M&S hires ex-Clubcard chief for Sparks card revival

Marks & Spencer is aiming to inject new life into its Sparks loyalty scheme by recruiting former Tesco Clubcard director Danielle Papagapiou to the new role of head of loyalty as part of a shake-up of its data and digital teams.
The beleaguered retailer already works with Starcount, the company run by DunnHumby co-founders Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby. The husband and wife team are arguably two of the most influential figures in data-driven and loyalty marketing, who worked on Clubcard from its inception in the late Nineties.
And, over the past year, M&S has made a significant investment in data and digital. In January, it hired former Asda chief Andrew Mann to head up the retailer’s insight strategy, while Jeremy Pee became the retailer’s first ever chief digital and data officer a month earlier. He has since started the search for a head of data science.
In addition, M&S has set up a strategic artificial intelligence partnership with Microsoft, launched the data science academy in partnership with Decoded, expanded its partnership with predictive analytics specialist First Insight and launched a start-up incubator programme alongside Founders Factory.
However, it seems the company is still no closer to delivering on chief executive Steve Rowe’s pledge to make the firm “fit for the digital age”.
According to a leaked memo, seen by Retail Week, the new-look digital and data function will focus on six key areas: customer growth and experience, business development and innovation, loyalty, data, data science, and digital product management.
Papagapiou joins from Vision Express, where she has been customer director since February 2018. Prior to that she spent nearly 15 years at Tesco in a number of roles, from customer insight and display to Clubcard development director and Clubcard director. Ultimately Papagapiou was customer director at Tesco-owned One Stop.
At M&S, she will focus on the relaunch of Sparks next year, which even Rowe has admitted “needs substantial improvement”.
The scheme has been under fire virtually since its 2015 launch, however, with former Tesco Clubcard chief Grant Harrison accusing the retailer of going down a dead end, insisting that “Sparks is just paint by numbers loyalty”.
Others have claimed programme is confusing for shoppers and is far too reliant on discounting, offering shoppers promotions based on the number of points they have accumulated.
Commenting on Papagapiou’s appointment, M&S said: “These changes will enable our digital and data function to become a centre of excellence, help our business grow and unlock the power of data, so we make better customer decisions and deliver a seamless experience for our customers. This is at the heart of our strategy to become a ‘digital first’ retailer and is critical if we are going to win in the retail market today – and in the future.”

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