Aligning around True North at Shopper Insights Conference


I’ve just spent the day at Shopper Insights and Behaviours conference chairing the afternoon session and speaking in the morning session.

Theme of my presentation:
If organisations are going to transform using data , they need to be clear, unambiguous and aligned around an agreed vision , strategy and execution plan to be successful. All pointing together towards True North.

1. I laid out the what and how of transformation.
2. I talked through examples of how organisation have delivered transformational improvements to The Customer Experience , Customer Communication and Understanding of the Customer.
3. I then talked through my experience of how to deliver transformation in retailers, and how suppliers and retailers can work together to drive change. 

Other Key out-takes from the sessions :

Great case studies on solving strategic problems from

  1. Gary Seaman (RB) on developing environmental brands in cleaning.
  2. Chris Wrighton and Daniella Basain (Premier Foods)on turning around a declining MrKipling Brand
  3. Gizem Donmez (Nelsons) on starting with customer understanding in developing an omnichannel approach for Rescue Remedy
  4. Scott McPherson (Nairn’s) and Giorgio s Argyropoulos (Pepsi) on How Insights around missions need to be applied in the Convenience channel.

Panel Discussions with James Brett (Twinings) Maxime Dassonville (BIC) Neil Bellamy (General Mills) Sean McKee (Schuh) Daniella Bassein (Premier Foods) Dev Mukherji (PostOffice)  David Harrison (Coop) Caroline Walsh (Musgrave)


Key uptakes from the sessions and the panels

A. Deep understanding of shopper Needs: many techniques exist to deliver a deep understanding of customers ( with lots of technical suppliers in Martech specs). Nothing really beats watching customers first hand in stores , but using all the different techniques starting it’s important to start with clarity on the problem you are trying to solve first.

B.Technology Suppliers know their stuff but aren’t clear what problem their product solve – they don’t know how to sell or make it easy to buy. “There is a myriad of Tech companies but there is no technology to help me understand customers in store” James Brett.

C. Insights being split into two types of work: Strategic and tactical.

  1. Strategic deep view of understanding customers : longer term projects where spend time thinking about the problem as well as how to solve it. Look at triangulation or longer term trends, qual, quant.
  2. Tactical view quick response using panels, Skype groups, observations in store.

D. Insight Leaders becoming agnostic about mechanic, bigger focus on understanding the problem and then working on the solution. There needs to more of a focus on howdo you get clear on problem you are trying to solve. There is a recognition that retailers aren’t totally clear and aligned on the problems, and there isn’t alignment between suppliers and retailers.

Really understanding the problem and creating alignment around a solution is the challenge

F. Insight into Action: insight leaders need to be commercial as well as customer to align the organisation around change.

G. Understanding Retailers and Partnering with them. There was a consistent message from many speakers and participants that this was a key issue for suppliers: Understanding How CPG work with retailers to grow categories was an interesting panel session Good case studies and discussions from Premier Food (Chris & Dani) Dev & Giorgos  and David from Coop. Neil Bellamy From General Mills recommendation was to get clear on a message and identify and work with multiple stakeholders in retailer. Dani recommendation was to start with customer and see how that also aligns with retailers’ strategies Dev suggested focusing on Missions and integrating from prestore to purchase.

Building a consistent story and presentation that drives sales was a challenge many suppliers had with retailers: best solved by having a supplier and retailer perspective underpinned with a razor like focus on a commercial customer focus.

Queen of Internet Predictions 2018

mary meeker

Mary Meeker:Queen of the Internet Speaks in 2018

Once a year everyone in Tech looks to one woman- Mary Meeker. The internet oracle spent two decades at Morgan Stanley, working on things like Google IPO, before joining the VC fund Kleiner Perkins in 2014. Every year she delivers an Internet trends report to the world and her predictions are scarily often right….. ( check her out on Wiki if you want to know more: )

She called email as being the internet’s killer application in 1995, predicted browsing through information services to be the next big breakthrough and foresaw Amazon’s rise to the top. This year she had a 294 page presentation in 30 minutes covering everything from smart phones to education and property and tech competition.

