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Retailers and brands are facing a double whammy of keeping sales and profits buoyant, while facing a period of unprecedented change with an explosion of new market entrants. Many are seeking new ways to create revenue. This month for our 3-minute interview, we talked to Sandrine Devy, Global Manufacturer Practice Managing Director to learn more about why retailers should be monetising their data, how brands can benefit, and what they need in place to make this happen.

With current pressures in the retail landscape, what factors do you think brands and retailers need to prioritise more than ever?

With grocery channels under pressure, driving growth, creating efficiencies and developing new revenue through monetisation are the 3 main areas of focus for retailers and brands (make, save and find money).

Today, one quarter of the top 250 retailers in the world are monetising their Customer Data through insights (many more are doing so with their Sales Data), generating direct income of an estimated £320m from their supplier base. This has grown by 40% in the last two years and we estimate it will double in the next three years – not just by the number of retailers, but by revenue per retailer as well.

Retailers who are not currently thinking about monetising their data and media assets are in danger of missing this opportunity to secure additional income outside their core grocery sales business. But more importantly, they are missing an opportunity to gain wider benefit from Customer-First retailing by aligning their suppliers to this way of doing business.

In developing markets, where sales are still growing, retailers and brands really have to structure their category management approach to become more Customer-First focused. When a business understands the Customer and activates against their needs, they'll not only be more responsive to changes in consumer behaviour, they'll improve the Customer experience and generate long term loyalty. This type of operating model creates a platform for sustainable, strategic growth. And the best way to maximize this is to engage suppliers through insights, focusing the collaboration on what matters most to Customers in categories.

In mature markets, where sales growth is more limited, many retailers and brands will need to focus firmly on efficiencies. The challenge here is around promotions, and how to optimise them – driving more sales from a smaller investment. While promotions are already a key element in the relationship between retailers and their suppliers, analysis of their true performance generally suffers from lack of transparency.

What are the key things retailers need to address for monetisation?  What are the main barriers?

There are a couple of ingredients which are vital for launching successful monetisation strategies. First is having the right data to monetise. EPOS (electronic point of sale) data is not enough nowadays, but loyalty card data or tokenised data which enables richer insights on actual Customer level purchase behaviour is the way forward.

Secondly, and in some ways more importantly, if a business does not have the will to change the cultural mindset to become data-driven, then monetisation will fail. And changing the culture of a business is not a simple task – it requires total and absolute commitment from the top-down and bottom-up to drive a change in attitude and processes.

So while having a direct Customer data feed is paramount for any monetisation strategy, for it to be sustainable, the business must adopt a Customer-First approach to decision making. If you fail to consider the impact of your monetisation approach on your Customer experience, then you risk losing the very asset that's driving the revenue – your Customers. Business decisions should be made to improve Customer experience in equal measure as to drive revenue; the two are not mutually exclusive.

And lastly, the retailer must have the desire to collaborate with their suppliers in a transparent way that creates a working relationship for shared success. The ultimate goal for both parties should be improving the Customer experience to grow sales.

Tell us a little bit about how the Manufacturer Practice team at dunnhumby helps clients win.

Most brands and manufacturers are one step removed from their shoppers, as generally the retailer owns the relationship with the Customer. We help manufacturers collaborate more effectively with retailers, giving them deeper knowledge of shopper behaviours, so they can understand which new products work best, which ranges should be put in which stores to be Customer relevant, and which promotions are most effective to optimise sales and profits. And the starting point of this is to define and agree the collaboration framework with our retail partners.

What are your retail trend predictions for the next 12 months?

Brands, especially bigger brands, may lose out as consumers turn from global to local, seeking out niche products, looking for more personalised, relevant experiences from the brands they love. Understanding Customer needs more deeply will become increasingly important to brands as they need to adjust their strategies to engage on a personal level.

More retailers will monetise their Customer Data and their media assets. Doing both – media and insights – simultaneously will provide added value to retailers (and their suppliers), as the optimum way to improve the Customer experience in a relevant and engaging way, rather than just acting as a mechanism for generating extra income.

And finally, trade and promotions planning will become increasingly automated, especially in mature markets, driving massive efficiencies in the industry and allowing more time and investment to be directed towards new product development, proposition and experience development, to support changing Customer needs.

white and blue magnetic card

Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

Most companies attempting to drive customer loyalty fail miserably—and few so-called customer-centric companies generate sustainable customer loyalty that drives measurable business results. Why? Because they get three key principles completely wrong, right from the start:

  1. Loyalty is about the company acting loyally to its customers, not vice versa.
  2. It is about a loyalty approach, not a loyalty program.
  3. Loyalty is about the store, not only about the CRM.

1. Loyal to Customers

We start to act loyally to customers when we understand them to a level of detail that ensures that we remain responsive to changes in their behavior, relevant to ever-changing customer needs and rewarding in the way we treat customers.

Acting loyally is about adopting a loyalty mind set of managing customer segments as strategic business units (aligning with how we think about a category management strategy as managing categories as strategic business units). This context demands change that is both incremental and transformational—evolution, but with a bit of manageable revolution.

What customer loyalty is, and is not:

  • Acting loyally (responsive, relevant, rewarding) to our customers; not about customers being loyal to us
  • An overall approach throughout our business; not a proposition or program
  • Earning customer loyalty; not thinking that customers should become loyal
  • Collaborative partnerships to win customers together; not tolerant of internal conflict between areas of the business or with suppliers
  • Transparent; not opaque
  • Driving sales and cash margin; not customers being responsible for percent margin

2. Loyalty Approach vs. Loyalty Program

We demonstrate loyalty to our customers by taking a loyalty approach wherein we commit to rewarding and delighting our customers with products and experiences that meet their wants and needs.

