In the lead up to our Savant eCommerce Stockholm, we had the great pleasure of sitting together with Cecilia Mortimer Meurling, Sales and Marketing Director of Åhléns, for an insightful chat about department stores and data-driven retail.
Here’s what we talked about!
What will be the role of department stores in the future?
The department store will fill the role as a place to go to get things done – a lot of products collected under one roof and instant delivery. And we think that the department stores will be very important to create an experience. In the department store customers can pick up their products and have a feel and taste of products in real life. We see more and more customers purchasing online and collecting the products in store, same goes for returns. We also plan to make events and unexpected experiences for our visitors to create department store magic.
At Åhléns we are pursuing an omni-strategy that will assure one customer experience no matter channel.
We have and are developing a lot of features that will go cross channels such as click and collect, reserve online – get in store. The aim is to shortly launch the online assortment in our POS so even the small stores can have an assortment as large as our flagship store in Stockholm
Marketing and sales roles are converging and more and more overlapping, where do you see this evolution going?
I see that the industry is going toward being more customer centric and that makes it even more important to have a consistent customer journey. The experience with the brand Åhléns should be the same no matter what channel the customers meets us. Today we meet our customers in stores, our magazines, commercials on tv, social media, our eCommerce site, etc and in the future those channels will be even more. Building brand is also sales but in a longer run. In general I think it’s important to not work in silos and instead merge different departments and environments in order to be cross functional.
And not only marketing and sales has an impact on the Åhléns brand. Everything we do has that impact: our staff, the assortment, our work with sustainability, the concept in our department stores, price levels – everything is connected with our brand, which is at the heart of the company. It’s really important to make everything fit together and move towards the right direction.
For instance, we do work hard with sustainability and we approach it in a holistic way:
environmental sustainability of course, but also cooperation with the integration initiative ”Öppna Dörren”, helping people who recently moved to Sweden to find a local network in order to get jobs.
How can retailers become data-driven organisations? How is Ahlens going in this direction?
It’s again about being customer centric, understanding the customers and their behaviour. At one level or another, everyone in retail is data driven. What we now are working towards, is to be able to predict the future with data. The area we have come the furthest is within Customer Relationship Management, as we did a big step forward with advanced analytics when it comes to CRM, customer behaviour and how to present them in a clear and accessible way for the whole team. At the same time, we’re working hard to become overall more data driven, when it comes to purchase, check out process, retention and so on. We developed a recommendation engine we use to predict what customers will like by creating personal offers based on the data we have about our customers.
The main issue has been to collect and bring the data together, store them in a good way and make them easily accessible and understandable. On the other hand, as we need to analyse more and more thoroughly the data, we see that there are many more and new capabilities needed to implement this kind of solution. We’re not at all finished in this area.
What do you see the main challenge is to be when moving towards a data driven approach?
One thing that we definitely need to improve is regarding the way of working on an organisational and cultural level. Becoming data driven doesn’t happen overnight, everyone needs to be on board, making sure the different departments understand why and how we’re doing so, as it will affect the way everyone works. One of the first tangible results of a more data driven culture it’s been the conversions we got from our database via email marketing: by using these new capabilities and way of working we are converting much more than ever before.