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With great customer data comes great opportunity. Today's retailers have access to more data than they've ever had before, and smart use of it can give them an invaluable competitive edge in challenging conditions.

But if you're thinking of developing a new data monetisation strategy, or overhauling an existing one, it's worth assessing your starting point first. Understanding the critical components of good data monetisation can make all the difference to the success of your strategy.

You'll also need to understand how your data will support the decisions you want to make and execute against, plus the role of CPGs in key decisions like ranging, promotions planning and in-store and online media.

The most effective data monetisation strategies are built on four key pillars. Get these in place and you can move forward with confidence.


The best strategies are driven by insights into customer behaviour, not just sales data. Everything from how often they're shopping and how much they're buying, to how many premium products they're opting for. The more you know about what your customers are doing in-store and online, the more customer-centric the resulting recommendations will be. You can't build a data monetisation strategy that will transform your business on transactional sales data alone.

This means that the first thing you've really got to get in place is the right data. Ideally this will have been collected through a CRM programme, such as a loyalty card with a coverage of at least 50% of customer base.

Once collected, you'll get the most from your data by merging it into a single database. This means information from different categories and locations can be analysed together, creating a consistent data-driven customer language. You and your CPGs can then use this consistent language when talking about category and brand performance, and use consistent KPIs to track and measure success.

Used correctly, your data will provide a framework for shared workstreams to better meet the needs of your customers.


As we've discussed previously, the retailers competing most strongly at the moment are those who are putting customer needs first. If you have a customer-centric culture embedded from the top of your organisation to the bottom, you'll find it significantly easier to get the most out of data monetisation. This is because your whole organisation – including buyers, category management and insight teams, and merchandisers – needs to focus on understanding customers, not just sales and margins. It can't just be the responsibility of one team.

Monetisation strategies are successful when they equip the retailer and their suppliers with the insights to work together to achieve category level objectives. As a retailer, if your working relationship with your suppliers is already based on trust, transparency and collaboration, rather than the traditional 'them vs us' dynamic, you'll find this comes easily.

Some retailers have concerns about transparency – not wanting to share category insights with CPGs or fearing that doing so reduces their power in the relationships. But at dunnhumby, we always argue that the CPG needs to see the insights for the whole category, not just their product. This enables them to really understand how they can support the performance of the category and align their brand portfolio to meet this objective.

Together, you can collaborate to:

  • Ensure trade planning focuses on promoting products that generate sales uplift for the category, instead of negotiating the funding of promotions
  • Ensure range planning meets the needs of customers, rather than focussing on increasing space for margin-driving SKUs for a single brand

Processes are another area where retailers can give themselves a head-start. If you have a properly documented category management process in place that's compliant and used across your category teams, the tools of data monetisation will be much easier to use.

If you also bring CPGs into the process, you'll benefit from an external view, category expertise and a competitor retail perspective. Empowering one or two key suppliers in the category as 'category captains' can ensure you're making full use of their experience, resource and knowledge. When customer data is embedded into a work plan supported by an end-to-end, 'insight to execution' process, your successful customer-led category strategy will be easier to realise.


Is someone in your organisation leading the commercial workstreams related to your customer data? Your chances of success will be greatly helped by having people dedicated to the workstream.

Within retailers with successful data monetisation strategies, we're increasingly seeing Heads of Marketing Strategy or Heads of Monetisation being appointed to lead the initiatives. Whatever their title, to drive a successful strategy you need someone in charge who is less focused on getting product to shelf and more aligned with innovative revenue streams.

Once your monetisation strategy has been defined, it's crucial this is led by the head of buying or category management and executed by every category buying and management team. It's here that the day-to-day working relationships with CPGs will be formed, shared work plans created, KPIs for success defined and the insight to activation executed.

You may also need to look at your skillset within data management. Customer data is much more sophisticated than sales data. Your staff may not have the skills right now – but upskilling them will help you cut through the noise in the data and ensure the right insights are used.


