RedBalloon founder: Digital transformation isn’t rocket science

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 10 October 2018
Naomi Simson

Marketers can't afford to be afraid of digital transformation or approach business as they have in the past, The Big Red Group (BRG) co-founder Naomi Simon said.

Speaking to AdNews at Dreamforce San Francisco, Simson explained this realisation led BRG in its quest to drive down customer acquisition costs and increase positive commercial outcomes for Australian businesses it works with.

Simson and David Anderson both co-founded BRG in 2017, but Simson alone founded online experience gift retailer RedBalloon in 2001.

BRG also houses workplace culture firm Redii and artificial intelligence marketing platform Marketics.

The company is still in the midst of its digital transformation journey as it bolsters out its technology stack - and clouds - within marketing, sales, services and community.

This involves using a marketing cloud to re-engaging its five million participants and customers in its quest to become more personalised; using a service cloud to deal with customers regardless of how they want to be dealt with, such as across Facebook or Twitter, and using a community cloud to create communities inside its own business.

“We have a bunch of clouds. It's quite stormy at our place,” she joked.

“When you're running really hard and doing a lot of things and have so much change going on, you've really got to align everybody. We realised we can't keep doing business the way we have before.”

Simson, who has been a marketer at Apple, IBM, Ansett and KPMG, recalls previously spending a lot on customised databases which were classed as useless after a period of time. The business soon realised it needed to focus deeper on its own assets and data.

“Providing feedback [to suppliers] on how they're going is really important, not just in a, ‘what was the experience like on the day’ in the consumer feedback way, but also in terms of how the sales of their experiences go and what they can expect coming down the line - because we've effectively become the marketing department on their behalf. We gave them a brand and we gave them customers so, by definition, we're the marketing department for many of our suppliers," she says.

“They're usually pretty grateful and they love it and they want us to continue to grow and evolve. That's really important as we can't sit on our hands. No one can sit on their hands.”

Studying the customer journey is nothing new for the Channel Ten Shark Tank star.

“When I was at Ansett which was an airline in 1991, I documented the customer journey for that airline and there were 23 customer touchpoints," she said.

“So, as professional marketers, we've actually always been talking about customer journeys but they used to be very analogue and they used to be people-to-people and you'd miss so much... We have been talking about this literally for half a century.”

Simson said one of the most important things to know is that “you're never finished” with digital transformation and understanding the customer journey.

The Sydney-based entrepreneur describes the ultimate “nirvana and next chapter” as being able to predict what people are going to want and when, but "without being creepy".

The reason why BRG embarked on its digital transformation journey is to increase the consideration of experiences by serving the right product and the right time on RedBalloon, Simson explained.

Inflatable flamingo white water rafting: RedBalloon is known for its April Fool's Day pranks

Simson, who initially thought delving into marketing and sales clouds was aimed at larger brands, advises other marketers not to be fearful of the everchanging digital transformation journey.

“I see this for a lot of founders and entrepreneurs as well. They somehow think this tech thing is blind to them. Well, it's not. If they're a graduate of anything, they have the capacity to understand it. It's not rocket science," she said.

“It's about being curious and interested and if you truly sit in your customers’ shoes, you'll be curious enough to ask the right questions and get the right answers.”

This year, the Big Red Group will deliver an experience every minute, but has goals to deliver one every second.

“That is a big game we're playing and we're not going to do that without the support of all of the right players."

*AdNews attended Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce

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