Full copy of presentation Link here:

My key take outs:

  1. Discovery vs Digital : consumers are using social media for discovery more and more, and then going onto shop. Retailers are focusing on Amazon but the Facebook threat is under the radar. Discovery is less in store now. 80% people report Facebook as the platform to see a new product (with 60% Instagram) and 55% people claim to end up buying a product online after discovering on social.
  2. Shopping & Entertainment blending together. entertainment is becoming a big part of the shopping experience.  Owning the pre-&-post transaction  keeps the transaction
  3. Discovery sites developing commerce. Commerce sites developing discovery (Amazon has higher search levels that Google in US now) and discovery sites are developing Commerce ( Facebook & Google shop)
  4. Consumers want location based personalisation:  Google searches that include the phrase near me ( eg restaurants near me ) skyrocketed 900% in last 2 years. This tells us that consumers actually do want location based personalisation so retailers and restaurants have a clear directive to step up.
  5. Personalisation = higher customer satisfaction .  Brand that personalise score higher customer satisfaction levels.  Customers are beginning to expect it.
  6. Subscription drives Sales: users are increasingly willing to pay a monthly fee for easy access to content, using an ad-supported limited access tiers to upsell subscriptions
  7. China is coming: Alibaba + Amazon have similar focus areas, Amazon may have higher revenue but Alibaba has higher volume and is aggressively expanding into countries like India and Indonesia. Both are bundling services with a breadth and price that competitors can’t match. China now hosts 9/20 top global internet companies while US hosts 9/20. all are poised to collide as they all seek to invade developing nations to find growth.
  8. Just Teach yourself: Opportunity and growth of cheaper online learning: YouTube saw 1 billion hours of educational viewing: Opportunity for Open University in UK and global market for UK education after Brexit!
  9. AI is sexy but don’t miss the simple & obvious low hanging fruit. better utilisation of Wifi and Networks can connect consumers’ offline and online shopping and preferences to drive short term growth but AI if developed well will help drive longer growth
  10. Privacy Paradox.  Organisations are caught between using their data to provide a better Customer Experience & violating customer privacy.  GDPR is taking a lead, but consumers in China are more relaxed about how their data is used : 38% China citizens willing to share data for better services , compared to 25% in US and 16% in UK. That means China could gain a data advantage that lets it more rapidly develop technologies & service


for a full view of presentation ( all 294 pages )


7 steps to data-driven customer obsession

seven steps

As we break for Christmas I have just had a great morning with DataIQ Leaders discussing how data can transform CX.

I led a discussion with a group of Analytical leaders with seven simple steps on the road to build advanced Customer Analytics. It’s challenging and requires commitment and alignment from around all the organisation to be successful

  1. Identify the commercial & customer Goals in next 18m-36m
  2. Build a clear vision of a radically different data-driven customer experience, working across digital & bricks & mortar and align across the organisation.
  3. Remove Silos of data use creating a single version of the truth, with a data strategy linked to business goals e.g. Unified View of customer data, GDPR ready and tools developed to meet commercial goals.
  4. Breakdown the institutional fear of data & digital at all levels through training & doing: it’s a tool that anyone can use to do what you have been doing better
  5. Use Data Analytics to Map & Prioritise customer journeys & personalised experiences across human & digital touchpoints and align organisation capability to deliver for customer.
  6. Identify & Build the capabilities (Process, Tools People) that will be required to transform process design from efficiency focused (cheaper) to customer focused (better simpler cheaper) , specifically putting in place an analytics capability to enable data-driven, personalised journeys
  7. Foster stronger bonds between technical and different business people. This is a two-way process to ensure the technical teams understand the commercial imperatives, and customer solutions you would like to build, and the business teams learn to trust the expertise of technical IT teams. It will also allow you to improve data quality through showing the business impact.

Using Data & Advanced Customer Analytics  to put the customer at the heart of an organisation is a transformation that future looking organisations need to start implementing now.

Cyber Security: be paranoid not afraid

cyber security 2

What you need to know about Cyber security. 

I recently attended a workshop with several Chief Data Officers and led by Dr Phil Jones MD and Head of Cyber Security for Airbus Defence and Space, and it focused minds on the challenges around CYBER SECURITY. 