Assessing your organisation's technology against a few key questions will decide whether you are better off bringing in an external specialist:

  1. Have I made the right investments, in CRM or loyalty programmes, to generate the data I'm going to need? Am I therefore collecting the right data?
  2. Am I managing the data I've collected effectively by storing it centrally and enabling analysis and other value-add insights?
  3. Is my business able to access the data and output of analysis, and use it to make better business decisions?

If you're not confident that your in-house technology meets these criteria, outsourcing to a specialist can save you considerable time and money. That way, you'll also benefit from the best-in-class tools.

When you're building a monetisation strategy and assessing your capabilities against these four pillars, it's crucial you keep your CPGs in mind. How will you embed them into the process? Which insight solutions will you make available to them? And what decisions would you like your CPGs to be involved with?

Having a clear understanding of who your customers are and how they behave doesn't just support better in-store execution of category and promotional workstreams. With this knowledge, you'll be able to activate more relevant, personalised and timely media, both in-store and online, to support your new in-store execution. This means your customers will experience more personalised, relevant offers, your CPGs will benefit from highly targeted, clearly measured campaigns and you'll benefit from the category sales uplift generated from a seamless coordinated multi-channel campaign.

[This is the fourth in a series of articles advocating the voice of the Customer in the highly competitive food-retail industry. David Ciancio is Global Customer Strategist for dunnhumby, a pioneer in Customer data science, serving the world's most Customer-centric brands in a number of industries, including retail. David has 48 years experience in retail, 25 of which were in Store Management. He can be reached at].

Treating Customers differently based on their 'profitability' is counter-productive to building loyalty and toward creating a healthy retail Customer Experience.

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It's a well-worn phrase by now, but it's true that the COVID-19 crisis has drastically altered the global retail landscape. Here in the Asia-Pacific region, a majority of markets are now looking past the panic of the first wave and towards the future. In this series of articles, we'll explore how grocery retailers must adapt to a more omnichannel reality to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

The new wave of online grocery customers

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis we've seen the sharp rise and fall of many trends. As countries veered from one phase of the pandemic to the next, we've seen everything from panic-buying and stockpiling, to a booming demand for hygiene products. While some of these trends have stuck, the resumption of a more 'normal' life in many parts of the Asia-Pacific have seen others tail off.

One trend which is set to stay is in eCommerce, particularly within grocery. Lockdown drove a surge to online grocers the likes of which we have never seen – and it seems customers have been convinced by the online experience. According to multiple recent studies[1] China's grocery eCommerce market, already a booming sector with 29% growth last year, is now tipped to grow by 60% this year as the coronavirus has driven whole new segments of customers to the online grocery market. The trend is also sustaining; the main growth driver in's record-breaking '618' event this year was grocery, with sales almost doubling[2].

While general retail has been building momentum online for some years, grocery has been something of a laggard, rarely accounting for more than 15% of the overall grocery market. Historically the major barrier to entry to online grocery has been trust – over 50% of customers do not trust online grocery deliveries to pick the freshest and best items[3]. For years this has been a catch-22 scenario for retailers: customers don't trust the quality of online grocery because they haven't tried it, but they won't try online grocery because they don't trust the quality.

COVID-19 has caused a new wave of customers to finally take a leap of faith into digital grocery. Retailers can be happy that they've won new customers online, but now comes the hard work of retaining them.

The need for Customer Infrastructure

Much has been made of retailers' attempts to keep up with surging online demand during the early phases of the pandemic. Even in globally advanced eCommerce markets like the UK, the lead retailer has had to significantly expand delivery capacity to keep up with demand[4]. In order to meet the needs of new customers, retailers have rightly focused on having the right physical infrastructure in place.

However, if retailers want to keep meeting the needs of customers, they'll now need to focus on a different kind of infrastructure - the online customer experience.

The ease of shopping online is a double-edged sword for retailers. If customers can shop online with one retailer, they can shop online with any retailer. Your competitor store is no longer 1 kilometre away, it is one click away. Customers can literally browse competitor shop windows while they are in your store, and for countless retailers in the Asia-Pac region where online sales have historically been low, their digital stores may be looking rather outdated.

