How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
Studio Retail Group is putting data at the heart of its business and, as an ecommerce retailer, we have huge amounts of data, with an active and growing base of 2.2 million customers. Stitching this rich data together gives us great opportunities to be more relevant with our marketing and promotions, to make sure we’re serving our customers effectively. Our directors are supportive on our vision and know how important this is and have helped prioritise this investment in our transformation portfolio.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
Covid-19 initially put a halt to some of our work as we had to realign our business priorities but being an e-commerce operation and seeing massive growth, we had to quickly adjust our focus. This has allowed us to accelerate in our data strategy and build out our teams further, and with the changes to remote working we’ve been able to widen the geographical talent pool and bring in new people to support us.
We’ve made significant growth in our data engineering capability and have embedded a product owner model across the team to simplify how we work and be more agile in our delivery. We are fortunate to have been a winner from Covid and this has helped push data forwards even further as a strategic asset for our transformation.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
We continued laying some great data foundations in 2020, and now with the right teams in place, we move more into delivery. We’re ramping up our data capability with our buying and merchandising team and using big data to make sure we understand the impact of our different categories on not just margin, but lifetime value and how promotions impact different customer segments. We also have significant investment in marketing effectiveness with a new partner and joined up digital attribution and marketing mix modelling.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Not yet, but we’re looking at how we can continue to build on our relationships with the IDM/DMA and build stronger links into academia and explore opportunities for data sharing.
What has been your path to power?
I started my career in data straight out from university, using GIS for business and building spatial interaction models for various retailers including Exxon-Mobil in Europe. I then moved into financial services and built knowledge rolling out a CRM system across different European markets.
The opportunity then came to join Asda as insight manager and I recognised the huge opportunities there and built Asda’s single customer view, to create a single source of data for CRM and analytics. The team and responsibility grew, to then build out a marketing effectiveness function and further analytics capability for one of the country’s largest retailers.
I then got the chance to move to the US with Walmart and spent two years in Bentonville/Arkansas helping Walmart put data to work in segmentation, analytics and marketing effectiveness. After that, I returned to the UK to head up the data science team for Asda.
The Studio Retail Group is based in the North West of the UK with catalogue heritage and over 2.2 million customers. Data offers massive opportunities, and this is the first centralised role to build a team, accountability and tech to drive our business forward. So far, I have delivered the data strategy, and maturity assessment, and we are rolling out a hub/spoke model to improve our data/analytics tooling as we go. There’s lots of data and lots to do.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
Rather than a big tech/data thing, I’m proudest most of being able to change the culture within organisations and bring teams closer together. Looking at improvements in colleague engagement scores is really important to me. I’m a massive believer in people and building skills and development into our roles. I’ve been able to influence this and if I can make our data/analytics teams more fun, rewarding, engaging and productive – then that’s something I’m really proud of.
Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?
We previously had some gaps in our organisation with data not centrally managed and my biggest goal right now is creating true enterprise capability to put data to work across the business. This is to avoid the business silos and create a hub and spoke and model, where we have a centralised team of data experts, but embed data talent in the business units who are empowered to deliver. Our goal is to do this across our marketing, buying, customer experience, operations, financial services, HR and finance teams so we have a lot to do and big plans.
How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?
We have a great working relationship with our technology team, who are responsible for our source systems, infrastructure and security, among many other things. We’ve found a great path for working together and clarity on who is responsible for what – as data underpins the whole business, it’s hard for it to be managed by one person. My focus has aligned more on driving data value, which has allowed us to develop clearer swim lanes and responsibility and make the most of our expertise.
What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?
Data culture is really important, and we’re looking to launch the Studio Data Academy this year to show the industry how seriously we are taking data. This will help us retain and upskill our existing colleagues as well as attract talent to the organisation. This is not just about our analysts but helping improve the data skills across the company.