through the need to blend digitisation with the physical world. This included modernising what the flexible work from home opportunity looked like, to provide our people, and the next generation the ability to take control of their lives, to balance family, and a small business. The business objective was how do we blend traditional in-home party model with the modern technology of digital and e-commerce to expand our presence as an omni-channel retailer,” explained Anne Petracca, CEO of Lorraine Lea.



Lorraine Lea saw the opportunity to gain the competitive advantage was by digitally transforming their business model. The company’s ageing systems were very manual and paper-based. A previous attempt to implement digital solutions in some areas of the business had left them with standalone systems that did not talk to one another or share data. This resulted in a lot of double-handling of data that drained valuable time and resources.

Our Woven team understood that a key requirement was to streamline Lorraine Lea’s business processes across all areas of its operations. From inventory management, invoicing and ordering, all the way through to the 1,600 stylists on the frontline who need to be able to easily find information about product availability, promotional offers and confirm orders.

Up to this point, the company and their independent stylists had been using up to five different applications including:

  • A brochure website to browse all current products
  • A app for stylists to log-in and manage their appointments and customer data
  • A portal for resources such as training, pricing updates, campaigns and so on
  • A website to submit customer order forms
  • An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system

Lorraine Lea’s former ERP solution had a lot of heavy customisation incorporated to meet the company's needs and the search to replace this system was difficult. However, the company were not just seeking a system that maintained the same support and functionality — they were looking for a solution that transformed the way they were currently doing business.

We were searching for a solution that not only addressed our party planning needs, but actually enabled us to expand our business model and open up new sales channels. Without that technology, we were really restricted in what we could achieve,” stated Anne Petracca.

Consistency, both in terms of the technology used and methods of engaging with customers and stylists, was an important factor when Lorraine Lea was considering which solution partner was an ideal fit. The company identified early that Pronto Software’s ERP and ecommerce web platform, both designed with one single source of truth, was exactly what they were looking for. Given Woven's team is based in Australia, having the ability to reach out for local support as needed was another big plus.

The project: what it involved and its complexity

Pronto Woven and Lorraine Lea began the project by considering the company's evolving strategic vision, while Woven’s team started crafting a solution that would support their goals. Working with an agile methodology was essential as we were able to evolve the functionality as needed and in line with the vision.

It was great to work with a variety of Pronto Woven team members and utilise their experience and expertise to help navigate the needed business requirements and adapt the solution to a consistent changing environment,” said Anne Petracca, CEO of Lorraine Lea.

From the research and planning phase, we determined that the goal was to deliver an effective and integrated software solution that enhanced the user-experience (UX) for the stylists and customers. We needed to create a consistent shopping experience for people - both when they were attending parties and while browsing independently online. To make this a reality, Woven developed one integrated solution that captures customer data, takes orders and manages inventory. Importantly, the solution has the capacity to grow with Lorraine Lea, while enabling ongoing connectivity.

Our team identified the need for robust software that would combine Lorraine Lea’s processes and systems using one simple interface. These processes and systems include:

  • Updated workflows to provide consistent data with one source of truth (made possible with Pronto Software’s ERP and Pronto Xi)
  • Real-time inventory updates to ensure information gets to the right place at the right time
  • The ability to input orders and customer information into the database, allowing customers to make a payment on the spot
  • Attribution of all orders to a party number and to each individual customer – this data can then be used to generate insights about customer behaviour

Lorraine Lea’s business model enables their independent stylists to run their own business. This meant we needed to create a network of replicated websites fronts that were connected to the main site but were personalised with each stylist’s photos and messages. The system needs to recognise when a customer shopping directly on the main website is associated with an independent stylist to ensure the sale is linked back to them. Additionally, when building this platform, we had to accommodate a complex reward structure that's based on a genealogy format incorporating different tiers that depend on numerous factors.

In a direct selling company, we have a reward structure that's based on a genealogy format which triggers different rewards based on different tiers depending on sales and career title etcetera. So trying to build an ecommerce platform which needed to model that structure was very difficult and probably the most complex detail for us to work through.” explained Anne Petracca

An important element for Lorraine Lea was the need for this platform to empower its team of stylists to have 24/7 access to everything required to operate their business, rather than wait for updates or reports and other resources to be manually emailed by HQ. Resources needed to appear in one central location and be updated in real-time.

Many beneficial smarts have been built into this solution to enable more visibility for Stylists. These resources and insights were about our team being able to self-serve and access real time reports and information in at any time.” stated Petracca

The new business model also focused on placing the customer at the center of everything Lorraine Lea does and allowing people to choose how they shop and interact with the brand. Whether they choose to book or shop at a home styling event, an online event, make a one off purchase connected to an independent stylist, or shop directly with the company — we needed to ensure that each of these customer journeys made sense and provided a seamless shopping experience.

