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eDelivery Expo: speaker interview with Dave Crellin, Sainsbury’s


Dave Crellin is head of online operations development for Sainsbury’s, and has been at the retailer for four years. Prior to that, he spent time at Tesco, Avis, and PaddyPower. Sainsbury’s has been in the spotlight in recent months thanks to a number of things, including, of course, the Argos acquisition, and more recently the expansion of its digital and tech team. As part of a team, and indeed part of a business, that is striving to find innovative ways to continue to meet and exceed customer expectations, Dave Crellin is undoubtedly a busy person. So, we’re delighted he’ll be joining us on Day One of eDelivery Expo (EDX16), and we caught up with him to talk about what Sainsbury’s customers want from final mile solutions, and what he’s looking forward to at EDX16.

eD: Tell me about your role at Sainsbury’s and what a typical day might include for you?

Dave Crellin, Sainsbury's

Dave Crellin, Sainsbury’s

DC: My team manages major system and process initiatives involving the fulfilment of online orders. In such a changing and competitive industry this means we’re always running a stream of projects and programmes to improve efficiency and capacity, or to further develop our customer service and offer. In practice what we are working on varies from hour to hour depending on what we’re dealing with. This ranges from initial scoping and setting the overall strategy for the division through to detailed planning and delivery. We work alongside pretty much every other part of the business to make sure we’re aligned on what we’re doing for our customers.

eD: What challenges does you role raise and what have you been proud of in the past year?

An increasing proportion of our sales are coming through our online channels and for grocery orders we pick the products from our stores before the store opens its front doors. The demands that this places on every part of the upstream operation are magnified: we have to balance the need to grow our capacity to satisfy this increase in demand with making sure our service to in-store customers is in no way compromised. This is as true for our logistics and store operations for our online clothing proposition as it is for our online grocery service.

The ability to manage changes to our online customer and operations in the context of such a competitive and changing retail environment is a key challenge of the role. Being able to be part of that change in a business with our heritage and customer focus is hugely enjoyable.

eD: What do you think are the fulfilment challenges for the industry in 2016?

DC: This is still a relatively young, high-growth market. Finding the right space in the right location to undertake the right operation, whist retaining the flexibility to cope with such a dynamic marketplace, is a big ask.

The other big challenge is a human resource question. With growth comes the need for more people to pick and deliver orders. Retaining our existing colleagues as well as continually finding, training and retaining new ones will get increasingly harder in a world where so much of what the consumer buys will be delivered to them. We have market-leading propositions for our colleagues, whether this be reward, or how we work, but this will be continually tested at a national and local level over the years to come.

eD: What do Sainsbury’s customers say they want in the final mile and are there differences between general merchandise and grocery customers?

Our customers want what you’d expect them to want – what they ordered, in good condition, when they wanted it. We have really strong metrics in these areas but the ever-increasing pressure of customer expectation and competition means that we can never stop trying to improve in these areas. There are differences between all types of customers but as a basic set of principles this summarises what we aim for.

eD: How is Sainsbury’s making sure it meets those expectations?

Everything we do is geared to this. But getting something to a customer when they want it may sound simple but has many composite parts. We have to make sure all our products are in a place to pick at a time that we can get the van loaded; that we have the appropriate colleagues with the right equipment in place at the right time to pick and deliver the orders. We also have to make sure we have the right information around road speeds and routing to give delivery colleagues the best routes; and at the base of it all we have to make sure we have the right amount of capacity in the right place in the short, medium, and long-term.

eD: What are you looking forward to at EDX16?

What EDX gives, which very few other events seem to do, is that focus on the practical. Optimising the front-end experience is clearly hugely important but what happens before and after this touch-point defines pretty much every other part of the customer experience.

Our problems are not unique and although different businesses feel them and address them in different ways the really interesting thing about EDX is learning about how other people have thought about and addressed problems similar to ours.

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