Tesco boosts digital skills

08 November 2012

LONDON: Tesco, the retail giant, is aiming to enhance its digital capabilities across the globe, and thus reflect a "new era" for the industry defined by changing consumer habits.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Financial Times, Philip Clarke, Tesco's CEO, argued that new media had empowered customers by giving them more information and ways to make purchases.

"The digital revolution is heralding a new era of retailing," he said. "In this multichannel world, people can now bargain hunt online, then browse in store, buy online and pick up from store. Social media creates fashions in seconds, making or destroying brands within a day."

More specifically, Clarke suggested the "explosion" of digital information had enforced a greater level of transparency among corporations, while also providing them with access to unparalleled insights.

In a bid to tap this trend, Tesco bought Dunnhumby, the marketing services firm, which today analyses data drawn from over 400m people in 28 nations, including that from the Clubcard loyalty scheme.

"The vast, almost infinite quantities of data now available means no retailer has any excuse not to abide by the first law of business: know your customer," said Clarke.

Experimentation was a second area he emphasised, especially with regard to Tesco.com, the online grocery site, which was introduced in the UK, the company's home market, some 12 years ago.

"When we launched the first online grocery business 12 years ago, people said it would not work," said Clarke. "Today, it is the world's largest and most profitable online grocery retailer, and we are rolling out the service across all our markets."

Indeed, Tesco has provided similar services in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, Slovakia and South Korea for over five years, and will soon unveil an equivalent platform in Thailand.

To bolster its operations in this field, Tesco runs a service centre in Hindustan, employing more than 3,000 staff tasked with building new web systems and services which can be utilised internationally.

"Innovations need mechanisms so that they spread rapidly across the enterprise," said Clark. "Once innovations are proved successful, a blueprint is developed and managers trained to speed adoption around the world."

Tesco's recent innovations include creating Mapster, an app allowing online customers to track delivery vans in real time, alongside a "virtual store" in underground stations in Seoul letting shoppers order goods by scanning images on a mobile phone.

"People want and increasingly expect personal service, a personalised choice, a sense that a brand ... has tailored what they offer to fit their own unique needs and wishes," said Clarke.

Data sourced from Tesco; additional content by Warc staff