Retailers play a vital role in creating great shopping centres and community spaces. At Shopping Centre News we think it’s important to showcase and profile retailers to our audiences. This week, we speak with Jason Coglan, the Vice President, ANZ & Southeast Asia for SmileDirectClub. SmileDirectClub is celebrating its second year in Australia with seven locations across Australia and two in New Zealand. SmileDirectClub recently opened its latest SmileShop in Vicinity’s Emporium Melbourne.
Tell us a little bit about your career and how you got started in retail?
I started out in engineering in the UK then progressed from project management to supply chain leadership roles in the entertainment, dairy and retail sectors. I spent almost ten years working with IKEA, where I was responsible for leading supply chain operations in ANZ before moving into the retail part of that business. From there, I came to SmileDirectClub.
What is SmileDirectClub, and what excites you most about the brand?
SmileDirectClub, is an oral care company and creator of the first medtech platform for teeth straightening. Through its cutting-edge telehealth technology and vertically integrated model, SmileDirectClub is revolutionising the oral care industry, offering consumers the ability to get clinically safe and effective treatment but without the 3x markup associated with traditional orthodontics.
SmileDirectClub is a very agile business; we are willing and able to adapt quickly to market conditions and are constantly innovating. In the near future, we will be looking to work more closely with existing dental practices and introduce new retail products to Australia.
What do you love about retail?
First and foremost are the people that I have been lucky enough to work with. Working in retailing requires energy, resilience, passion for customer experience and agile leadership. Being surrounded by individuals who possess those qualities is a privilege. I love that at the heart of good retailing is a great customer experience; having that at the centre of your actions is a simple but very effective guiding principle. I enjoy face-to-face customer conversations where direct feedback can lead to immediate change in business process to create a better experience for the customers of tomorrow.
How did COVID-19 impact or change your business model?
Last year really demonstrated our business’s strength and resilience. As the world changed, we were able to pivot our business in many ways to suit our customers’ needs. For example, as we closed our Smile Shops to abide by Australian government guidelines, we saw a huge surge in consumer demand for our impression kits as people realised that they could safely straighten their teeth at home. As the public became used to remote services, we moved our focus to meet consumer demand and support our customers at home.
Telehealth usage is up, given the COVID-19 pandemic with government leaders around the world, including Australia, having encouraged consumer adoption of telehealth during the pandemic. SmileDirectClub’s telehealth platform has enabled our network of dentists to continue to monitor and oversee their patients’ treatment progress remotely and without disruption. Because we ship all aligners at once and perform regular virtual check-ins via our platform, there is continuity of treatment even during the pandemic.
Initially at the peak of the COVID-19, pandemic dentists in Australia deemed routine dental care non-essential and practice closures have had a severe impact on the dental community. We are encouraged by the acceptance of telehealth and glad that many dentists are recognising it as an important tool, plus a more convenient and affordable method for their patients any time.
We also saw amazing innovation at our manufacturing facility in Nashville, where we switched a lot of our production to manufacture and supply much needed PPE for the US health system. We used our huge 3D printing capacity to make high quality face visors for health professionals and for our own SmileShop teams around the world.
What are you looking forward to in 2021 and beyond?
The global pandemic has driven remote services and more digitally enabled consumers, and I believe that this will continue across all sectors, particularly health and wellbeing. This year has proved that telehealth is easily adaptable into one’s lifestyle. Telehealth works and is both efficient and effective – which is why we are so proud to have been a pioneer in this field. As telehealth and teledentistry continues to rise in popularity, we are confident even more consumers will continue to embrace SmileDirectClub as a convenient, affordable and safe solution to obtain a smile they love.
In addition, I see driving business efficiency becoming a key objective across all industries in 2021. As the world slowly emerges from the impact of the pandemic, it will be critical for all sectors to be extra agile to the market needs and to continue to streamline for efficiency.
How important is it to continue investing in enhancing in-store experiences and supporting online orders?
Never has digital been more important than it is now. After months where the only access to the outside world has been through online ordering, consumers will continue to search for the best products and services online, considering the offering before they head into store. And while interacting with your brand, they’ll expect improved and personalised customer service with capabilities like video chat. We have scaled our digital and brand marketing efforts as the web becomes an even bigger access point for our services.
How does online complement your physical store network?
We run hundreds of SmileShops worldwide but we don’t base our retail business on ‘walk-ins’. In order to provide the best customer experience, we’ve always booked appointments, or offered dentist-directed, easy-to-use at home impression kits. It’s important to be able to let the customer decide which method of interaction is right for them and their lifestyle. Expect to see more retailers driving appointments and optimising time spent in-store to protect staff and customers, or using multiple complementary entry points into their business.
What are the key ingredients that makes a successful retailer?
Customer experience, innovation and value for money is at the centre of our success. We focus on giving our customers the choice of a SmileShop appointment or a dentist directed at-home impression kit to start their journey with us. We then use digital innovation and our technical capability to deliver a life-changing product at an affordable price. Staying focused on the customer and exactly why they have chosen SmileDirectClub is key for us.
What makes a dynamic, high-performing retail team?
Retail teams have had to evolve quickly throughout the duration of the pandemic. Agile leadership and having an innovator mentality within any organisation is important, but post COVID-19, the ability to quickly pivot is more important than ever in retail leadership teams. We adapted our entire organisation and marketing efforts to support the growth of our impression kit business, which, as a result, doubled during the pandemic. Customer buying behaviours will continue to change and that means an entrepreneurial culture at the heart of the business, with a desire to test new ideas and adapt on-the-run becomes critical to retail success. We celebrate the fact that we blur the lines between traditional functions within the business with everyone focusing on the customer.
How has COVID-19 changed the relationship between landlords and retailers?
The vast majority of our SmileShops around the world operate on month-to-month leases, giving SmileDirectClub the flexibility to quickly adapt in any situation and the opportunity to optimise our business based on the performance of individual locations. It’s a model that has been pioneered in office rental markets but we will see this demanded by retailers from high street landlords. In Australia, we have a combination of retail locations in addition to some office leases and we focus on making sure that our relationship with landlords is one where there is an understanding that flexibility is very important.
What are your predictions for your sector in 2021 and beyond?
The global pandemic has driven remote services and more digitally enabled consumers, and I believe that this will continue across all sectors, particularly health and wellbeing, next year. This year has proved that telehealth is easily adaptable into one’s lifestyle. Telehealth works and is both efficient and effective – which is why we are so proud to have been a pioneer in this field. As telehealth and teledentistry continue to rise in popularity, we are confident even more consumers will continue to embrace SmileDirectClub as a convenient, affordable, and safe solution to obtain a smile they love.