Nobody gets out of bed in the morning determined to make life hard for their customers — yet many brands still struggle to meet the expectations of their customers. The internal complexity of business is a big part of the problem, according to Charmaine Chua, head of product at Singapore based retailer Love, Bonito.

Chua is a speaker at this year’s MagentoLive in Sydney, and she elaborated her views during an interview with Which-50 in advance of the conference.

“Prior to joining Love, Bonito I could never quite understand why retailers couldn’t get something that seemed so easy correct,” she said, citing examples such as letting customers return online orders in-store or letting them use e-gift cards in store.

“Now that I’ve peeked behind the veil, I believe it’s a two-part problem.”

Running a business is inherently complex, she said. “There are systems and processes you use when you first start, and trade-offs you make to get the business running and profitable while resources are constrained.

“Then the issue is that the business grows and changes, which suddenly leads to system and process complexity. New simple features that should ease the experience for the customer become impossible to implement without sinking the time and effort into fixing deeply rooted systems and processes.”

The issue then is that these types of projects need to be prioritised against the daily business-as-usual work, which she suggests can lead to them being delayed.

“Essentially, the quality of the experience will deteriorate quickly if no one is focused on looking at it.”

We asked Chua how hard it is, as head of product, to build customer empathy into the culture of a company.

“This sounds like a trick question. If a consumer-facing company is not built upon an understanding of the customer, then what would even be the point of its product?”

She cautioned that even when companies set out to meet customers’ needs, it is easy to lose touch with the customer as the company gets bigger and the product direction gets more solidified. “A common mistake is not spending enough time with customers, and another mistake is taking customers’ frustrations/requests at face value vs. seeking the root cause.”

And she suggested that in responding to the ever-rising tide of customer expectations companies need to guard against over-engineering their solutions.

“I think there are so many frustrations that customers face, and as shoppers evolve and consumer/ technology trends change, there will be endless opportunities for brands and companies to improve themselves.”

However, she said the over-engineering risk arises when brands evolve simply for the sake of jumping on a bandwagon. “[You] throw in an RFID tag here and an AI smart mirror there. It’s important to first know your specific customer and understand how the new experience will add value.”


Chua will share how the Love, Bonito team transformed their customer experience to drive growth at MagentoLive Australia.

The business was born as a pureplay ecommerce company in 2010, one of the first such companies in Singapore.

“In the past eight years, we’ve debuted two Singapore stores and entered new markets both online and offline. We’re currently the largest homegrown fashion brand in Singapore, made for real women, by real women.”

According to Chua, the company’s journey has taught it some valuable lessons. The first is that retail isn’t dead — traditional retail is dead.

Next, she said, context is key and it is important to leverage different platforms to reach different consumers and sell different products at different times.

Finally, “The majority of customers don’t see online and offline as separate spaces and we shouldn’t either.”

MagentoLive is on at the ICC Sydney on 12 and 13 February 2019. Visit this web site for details.

About the author

Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit of which Magento is a corporate member. Our members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.


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