So while you may have won new customers, the fight to keep them is much more challenging.

Getting the digital experience right

The principles of great customer experience online are the same as instore. It's about helping customers easily find what they want. It's about helping customers feel they've got a good deal. It's about having a well-laid out store. Fundamentally, a great digital experience is about putting customers first and responding to their needs. Thankfully, the nature of eCommerce makes it possible to know these needs in detail through the wealth of data available to retailers. The data you're likely already collecting will tell you everything required to build a better overall and individual shopping experience for each customer who shops online.

Here are 3 ways retailers can act now to build a winning customer experience online:

  1. Bring the offline online
    Your customers may be new online, but many of them will be existing offline shoppers. Their loyalty card history enables you to show them items they already buy. Better still, predictive data science can detect which of those items are staple and regular purchases that each customer might need right now – helping them quickly and efficiently build a basket based on their own personal behaviour. This knowledge can also help act as an online virtual assistant, helping customers find substitutes for out of stock products and prompting them with items they may have forgotten to add at the checkout.
  2. Make it easy to find value
    In a world where customers can price compare at the flick of a tab, maintaining price perception is vital. This is easier said than done online, as customers won't spend time browsing the 500 products you have on special that week. Instead, use relevancy algorithms to curate your promotions list at the customer level using their previous behaviour, and show each customer the offers that actually matter to them.
  3. Optimise the navigation
    Newer online customers tend to use online search and taxonomy functions much more than experienced online shoppers. If your online category flow is unclear, difficult to interpret or poorly arranged, shoppers will have a harder and more frustrating experience. Equally, if their searches lead to incorrect or blank results, customers will quickly lose patience. Site analytics data in the hands of an expert is a goldmine for optimising the online navigation – from naming and arranging categories in a strong taxonomy to eliminating poor-performing searches.

Retailers in Asia have a limited window of time to win the continued business of new online customers. As these customers become more familiar with the experience, the greater will be their demands and their likelihood to look elsewhere when their experience is sub-optimal.

At dunnhumby, we've been advising grocery retailers on digital best practise for over 10 years, led by 30+ years of leading experience in data science and we have developed a range of products for retailers to deliver exactly these kinds of industry-leading customer experience online, powered by retail data.

In the next part of our series on the post-COVID landscape in Asia-Pacific, we'll explore the diverging needs of customers in the wake of the pandemic, and how omnichannel personalisation can help retailers meet those needs efficiently and effectively.

[1] E-commerce drives China's stay-at-home economy in coronavirus aftermath & China's online grocery sector set for explosive growth, says GlobalData

[2] Chinese shoppers are staying online. That's great news for

[3] Study cites barriers to online grocery shopping

[4] Tesco Delivers One Million Online Orders In A Week In The UK


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Better understand and activate your Shoppers to grow sales.

Retail leaders must objectively understand how their business currently considers Customers before trying to set a more Customer-centric direction and focus. There are some formal assessment methodologies, like dunnhumby's Retail Preference Index (RPI) and Customer Centricity Assessment (CCA), which offer detailed evaluations of a business' capabilities, strengths and weaknesses based on Customer perceptions (RPI) or global best practices (CCA).

The approach outlined below is not intended to replace these formal tools; rather, these observations are intended as a kind of 'toe in the water' to help retail leaders form early hypotheses and points of views. These are rules of thumb, heuristics culled from global experience. Later, leaders might use these observations to informally check progress from time to time as a way of assessing whether the "program in the stores matches the program in our heads".

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In the first episode of Customer First Radio, Dave Clements, Global Head of Retail for dunnhumby and David Ciancio, Global Head of Grocery for dunnhumby kick off the series by discussing what it means to be a truly Customer First business, share which retailers and brands today embody a Customer First mindset, and examine how Customer First materialized during the pandemic with retailers.