We’re looking ahead to IRC 2019 in a series of interviews and previews. Today we hear from Chris Conway, head of ecommerce at The Co-operative Group.
InternetRetailing: At IRC 2019 you’re speaking about becoming customer-focused rather than channel-focused. What’s one big challenge that retailers need to overcome when they focus on the customer rather than the challenge – and how did you resolve that at the Co-op?
Chris Conway: I think the biggest challenge is that we are so used to operating in silos, so we’ve got a lot of really talented people and product teams working in different business units and parts of business units and they are all focused on one particular thing, to deliver a particular benefit to the customer. But actually once you step back and you’re a customer you don’t really understand or care who’s working on what. What you want is an organisation to fix something – a particular use case – for you. What we’ve really tried to do – and what I’ll speak about on the day – is how we’ve managed to get all these different product teams who’ve historically been working in silos to try and work a bit closer together and have a broad brush approach across them all. One example could be that we’ve got a really dedicated roadmap for our new ecommerce offering and we’re trying to fix a piece of functionality on the website when actually if it doesn’t lead to someone being able to find the local store there’s no point doing it.
We have a few examples I’m going to talk about on the day where previously we would have worked in silos and got a really good outcome but not really thought about the customer. Now we think about the customer and we get a much better outcome, although it’s not easy, obviously.
IR: What’s the most important benefit that you’ve seen as a result of taking this approach?
CC: I’ve been in the Co-op just over 12 months now so we’re still in our infancy relatively in terms of this change behaviour, but it’s been going a number of months and what we’ve been able to demonstrate to the business are some specific use cases. I’ll talk through a few on the day in the presentation but I think the most important benefit is being able to go back internally to the different business units and senior stakeholders and say this is a problem we’ve solved for our customers, agnostic of channel, or business unit. As we’ve seen our customers don’t care, when they come to the Co-op, go to the shop, onto the website, or check their membership points – it doesn’t really matter to them, they just want a conversion and interaction with the Co-op. Despite the fact we might be doing a lot of work in the background to make it seamless, to the customer it feels really straightforward.
IR: Where do you see the customer-centric approach taking you in the future?
CC: I think what we’ve seen is rather than structure our digital teams around specific skill sets we’re structuring them around what the customer would want from them. It’s still very early days and we’ve seen some small benefits at the moment and I’ve seen an increased way of working and doing more and more as a much better way to serve our customers.
IR: Aside from your own presentation, what are you most looking forward to at IRC 2019?
CC: I always enjoy the panel dissuasions where you get a few different people from different retail organisations and software vendors, and I’m looking forward to the one around partnerships and working together. I think the reason I’m interested is that is I’ve been in the Co-op just over 12 months and we’ve gone from having no real digital strategy to really accelerating our strategy and our ecommerce launch. To do that we’ve had to work with partners, there’s no way we could have done that from scratch and I’ve really appreciated the work of partners in getting us where we needed to be. I think having the ability to work with and learn from other partners is going to be key, especially if you’re not the biggest or the second biggest retailer in a particular market. I think there’s a massive benefit and that’s why I’m really looking forward to that.
Chris Conway will be speaking in a panel session at IRC 2019. Becoming customer focused rather than channel focused is at 11.30 in the Omnichannel conference on October 10.
IRC 2019 takes place at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. A full-price retailer delegate ticket costs £495, but as an InternetRetailing reader we can offer you 75% off full price tickets if you use discount code IRMSEB100 (for retailers only).
Image courtesy of InternetRetailing Events