4 Brilliant marketing lessons retailers can learn from David Jones

by Ben Hillman
07 July 2016

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a marketing genius or new to all things marketing, everyone needs to look outside their own business for inspiration once in a while.

Iconic Australian retailer David Jones might not be the first brand that comes to mind. After all, in 2012 the company was struggling to bounce back from a tough retail climate.

But something changed and in 2015, David Jones experienced its best rate of growth in 15 years, with sales increases of 12.2% in the first 20 weeks of the financial year. The company even took share from archrival Myer.

So what was it that turned things around?

David Jones embarked on a revolutionary new marketing strategy, giving new focus to digital channels and customer insights. Add to this the introduction of some new brands and better in-store service levels, and it’s easy to see how the 178-year-old department store achieved such a turnaround.

Here are marketing lessons every small and medium business owner can learn from David Jones’ success:

1. Take a Digital First approach


“We don’t have a digital marketing manager – I got rid of that two years ago. If you are a marketer, no matter what you do – even for our catalogue manager – you’re just as much one channel as another.”

David Robinson, SMH


Do you have an online presence? An e-commerce site? An email newsletter? Search engine optimisation? Today an online presence is imperative if you are going to build your brand beyond bricks and mortar, build a community and also build your database so you can market to customers beyond in-store interactions.

Whether or not you have an e-commerce store, your website needs to be easy to use and inspirational for customers. David Jones improved its website with services it knew its customers wanted, like gift registry online and Click & Collect, but it also enhanced the functionality of its website, ratings and reviews playing a pivotal role.

How can you improve your website and overall online presence? It might only be a few small tweaks here and there that make all the difference to your online conversions.

Use customer data and insights

We had one customer segment, which was the David Jones customer, because everyone shopped at David Jones.”

– David Robinson, SMH

A key component of David Jones' marketing strategy is its customer data analytics program. The company is tapping into customer data to deliver more personalised and cost-effective marketing. It relies on three main sources of data: in-store, outside of the store with key audience segments, and the loyalty program.

You don't need to have the one million digital contacts boasted by David Jones to make insights work for your business. Data can be used to build your choice of stock, inform your merchandising, and establish customer personas to deliver more relevant, personalised offers.

Look at the data you already have and start there. For example, you can use customer postcodes to better target geographical areas using letterbox marketing.

Focus on content

“Thirdly, it is about content. We have a stated objective within the marketing team and business to become the best fashion publisher in Australia, full stop”

– David Robinson, SMH

It's no coincidence that David Jones recently appointed Harper's Bazaar fashion director Thelma McQuillan as the new fashion director of the store's customer magazine and app. This is a strategic move by the company to push its own content; as the marketing director recently told Mumbrella, "We have a stated objective within the marketing team and business to become the best fashion publisher in Australia, full stop."

Content is more important than ever, so look at how you can create your own content for customers. It might be a blog with fashion tips and news, Pinterest boards displaying inspiration for various seasons and events, or behind-the-scenes videos.


“I had to work right across the business to facilitate that, and to say where we needed to go, how are we going to get there and then actually get us there,”

– David Robinson, SMH


Jessica Gomes, Megan Gale (pictured above), Gai Waterhouse, Emma Freedman, and, most recently, Adam Goodes – David Jones has a long history of teaming up with top talent to boost its brand.

But even if you don't have a big brand budget, you can still benefit from collaborating with brand ambassadors. Look to your local community for well-known names and personalities who would complement your brand image. It might be a local band, sports person, or even fashion bloggers.

Then, think strategically about how you can mutually benefit from the partnership. You could provide exclusive products to your ambassadors in return for their appearance in advertising campaigns and in-store merchandising. Bloggers love to be the first to know about anything, so give them a first look at new lines in return for lots of posts and social sharing.

The biggest lesson here is not to underestimate the power of marketing. David Jones might be the oldest retailer in Australia, but as its marketing strategy has shown, it is also one of the most progressive.

To learn more about the right marketing strategy and channels for your business, check out Salmat's marketing solutions and call us on 1300 725 628.

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About the author
Ben Hillman
Head of Marketing

Head of Marketing Ben Hillman has strong experience in telecommunication, marketing services and financial markets. His team’s responsibilities include lead generation, marketing automation, corporate communication, marketing campaigns, sales enablement, proposition development, and client & customer marketing.

More articles by Ben Hillman