Unilever boosts digital skills

23 August 2012

LONDON: Unilever, the consumer goods group, is enhancing its digital capabilities in areas from online retail and marketing to in-store display and data management, all of which are seen as potential growth drivers.

Speaking to CIO.com, Rod Hefford, Unilever's chief information officer for global customer development and supply chain, stated that its two information technology (IT) priorities were innovation and service provision.

"There's a very heavy emphasis there on external-facing capability delivery," he said. "Shoppers ... rely on value from our products and they're not willing to pay a cent, or for that matter a rupee, more than is absolutely necessary."

With regard to innovation, the firm has outlined four main "digitisation" targets: brands and customer relationships, value chain, go-market strategy and overall working practices.

Online retail and marketing are two fields where Unilever is attempting to bolster its in-house skills, according to Hefford.

"There are an increasing number of roles in my group where we're treating e-commerce as fundamental to the way of doing business with our customers and suppliers, and we see it as a route to market in its own right," he said.

"Outside of my area, there are huge opportunities in the marketing area, as Unilever starts to really understand how to exploit digital assets."

More broadly, the company is pursuing a variety of "big bets" that are receiving considerable investment, including a system covering the availability and display of its products in stores.

"We have a framework which is around ensuring Unilever products are presented in the right place at the right time with the right shopper proposition, and I think this is absolutely first class," said Hefford.

Similarly, the organisation is equipping its 50,000 "feet on the street" with the requisite hardware and software to deliver best practice execution across all aspects of its operations.

"We've got an army of people in the market every day, giving them the right tools to execute for customers and shoppers is a key component of the strategy," said Hefford.

"And for us, it's not just about having devices in the market, it's about making sure that we also have the information flows."

Data sourced from CIO.com; additional content by Warc staff