Forget Edgar, it’s data that’s really firing up John Lewis

john-lewisJohn Lewis and Waitrose might have launched their first joint Christmas campaign only last week but behind the scenes the retailers have been tapping into a centralised data platform to break down data silos across the organisation, as part of a drive for a more omnichannel approach to customer insights and service.

Parent company the John Lewis Partnership first started working with Google in 2014 to improve its operation, on and off the shop floor, with productivity solutions from G Suite.

It has now implemented Google Cloud to help deliver better experiences for customers, across app, website, and in-store in both John Lewis and Waitrose.

The Partnership Data Platform is designed to automate decision-making and facilitate access to data across a much broader range of products. The platform serves as the basis for artificial intelligence and machine-learning projects, allowing for more accurate customer insight and segmentation, and enabling smarter service and better experience. This is a long-term project, serving as the cornerstone of the group’s digital transformation strategy.

John Lewis Partnership chief technology officer Andrew MacInnes said that although the benefits of AI and ML have the ability to transform the business, building this capability from the ground up would have been impossible.

He added: “Google is helping us to continue innovating around the customer experience, enabled by the cloud. We describe this new approach as ‘human digital’; it’s not about replacing the personal qualities our customers like, but reinforcing them with intelligent use of data.”

The company has large scale ambitions for its data platform. It wants to migrate more applications and data to Google Cloud, and to increase the scope of AI-powered tools.

“Fundamentally, we’re trying to put data at the heart of everything we do, supporting our business’ ability to operate over the next decade as the retail landscape shifts. Having Google Cloud on this journey with us means we’re able to move quickly while taking less risks and staying true to our company culture.”

The marketing departments of John Lewis and Waitrose started working closer together last year, with launch of the new John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners identity. At the same time, they launched a new joint loyalty card which brought together the MyJohnLewis and MyWaitrose schemes, although there has to be a decision about on whether to roll it out more broadly.

The marketing teams were merged last month as part of a group-wide restructure.

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