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Interview with James MacDonald, Digital Marketing Manager at Homechoice


Describe yourself in 3 words
Geeky, stubborn & relaxed.

Tell us a bit about your journey the past few years working in the digital team at Homechoice?

It has been an incredible journey of rapid learning, both personally and for the business. We had to adapt at a rapid rate when lockdown was announced, but we managed to pivot to serve our customers via digital channels quite successfully. Talk about a steep learning curve, but we are really proud of the digital transformation and how quickly we could accelerate our timeline.

Digital transformation seems to be the buzz word these days – what does it mean for you in your current role?

I used it above before reading this question! Most people just think it is about transforming a sales channel to be digitally enabled. At homechoice we rather use the term to mean how can we put technology first to service our customers through a truly omnichannel experience. Technology is rooted in that and how can we transform our systems to provide longevity as the rate of technological acceleration continues at a rapid pace.

How do you and your team stay up to date with the ever-changing technology available to digital marketers nowadays?

Fortunately, we have a great relationship with both Google & Meta who offer incredible resources and learning sessions to the broader community, but there are also a few special goodies that get shared with priority businesses like ours. There are also loads of great resources out on the internet, with a lot of them being free. It is remarkable how one can build skillsets across a range of verticals in the digital space without having to attend formal education.

What sets Homechoice apart from other online homeware retailers?

We really do provide a full offering that is customer focused. The last few years have been tough financially for many but our blend of truly quality products on our range of payment terms mean that we can help you create the home you love without breaking the bank. Everyone thinks a blanket is just a blanket until you touch our faux mink blankets – then you realize what luxury and warmth REALLY is.

What were the biggest challenges Homechoice faced in going from a catalogue service to an online retailer?

I think it was changing our mindset and adapting rapidly to the changing needs of our consumers. Customers loved receiving their catalogue every month and ordering via either calling in to the call centre, walking in to a showroom, or purchasing through our digital channels. Lockdown suddenly stripped those options away from them and we had to adapt just like our customers. Support used to largely be handled by a call as that was the easiest way for the customer to communicate a range of questions, but during the pandemic, we had to give them the same personalized attention, just through digital channels. This was new to the customers and ahead of our digital transformation roadmap, but we were really chuffed how quickly we could adapt and continue to serve our customers when we were one of the few businesses that could trade during level 5 lockdown to bring them their essentials like bedding & blankets during winter.

Which digital channels have you found to be most effective in attracting new customers and building brand awareness?

I can’t share all of our secrets, but I would advise digging into marketing automation through product feeds, email campaigns and dynamic remarketing. With digital, there are numerous new channels that help you reach certain audiences. The trick is to ensure that you have the correct objective per channel and have sufficient reporting to help you understand whether that channel is meeting your objectives or not. Sounds easy, but can be really challenging with privacy concerns, different attribution methods and ever-changing platform tweaks such as Performance Max from Google, and reduced audience segmentation from Facebook.

You recently spoke at the Meta VC Acceleration program webinar. Can you tell us a bit about that?

It was really fun to showcase some of the results that we have achieved working with Meta as an In-Market client. This means that we are one of their priority customers and work very closely with a very talented team to help us succeed on the various Meta platforms. It was nice to show new businesses that they can succeed if they find the right partners.

Your favourite thing to do in Cape Town when you are not working?

When you live in a beautiful city like Cape Town, it feels criminal not to take advantage of the incredible views on offer and if you can through in some exercise at the same time then even better. My favourite is to unwind on the weekend with a round of golf – have you seen how many picturesque courses we have in the Mother City? If only my golf was as good as the views…


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