Q&A with Laure Frank, Director eCommerce & Omnichannel at Manor AG
We sat down with Laure Frank, Director eCommerce & Omnichannel at Manor AG to find out more about how data strategies are evolving. Here’s what she had to say…
What is giving leading retailers the advantage in terms of data strategy?
Laure: I think the main advantage that leading retailers have is the ability to combine online and offline data to create a full view of the customer journey. For example, we can clearly trace the full customer journey from POS visit to website visit, which allows us to create an omnichannel experience.
Everybody seems to have his own definition of omnichannel. Essentially, it is combining the power of channels by creating one source of data that underpins them. For example, Manor links web with our offline channel through our click-and-collect service. Also, when customers visit a store, we now have tablets to assist our staff and allow customers to see additional products that might not be in stock at POS at this time.
If a certain size or colour is sold out, customers can order it from our online shop. We have a broad range of department stores in terms of size, from very large stores to rather small ones. It's a great opportunity for smaller stores to gain access to the full assortment of brands we have in our overall assortment, which is key in terms of customer satisfaction.
What are the cornerstones of a future proof data strategy?
Laure: The key priority will be investing in a 360-degree customer view. The focus for customer data should be to actively engage strong visibility on customer data, internally and externally. Within the company, data should be simple enough for everyone to understand. There should be no complex modelling or huge files that are difficult to analyse. We need to aggregate and simplify data so that it is convenient and visual.
In terms of external visibility, customers are much more willing to give access to their personal data as long as they can understand the added value for themselves. In case we are able to offer them a truly personalised experience both in-store and online and if we can address their needs and expectations more precisely, they will want to be a part of this enhanced experience. It’s the responsibility of each brand and retailer to achieve these results with the customer data that it is collecting.
How do you think the industry will change as data privacy becomes more regulated?
Laure: Customers are becoming much more data aware. Even though GDPR isn’t enforced in Switzerland, people are aware of it. In my opinion, as personal data becomes more regulated, a key strategic advantage will be to offer an enhanced personalised experience to the customer so that they are willing to share data. This creates a solid foundation for a relationship between the brand and consumer because it gets you into a much more personal space. The aim is to make interactions such as shopping recommendations, something that customers are really looking forward to. If you can gain a customer’s trust, then you can get access to the data that will create that experience.
Where do you think AI has the most potential to transform omnichannel commerce?
Laure: There are multiple uses for AI, and I am convinced it will transform everything. The appetite for AI is clearly increasing. A large part of the retail chain is digitalised, and AI has the power to connect these processes.
For a long time, AI was siloed in its own department and tacked on as an afterthought, but more and more it's starting to become fundamentally integrated across the board. AI is everywhere. It's part of our customer services, it’s part of our category management, and of course it’s a huge part of our online marketing. AI has the potential to fully connect and transform retail.
How can organisations instil a culture of data to make sure that AI doesn't end up as an afterthought?
Laure: This is a huge challenge. In my opinion, a structural shift is necessary to utilise the full potential of data. One approach which is currently up for discussion is building a kind of digital factory which breaks silos and brings all our departments together to pool their digital assets. Digitalisation and AI cannot be just the topic of one area in the company anymore, they need to traverse silos. You need a lot of different roles and profiles within your data factory in order to ensure the maximal use of these data. Main objective across departments should be the simplification of data so that it is visible and accessible for the whole company.
How can the C-Suite be convinced to foot the bill for an AI solution?
Laure: AI has so much potential to improve customer satisfaction and overall turnover. With better data, the buying department could make much more accurate predictions on how much it should order and what kind of prices they should use. The data is there, and it has the potential to be very powerful, but most of the time it is difficult to extract it and work with it. To convince the C-suite to invest in AI, there is a need to focus on what can be gained in terms of profitability and performance in each area.