Lots has been written about Cyber Security. The new Cyber World of Big Data and connected or networked devices is GOOD. The digitally connected world is an opportunity for the 21st Century, with data stored, processed , discovered and used to make the world better and easier. The CHALLENGE around Security is the Risk and Danger if not properly looked after. 

Cyber Security should be on the mind of all CEOs but in essence is part of any retailers loss prevention team. We wouldn’t leave a shop without a front window, or leave the doors open or unlocked during the night when no one is there. So we should just orientate ourselves to thinking about Cyber Security in the same way we look at Loss Prevention. 

There are 3 categories of Cyber Attacks and Cyber Security

  1. Hacktivists
  2. Cyber Criminals
  3. Nation State Asymetric Warfare.

Cyber Attack costs money : the costs of cyber attack are in the P&L: operational, financial and intangible assets on the balance sheet: brand image / trust. 

Organisations need to have strategies against all three types of attack: . 

  1. Most Hackers attack organisations where there is a large amount of Kudos to be gained from exposing them ( eg Ashley Madison  ) and/ or its relatively easy compared to other sites.The best defence against Hacking attack is to have an organisation that hackers love and trust  ( relatively ) and wouldn’t want to expose, and make it difficult enough to stop them trying ( because there are easier places to hack for the same kudos) 
  2. Cyber Criminals: Go where it’s easiest to attack. don’t leave the front door open, or make it easy to get it. There are some simple things organsisations can do to BE CYBERSTREETWISE. GCHQ and the government have laid out advice on cyberessentials and cyber essentials plus that will significantly reduce threat.
  3. Nation State Attack: if the Chinese Or Russian or any other Government wants to attack your organisation there is probably not that much individual organisations can do in this DAVID vs Goliath battle. But don’t make it too easy for them. If your organisation is of Strategic importance to UK Government then get GCHQ to advise. (Tip: if you’re not sure or don’t know , you probably aren’t )

Cyber Security may appear to be highly technical but the same principles can be applied it as you do to Physical Security

DataIQ Summit 2016 thoughts

change reality

I have just spent a day at and spoke at the DataIQ Summit.  David Reed organised a broad church of specialist data leaders who shared their experience of transformation in data led organisations

I shared the stage with leaders from amongst others UK Government, Open Data Institute, The Guardian, Channel4 , Barclaycard Europe Npower as well as the inspirational Alan Mitchell and Inma Martinez

Whilst each speaker shared a different technical solution, there were several consistent themes

  • Customer First: around being given access to customers’ data is a privilege, so be innovative, be clear, bring the business along with you, put customers in control
  • Getting the full potential from data is a Cultural Transformation programme, start with People, Behaviours, Process and then systems and methodology.

I shared learning around how data is not difficult, and the challenge for organisations is improving data literacy. To gain permission and build confidence, you need to find the sweet spot of combining three different areas: be clear on the commercial imperatives, develop customer propositions that solve customer solutions that deliver against those commercial imperatives, and then align the technical teams ( IT, Analytics, developers) to develop the customer solutions that solve the commercial imperatives.

sweet spot

I used case studies from best practice examples how organisations developed through a Crawl, Walk and the Run methodology: (Disney, Sainsbury’s Obama and Trump, Starbucks, 7-11, British Gas, London Transport & Strava)

(check out detailed stories on my blog

In summary other speakers:

Sue Bateman at Government Data services talked through how we don’t just need a data strategy, we need a SMART one to avoid haystacks

Jenni Tennison at Open Data Institute: talked through Open Data is good, use it to innovate and grow. Give customers control, Be clear and add value.

Openness and transparency is at the core of Julia Porter @Guardian strategy for handling personal data.  Being given access to someone’s data is a privilege: Be clear open honest and put customers in control.

guardian datablog

Making Viewing more individual and personalised at Channel 4 Sanjeevan Beta explained how they evolved the customer value exchange using data driven approach to building an engagement ladder.

James de Sousa from Post Office talked through how they are on the journey to create a data driven organisation that is 350 years old and deliver on their purpose: we help you get life’s important things done.  He talked through 3 points to accelerate the change:

  • Push the customer agenda breaking down the product silos,
  • Development of an Agile Scrum process to drive rapid change,
  • Focus on commercial value to take people with you.

