Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy has debunked the theory that big data is a new phenomenon, claiming the Clubcard scheme – launched back in 1995 – was “the first example of big data managing the customer relationship”.
And, speaking to Internet Retailing, Leahy urged retailers to use their data to give customers what they want. He added: “In so many companies there’s no shortage of data but it’s in the wrong place, at the perimeter of the business. The key decisions are taken at the heart of the business. Often the most powerful in the organisation are the least informed. That’s the reality.”
Now is the time, he said, to invest in data which, unlike other retail business costs, is falling in price.
When it launched in 1995, Clubcard was, “the first example of big data, managing the customer relationship through data,” and one that “transformed the company” because it meant that Tesco knew who its customers were and could target them in a relevant way.
“For the consumer, online and offline becomes invisible,” he said. “They’re interested in the needs and interests that they have and whether you as a brand can help or not. Often they won’t notice how you do that, whether it’s on a mobile phone, on the computer at home or computer in store or virtual display or real store, they basically want you to be ubiquitous but under their control so that if they want you they can use you.”
He said: “The key is to use data to get a better management of supply chain and operating systems, also to understand customers better. In that way you can create more relevant benefit for customers and create loyalty, from that comes more spend and more profitable spend. That’s basically the economics of data.”
But data on its own is not enough, warned Leahy. “Values, culture, purpose – these actually matter as much to success as the technology and data. Even today when there is limitless data, limitless potential, actually the values matter even more. They speak to the heart in the way that data and technology speak to the head.”
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