BUNNINGS has a new plan for conquering the online marketplace: Israeli brains.
Nine of the hardware chain’s top staff visited Israel recently, meeting with two dozen companies that believe they can help it make its ongoing entry to online shopping a big success.
“We have been meeting smart people doing very cool stuff, who remain modest,” said Bunnings CEO Michael Schneider, adding that the “absence of ego” makes Israel very different to Silicon Valley.
Enthusing about sightseeing in Jerusalem, climbing Masada and taking a dip in the Dead Sea, he explained the logic that led him to bring staff to the Jewish State.
He organised the trip at one of the most important moments for Bunnings’ new online shopping platform, as he is aiming to get it fully operational by Christmas. Schneider sees an opportunity in entering the market at a time when technology allows retailers to provide a more personalised and “tactile” online experience. Exploring Israeli innovation is a godsend in exploring these possibilities and will bring about real changes on the Bunnings site, he said.
Adding that the visit exceeded expectations, as he arrived hoping to improve online shopping but encountered Israeli ideas to implement across the business, Schneider said, “We probably came here with a customer mindset but now have a ‘whole business’ focus.”
Leah Balter, the Bunnings executive spearheading the online platform, said their meetings with a wide range of technology innovators have thrown up “almost too many good opportunities”.
She is especially excited about a company that can help her to personalise every customer’s website visit, down to remembering what areas of their house they are improving or renovating and what kinds of products they like. “There’s just so much customisation that is possible which goes far beyond what we have at the moment,” she said.
Paul Israel, executive director of the Australia–Israel Chamber of Commerce which organised the trip, said he believes it was the first time that the CEO of a major Australian retailer brought a sizeable staff delegation to Israel.
As well as talking business, the delegation explored Israel’s culture and geopolitics, and the itinerary included a visit to a synagogue and a geopolitics briefing.
Schneider, who is Catholic, and Balter, who is Jewish, both said that they found the trip moving. Balter has visited Israel many times, has Israeli family, and said it was “fantastic” to see the country through the eyes of non-Jewish colleagues.
Schneider said, “I grew up in the Catholic education system and Israel brings a lot of what I learnt, including the Bible, to life, in a rich and sophisticated society.”