The job posting advertised roles for data scientists, data engineers and business translators and promised “the unique opportunity to work with some of the greatest minds across our retail businesses which include Bunnings, Officeworks, Kmart, Target and Blackwoods”.
The notice reflects a broad-based effort to ramp up data and digital capabilities within Wesfarmers, as evidenced by its decision to retain significant control of the Flybuys loyalty program in the impending sale of the Coles supermarket division, expected to occur early next year, and the increased investment in analytics at Bunnings Australia, just to name a few.
Speaking at Wesfarmers’ strategy day last month, Bunnings Australia’s managing director Michael Schneider said the hardware company is expanding its data analytics unit to support more robust insights on ranging opportunities, as well as more personalised advertising to customers.
“With our investments in data and analytics and leveraging our long-term supplier relationships we can tailor our offer to be even more relevant to our customers in the markets in which they operate,” Schneider said.
Wesfarmers is just the latest major Australian retailer to restructure its org chart to better realise the untapped value of its data.
Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci last year created WooliesX, a new division tasked with bringing together customer loyalty and digital capabilities to drive online growth, reduce supply chain costs and defend against major competitors, such as Amazon.
One of the first initiatives to come out of WooliesX, led by managing director Amanda Bardwell, was ‘Pick Up’ in September 2017, which gave customers a range of options to collect online grocery orders from Woolworths stores, including in-store pick-up and parcel lockers, as well as drive-through pick-up.
The move was in part driven by customer data, which showed that 65 per cent of traffic to Woolworths’ e-commerce site came through mobile phones, according to a statement Bardwell made in the AFR last year.
But lest you start to think that supermarkets are the only retailers with dedicated data units in Australia, category is no barrier to the trend.
Accent Group, which owns The Athlete’s Foot, Hype DC and Platypus among several other shoe brands, last year cut the ribbon on its own digital hub, a physical building and growing team where all the digital talent reside.
Like Wesfarmers and Woolworths, Accent Group has tasked its digital hub with gleaning insights from customer data and turning those insights into initiatives that will improve the customer experience and increase loyalty.
“What the digital hub has enabled us to do is to create a huge amount of energy, focus and momentum that we have been able to work with the wider business and make some pretty substantial changes to the group to transform us to be more relevant for consumers,” Accent Group’s chief digital officer Mark Teperson told IRW in June.
“We have a wonderful platform to be able to test, learn, deploy and manage our digital investments because we’re seeing everything under one roof, and that’s a real competitive advantage in the market.”
To be fair, the idea of a dedicated data team is not exactly new. Wired reported on the rise of the chief data officer all the way back in 2014. And Deloitte two years ago published a report titled, The rise (and fall?) of the CDO.
But whether or not Australian retailers have been slow to catch on to the data trend in the past – that’s another story for another day – they can’t afford to put it off any longer, as Woolworths’ director of loyalty, data and direct media, Ingrid Maes, noted at an event in Sydney in February.
“We need to get a compelling picture of the benefits of the data connected to the consumer, it is extremely important for the future competitiveness of Australian businesses,” she said.
“If we fail, businesses that are headquartered in more data-friendly nations will out-compete us.”