  • We call this putting customers first—when we decide on priorities and actions based on insights from our customer data.
  • By doing so, a retailer becomes an even more prominent choice in the customer's consideration set. This is not a tactic; it is a long-term strategy that makes the customer the focal point of our business decisions and objectives.

The loyalty program is an important element within a loyalty approach, as the key source of the data that enables customer intelligence, and as the channel that enables us to talk to our customers personally. I call the loyalty program the "little l" in loyalty, with the loyalty approach as the "big L."

But a loyalty program is not required to act in a loyal way to customers. Here's how to think of "big L" loyalty:

A loyalty approach, simply put, embeds customer insight throughout the retail organization to enable better, faster decisions and thereby increase sales and profit sustainably. Best-in-class practitioners have seen an incremental sales uplift in the early stages of a loyalty approach of between 1% and 2% and later stages between 3% and 4%, quarter over quarter and year over year.

3. Loyalty Is About the Store, Not Just the CRM

As I used to say to my retail colleagues, "If the store is lousy but we deliver brilliant targeted CRM, the store will still be lousy."

Even if the personalized CRM is perfect, customers need to perceive that tangible changes have been made in the store itself before they will respond by giving more of their custom. We must put customer insights into action within the "hardwiring" of retail practices—pricing, promotion, assortment, adjacencies, new products, the checkout experience and so on.

In a previous article, I shared several examples of being loyal to customers in store by simply making the shopping experience easier—setting the yogurt section by customer need rather than by brand blocks, for example, and by setting product adjacencies according to how customers shop, rather than by how items are sourced in the supply chain.

3 Ways to Activate a True Loyalty Approach

  1. Make better business decision by putting the customer first. Everything is better when you start with the customer. Start with the data you hold on customers—understanding how they shop and behave, what is important to them and how they engage with your business. This insight will identify a number of opportunities for better decisions using the data.
  2. Improve the customer experience by using data-driven insights to improve your retail offering, such as assortment, pricing and promotions. Use insights to connect you to your customer through the store. Think of the mantra "data to insights to actions"—this is how improved like-for-like sales growth and customer loyalty is delivered.
  3. Transform the organization using customer-driven insight to help you better understand, anticipate, measure and continually respond to your customers. This is realized through empowering, aligning and equipping your people with relevant insights, values, goals, strategies and actions.

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[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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Memories of panic buying may be fading here in the UK but have resurfaced elsewhere1. The near constant threat of another wave of Covid-19 may yet prompt another round of hyper demand. Whilst there is little hard evidence to determine the underlying drivers of panic buying2, there are numerous theories that the retail industry may benefit from exploring.

Feroud Seeparsand, dunnhumby's Senior Consumer Psychologist, outlines some likely theories to explain the 'why' behind the 'panic buy' and some implications for retailers to prevent it reoccurring in future.

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The dunnhumby Consumer Pulse Survey is a multi-phased, worldwide study of the impact of COVID-19 on customer attitudes and behavior. We surveyed more than 27,000 respondents online in 22 countries, with interviews conducted for Wave one from March 29 – April 1, for Wave two from April 11 – 14, and for Wave three from May 27 – 31. Due to the rapidly unfolding crisis in North America, dunnhumby conducted Wave four from July 9 – 12 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico only. Here are highlights from the study:

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In a series of posts published earlier this year, we covered the results of the dunnhumby Customer Pulse – a global study designed to explore changing consumer mindsets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over three waves, conducted between March and the end of May, we polled thousands of people from more than 20 countries on subjects including supermarkets' responses to the outbreak, the economic outlook, and how their shopping behaviour had changed due to COVID.

At the beginning of September – three months on from the previous wave and with supply chains stable and the changing nature of lockdowns – we wanted to revisit the Customer Pulse to see what, if anything, had changed. Below are some of the standout findings from this fourth tranche of research.

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assorted fruits at the market

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

In the decade since Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness was published, nudge theory has enjoyed unprecedented success.

Predicated on the idea that individuals respond better to indirect suggestion than outright commands, nudge theory is commonly used as a way of subtly influencing our behaviour towards positive choices. The idea has gained such traction, in fact, that many governments around the world have created "nudge units" in a bid to tackle thorny issues like obesity and the climate emergency.

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Are you looking to increase your contactable Customer base? How much money are you losing on incorrectly identified Customer communications? Throughout our 30 years of big data experience working with clients across industries around the globe, we have found that maintaining contact through relevant Customer engagement is a crucial component of putting the Customer First.

Essential to preserving contact data is ensuring that you have the most up-to-date information from your Customers; not an easy task. On average, people in the United States will move an average of 12 times in their lifetime. United States Postal Service data indicates 14% of the population change addresses annually. As email contact has grown, it's important to note that, on average, 30% of people change their email addresses each year. This is driven by ISP or job changes, or just to stop being spammed. As people move away from home phones to primarily mobile devices, phone numbers are stabilizing as consumers maintain the same numbers through physical moves.

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Smarter operations and sustainable growth, powered by Customer Data Science.


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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dunnhumby’s Prophets of Aisle Six, Episode 2: Heinen's Fine Foods

The Prophets of Aisle Six is the first online reality series focusing on innovation in the food retail industry. In this episode, Jose Gomes, dunnhumby's North America Managing Director, travels to the downtown Cleveland store of Heinen's Fine Foods. Jose meets with Tom and Jeff Heinen, co-owners and brothers, and learns how they are evolving their grandfather's mission of delivering excellent customer service. With 23 stores in Northeast Ohio and the greater Chicago area, and a 90-year legacy, Heinen's is proving that being a small retailer can be an advantage when it comes to data.

In this series, dunnhumby tours the globe and speaks with some of the world's greatest brands, exploring their biggest challenges and how they are using customer data science to meet those challenges.