John Lewis beefs up data leadership with Lloyds chief

john_lewis_data2The John Lewis Partnership is strengthening its data operations with the appointment of the retailer’s first director of data, insight and analytics, as the company looks to further bolster customer understanding to fuel its recovery plan.

Barry Panayi will take up the role on March 1, joining from Lloyds Banking Group where he has served as chief data and analytics officer for the past three years.

Panayi started his career as a data analyst, joining Proximity Worldwide in 2001. He then had spells at Vanquis Bank, EY, and Virgin before taking up the role of head of data science at Bupa in 2013.

Panayi joined Lloyds in July 2018 and led the data strategy, governance and data science teams. He has also been a non-executive director of Ofgem since March last year, advising the regulator on its digital and data strategy.

The partnership has a long history of embracing data-driven techniques, having rolled out both the MyJohnLewis and MyWaitrose loyalty programmes in 2013 and, a year later, it started working with Google to improve its operation, on and off the shop floor, with productivity solutions from G Suite.

It also works with digital product testing and decision-making platform First Insight and has a contract with Eagle Eye – the real-time digital promotions specialist headed up by former Tesco chief Tim Mason – to deliver digital customer marketing.

In 2018, the partnership implemented Google Cloud to help deliver better experiences for customers, across app, website, and in-store in both divisions.

And it now runs the Partnership Data Platform, which 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.

The platform has been spearheaded by head of analytics Lester Berry since January 2019.

John Lewis Partnership said in a statement: “The need for high quality data analytics and customer insight is critical for the Partnership as a customer centric business.

“Almost every outcome and new business area in our Partnership Plan needs to be built on a strong understanding of customer needs and behaviours, so investing in this area is a big priority for us.”

Panayi added: “I’m incredibly excited to take up my new role and feel privileged to have been asked to be part of such an iconic organisation in such a great team.”

The appointment comes at a critical time for the business, amid weekend reports that it is considering closing even more stores as chair Dame Sharon White initiates a fresh cost cutting programme.

Last year, the retailer took closed eight stores to counter the Covid-19 downturn; according to The Sunday Times, up to eight more of its 42 remaining outlets could now be axed. The rethink has been fuelled by a strong online performance during the enforced pandemic lockdown, with the Partnership predicting that between 60% and 70% of John Lewis sales will be made online by 2025.

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