The new GDPR is a hot topic for organisations. Christine Andrew from DQM discussed how best to prepare and gave her view on 7 actions to focus on:

  1. Map data flows
  2. Map the customer journey
  3. Categorise and prioritise data by risk (not all data is equal)
  4. Review your partners. If they can’t tell you quickly how they are prepared push harder that’s where the risk is)
  5. Evidence your standards (lots will emerge from ICO, DMA etc)
  6. Ensure you’re are properly resourced for change
  7. Audit yourself to see how prepared you are.

Rob Kent talked through the Cultural Change Programme that the Royal Mail has been going through in the last 5 years. His learning was to focus on where you can create value to gain support in the organisation and at same time build a roadmap for new capabilities.

“the data to run our business would be the data to grow our business”

Rob’s 5 point plan for Royal Mail

  • Set up the Governance (data is a sign off for all investment proposals)
  • Understand data flows
  • Create people process and culture (centralised teams with similar skills)
  • Make efficiencies and invested in People & Skills
  • Invested in Technology and mandated people to use it.

Payal Jain at Barclaycard laid out a calm and measured but very passionate story of her journey at Barclaycard that make the kitten into a Lion.  She laid out the 4 key components she used to deliver the Analytical maturity curve at Barclaycard:

  • People
  • Behaviour and Culture
  • Data Capability
  • Analytical Methodology

Big Thought: It’s not the size of your data that counts: It’s what you do with it.

Two Thought Leaders stood out for me with the questions they posed:

Alan Mitchell at Ctrl+Shift talked about shifting the dial on customer data: debunking Data Constraints and Myths (More data is better, single view of customer is nirvana, more data means you are closer, purpose of data use is to improve the organisation) and laid out a future for data use :

  1. Safe by default,
  2. Leveraging Trust to build a shared relationship,
  3. Flip your data assets ,
  4. develop more information services with the customer.

Certainly a thought piece for creating a different relationship with customers that industry leading organisations should be adopting.

Inma Martinez was an inspiration. She laid out the Brazilian idea of happiness everyday not compartmentalised and set the challenge: “Are you only trying to make sense of the present… what about the future?”

Data is worthless without contextual assumptions: She talked through her experience of creating transformational insight using data through mixing people in a team to randomly collide and increase creativity. The right People teams drove change.


Three tips:

  • Don’t just analyse the present 2D predict the future 3D
  • Accept messiness
  • Uncover anomalies / deviations which will become trends

Inma is currently looking at the worlds Social Media (Disambiguating the present) to understand the sentiments that are driving people so that Data intelligence can be used to drive product innovation not just marketing. Watch out women control 75% of decisions!

One final point should go to David Reed chairing the day who is championing gender diversity in the Data industry: the speakers at the conference were equally spilt male/ female. A deliberate choice and we should all applaud David’s passion and drive to address the imbalance of women in data industry



Speaking at BRC Insight Conference

change reality

In a time of transformational change, an improving economy, and dynamic technical advances retailers are facing a number of significant challenges as well as opportunities. Leveraging customer insight to build a competitive advantage is now a necessity but often the question remains of how to turn data into actionable insight

I have just spent a day BRC Insight 2016 conference organised by British Retail Consortium and attended by key insight professionals as a speaker and panellist.

I opened Keynote Presentation about how using data is not technically difficult the challenge is around building data literacy. People, Process and culture not the technical implementation.  Finding a sweet spot that combines delivery of commercial agenda, by building relevant customer propositions through technical use of data is the utopia that can be achieved. Four uses of data emerge and I then illustrated the story through case studies of organisations who have made the change in People and Culture and become data driven organisations: Disney, Sainsbury’s, Walmart, Starbucks, 7-11 and Strava amongst others. Check-out case studies on

sweet spot

Martin Newman CEO PRACTICOLOGY made a Chairman’s address to set the scene for the day. With over 30 years’ experience in Omni channel retailing, and a friendship with Tim Berners-Lee, Martin laid out how Digital and Data skills should not be in silos in organisations, and DIGITAL/Data should be distributed as a core skill around the organisation which needs to structure around the customer. Bring back good old fashioned personalisation like the Walton’s, where they knew you well. Burberry have started to do in-store personalisation for customers through store colleagues, and assign dedicated staff members to every on-line order.   The customer is now 100% in control of when and from where they buy and retailers need to recognise that in their behaviour.