Additionally, we had to consider the workings of different shopping carts depending on how that customer was interacting with Lorraine Lea. This involved developing a standard ecommerce shopping cart and an in-home event shopping cart that needed to consider the guests sales attached to each event as this would ultimately determine the host’s benefits. Additionally, it was important to ensure people gain a better understanding of the benefits that come with hosting a party. We knew that if people can see that guests have already placed orders towards the event, this would help with the retention of events and future bookings because the host will be aware of the impending rewards

The outcome: innovative technology

The new digital platform Woven built has transformed not only the business' front-end — incorporating e-commerce and social media into each of the 50,000 parties hosted annually — but its back-end operations too. The solution has eliminated lengthy processes by seamlessly integrating multiple sales channels into one easy-to-use application. This allows the brand's stylists to focus on what they do best: providing a personal and fulfilling service to the host’s front door.

Our team identified the need for robust software that would combine Lorraine Lea’s processes and systems using one simple interface. These processes and systems include:

  • Key product information and pricing to flow directly from the ERP software to stylist’s devices, removing the need to duplicate their workload over multiple technologies and software
  • Stylists can access their own Dashboard which provides full 360-degree visibility of their customer pipeline, incoming orders from the website which could be related to events and purchasing behaviour in real time
  • Built-in SMS indicators which lead back to the dashboard when it’s time to engage or re-engage with customers
  • Stylists are able to gain an idea of what their income earning for each week will be, with an aggregation of sales to see how far off they are to their next incentive or award
  • Stylists benefit from access to all training and marketing resources as well as real-time company-wide reports in their Dashboard
  • Customers can view stylist’s bios on the Lorraine Lea site and decide who they would like to assist with hosting their party
  • Customers are able to view and manage their own event with a personalised host Dashboard
  • Party invitations are sent out and RSVPs filtered back into the one system
  • During a party, customers can use an iPad to browse products and complete their purchase with special promotions applied providing the same experience as the standard ecommerce website
  • Customers can purchase Lorraine Lea products online 24/7

This solution is a game-changer for Lorraine Lea and provides us a new competitive edge and to enter the e-commerce market for the first time to expand our presence as an omni-channel retailer. It has helped us to combine the physical and digital worlds and influence the way customers shop Lorraine Lea; to blend our traditional party plan model with the modern technology of digital and e-commerce to ensure Lorraine Lea fits easily into busy lifestyles. This system ensures our business is equipped to adapt and excel whatever the changing marketplace.” expressed Anne Petracca

Digital strategy

A key goal was to provide Lorraine Lea with the ability to branch out to new touch points such as social media channels to run different campaigns or events. With styled landing pages to direct customers to, and the ability to store all sharable content in one system, the company can easily equip their stylists with tools and resources to become their own digital marketers. The platform provides the sales team with a fantastic foundation where they can confidently engage with customers in a timely manner, while providing inspiration and ideas such as hosting a Facebook catalogue event.

The Facebook events were a great initiative from our sales team. We've seen a real increase in Facebook events and event bookings. We have seen an increase in stylist activity with more stylists selling more of our products and certainly more customer acquisition and we've only just scratched the surface,” said Anne Petracca.

Another focus for Lorraine Lea was running effortless promotions. With Pronto Xi's promotions engine, the company is able to shift their marketing to run flash sales and dollar shipping deals, improving the visibility of their brand and products. The platform allows all of these activities and behaviours to be tracked into conversions.

We have been currently running a lot of Google and social media ads, which we never done in the past because we've never been able to track that conversion whereas now, we can track the conversion with web sales,” explained Anne Petracca.

Impact

When COVID-19 hit, without a quality digital solution, Lorraine Lea would have been forced to close. Instead, the business is thriving and its sales team has increased by 64%. Today's climate has created the environment where people are at home more than ever before and are willing to spend money to change their environment. This provides Lorraine Lea with a great opportunity, particularly now that they have the data and insights they need to run more effective promotions and campaigns. The company has seen an increase in the number of cart transactions resulting in an average sale increase of 38% over the past three months. For example, the $1 shipping promotion run in August 2020 has had a strong uptake rate. Recent flash sales have also been a lot more effective than past monthly offers.

Now with our new promotions engine, we can manage promotions completely differently and run fresh campaigns such as spend and save and one dollar shipping. Being able to implement these promotions during this really tough climate has generated a bit of hype and certainly helped to generate sales for us,” said Anne Petracca.

Finer details of the website's new design, such as its ability to better display products with multiple views and recommendations of complementary products, have made a huge difference to Lorraine Lea’s ability to increase transactions and stand out in the tough retail market. While this project has been challenging, Lorraine Lea and Pronto Woven have developed a long-term partnership.

From day one, we have felt that we weren't just simply buying a solution from a vendor but entering into a long-term relationship with Pronto Woven. It’s been a really great partnership and their team has been very much a part of the Lorraine Lea family. We strongly felt on the same page throughout the entire project to achieve the best outcome and solution for everyone involved,” explained Anne Petracca.