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Mark Cloros, CEO Redback Boots in the warehouse.

Digital Transformation

Redback boots are the business; Microsoft cloud is the key

Boots are the business – hundreds of thousands of boots, designed and made in Australia but increasingly tapping their toes across a world stage.

Redback Boots traces its history back to the 1920s when Stanley, Bill and John Cloros set sail from Greece to find their fortunes on the other side of the planet.

Then, as now, the business was all about the boots; high quality, Australian made and the pick of the Australian Defence Forces since the 1990s  . But in the almost 100 years of operation Redback’s horizons have extended and that demands a fresh approach to marketing and deeper engagement with customers and prospects.

Mark Cloros, managing director of Redback and grandson of Bill Cloros, explains that in the past Redback would have one of its staff drive to rural towns armed with pages from a Yellow Pages phone book and ask if the local shoe shops and agricultural suppliers would agree to stock Redbacks.

If they would the deal was done on a handshake and afterwards boots would be ordered, boots would be sold, more boots would be ordered, more boots would be sold. Orders were placed by phone or fax, and those order sheets were all the insights that Redback had about its customers from season to season, year to year.

But Redback was in the business of boots and demand kept rolling in; by 2016 it was making 600,000 pairs each year.

Cloros and the Redback team realised however that technology would be the key to continued growth and success.

It could use technology to make boots better, faster. It could use technology to forge closer relationships with customers and understand more about the market requirements. Armed with that insight, the company would be poised to expand rapidly on the global stage where Yellow Pages and cold calling wouldn’t work.

First, the company invested in leading edge automated technology to optimise its leather cutting and boot manufacturing. The productivity hike that this allowed spurred the company to also explore information technology and to seek a solution able to deliver the insights and information to support its international expansion plans and customer service ambitions.

Cloros is clear – Redback is a bootmaker, it’s a brilliant bootmaker – but it’s not a computer company. The maturity of cloud based solutions meant that it did not need to be in order to glean the sorts of insights and analytics that will build the business.

Adopting Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 and Office 365 delivered easy to use, but powerful marketing and administration platforms that could spur the growth of Redback internationally.

Redback employs almost 100 people in its high tech manufacturing facility in Alexandria, and another 50-60 in a sewing room in Kingsgrove. All the boots are proudly made in Australia, though there is a supply chain in Europe and Asia that supplies insoles, footbeds and various complementary components.

The company has massive contracts with Australia’s Defence Forces and emergency services, and supplies the US Army with non-combat boots, and also has a rapidly growing distributor arrangement in the US, Israel and Europe. The company already has export turnover of $20 million and rising.

Deploying Dynamics 365 Marketing on Microsoft Azure meant that executives now have anytime anywhere access to information about clients.

An intensive data gathering exercise and harvesting some data stored on an old Navision system means that executives now have a wide array of metrics about customers, their names, location, order histories, even details of how retailers display boots in their outlets.

Redback strategy manager James Carlile says Redback also took the opportunity to capture the information and insights held by its long term employees; “Why not get it out of some of the older people’s heads and bring the sales and marketing part of the business to where it should be

“The vision is for the sales guy to be able to tap on tablet and have all the information right there.

Carlile already uses Power BI extensively as a query tool to provide the insights needed to support enhanced decision making, and expects that will become more powerful as more information is loaded into Dynamics 365.

Redback has also recently overhauled its website, and is working on a second refresh which will provide a customer portal into the Dynamics data so that Redback clients can see their sales reports and engage directly with the manufacturer. Cloros says; “Customers like the fact that you know what they were doing – that helps you sell more boots.”

Carlile adds that the company is also running Office 365 across the enterprise and deploying SharePoint.

Redback is adopting the ISO 9001 quality standard and Cloros says that putting key workflows into SharePoint will embed quality practices across the business. SharePoint will also act as a central repository for marketing materials which can be made available to resellers and distributors.

The insights being gathered in Dynamics are already creating new sales opportunities internationally.

For example, the client survey revealed that in the US motor mechanics operate more as contractors than employees; they bring their own tools and equipment. Cloros says that by partnering with tool suppliers Redback has been able to be part of a one stop shop for US mechanics who can buy their tools and boots at the same outlet.

It’s that sort of granular market understanding, and ability to respond rapidly to a market opportunity that Cloros and team believe will ensure Redback continues to compete successfully both at home and overseas.