waltons shopkeep Ike Godsey

Tom Feldmann CEO Brand Alley talked how customers have become fickler and retailers have to be more relevant to them and collect data from every touch point. Brand Alley is a pure play on-line membership retailer with 2m upmarket members. They sell end of season lines for luxury brands and recruits new users for those brands (check them out on


Over Coffee the discussion with Richard Baker (chairman of Whitbread and DFS) who I worked with at Sainsbury’s  reinforced how retailers need to use data to improve increased humanisation taking personalisation of the experience back to a human interaction either on digital or face to face. Very relevant for Costa and Premier Inn amongst others.

richard baker


Yossi Erdman from talked through how they have kept very closely focused on the commercial imperatives in UK’s largest digital white goods retailer, and developed a customer proposition that is more than just price, making white goods products sound interesting, and bringing the service they provide to life.  Good examples of listening to the customer and engaging colleagues in a positive way. Focus on real people , the customers of and let them tell their own stories. Simple yet very effective. 2

John Bovil IT and Ecommerce Director from Monsoon Accessorize talked through the challenges they face joining the dots for members and transitioning from a multichannel retailer to a connected enterprise.  IoT will create so much data that organisations will start to creak and break in the new connected world and they are moving towards the utopia of data & analytics available any-time, anywhere for colleagues through the eyes of the customer.

A common theme emerged across all the presenters and delegates around the challenge in making Process and People changes to change the Culture in an organisation to be more customer focused. Increased listening at pace, together with an increased level of personalisation will drive more customer centric colleagues and organisations.

Talking Omnichannel


Last week I was invited to speak at The Executive Network’s Multichannel Customer Journey Conference in Royal Garden Hotel London , with James McClure General Manager Airbnb , Tamsin Todd MD Crystal Ski Holidays TUI and Adam Wilson from TheO2 amongst others.

The over-riding theme from delegates and other speakers was around making change happen. There is reasonable clarity amongst leaders in what is required to deliver an improved Omni-channel customer experience that drives growth. The difficult challenge is the How to drive change in an organisation at the pace required.

I talked about driving change in an organisation starts by having clarity on the organisations purpose and goals, aligning internally first, telling the story through multi-layers of Me, We and Us to align leadership, colleagues and customers to all become advocates.

To tell the story effectively three key areas need to be aligned to deliver an improved Omni-channel customer experience.

  1. clarity around the commercial imperatives that need to be delivered:
    • driving the bottom line by improving efficiency of the operation
      • by making it better for customer,
      • simpler for colleagues or
      • cheaper to run,
    • or driving profit by growing top-line customer numbers and L4L sales growth.
  2. Developing customer solutions that deliver those commercial imperatives.
  3. Aligning the Technical teams in Analytics, IT and development around an agreed customer solution that delivers the commercial goals.

Other delegates had examples that built on this theme:

James McClure from Airbnb aligned the organisation around a common purpose to “experience the world like a local”, working with partners renting space in their homes and using data driven analytics to improve the relevance for “renters”

Checkout my blog for more detail:

Adam Wilson from The O2 talked about how the whole organisation aligned around improving the customer experience because that drove repeat visits. The whole organisation focused on providing more information to visitors at key time. Data driven analytics and real-time data are used to continually make a visit better.

Abhi Chacko from Gatwick Airport had a challenge around limited capacity in a growth market that needed to be stretched. He talked through how they are using Open Data working alongside airlines like EasyJet to make the experience of visiting the airport better for customer by providing flight departure details on everyone’s phone app rather than searching for a departures board to find out when you have to go through, simpler for colleagues with Easyjet baggage dropping services and quicker which improved the capacity in a limited resource.

Tamsin Todd CEO Crystal Ski Holidays talked through how they improved the customer experience in an omni-channel environment, creating value for customers and driving incremental sales and efficiency.

Aligning organisations around the customer to deliver improved Omni channel experiences is definitely a challenge faced by many organisations and requires leadership on Exec board and beyond to drive change.

checkout my other blogs :