Hayley Tatum, Senior VP of People at Asda, answers Retail Connections’ questions.
How does a retailer like Asda approach innovation?
The retail market is changing and it’s changing at a faster pace than ever before as the emergence and rapid growth of omnichannel alters the way customers shop. Our customers are looking for new and convenient ways to shop and we need to be responding to that demand.
Our customers tell us that they want us to do two things – save them time and save them money. They are telling us how they want and choose to shop rather than retailers dictating to them how they should shop. Understanding customer behaviour is key to designing our innovation propositions, reflecting what customers want and when they want it.
Our insight tells us that they shop with us because of price but what we need to do, in what is a challenging and competitive period of retailing, is find innovative ways to offer convenience, service and quality as well as continue to offer low prices.
What are some of the innovations you have implemented based on customer insight?
toyou is our latest parcel delivery service and it is a service our customers have been telling us they want. A UK first and with over five million parcels already delivered through the new system, toyou allows customers to collect and return orders placed with online retailers such as Asos and Missguided at any of Asda’s 614 stores nationwide.
1.5 billion parcels are delivered across the UK each year and parcel collection now counts for over 10% of online orders across the UK. Major online retailers are increasingly looking to have a physical footprint at locations across the country and customers want more flexibility when shopping online which means we need to look for smart and innovative ways to get their parcels to them.
toyou is a perfect example of leveraging Asda’s existing assets (stores, home shopping drive through, depots and transport) to service consumers. The fact that we are using our own logistics network means that the end to end parcel solution is owned solely by Asda and live tracking data can be provided in real time, guaranteeing better accuracy when delivering and returning parcels.
We estimate that toyou could help drive footfall into our supermarkets, providing our stores with up to 40 million extra visits per year by 2019. That really is a game changing development and one that we are very excited about.
How can service keep pace with innovation and online growth?
We are also improving our propriety online capabilities with a new cutting edge technology centre at our Home office in Leeds. The mission control operations hub, or Network Operations Centre (NOC) as it is known, monitors all of Walmart’s online operations to enable a more efficient and streamlined service for our online customers worldwide.
The first of its kind in the UK, it monitors all traffic and interactions with our global websites 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It co-ordinates with two other centres – one in Silicon Valley, California and one in Bangalore, India to continually monitor all 11 of Walmart’s websites including Asda.com and George.com, as well as Walmart’s online operations in Mexico and Canada.
Each centre monitors the network for an eight-hour period before handing over to the next centre in sequence – creating a world-class 24-hour operating centre that ‘follows the sun.’
The great advantage of the system is that it can identify and address any online issues five times faster than before which allows us to deliver a more efficient customer experience.
You’ve talked about the integral role physical stores play in helping to drive online innovation when it comes to location, footprint and customer accessibility, what about in store?
If toyou does drive the massive increase in visits to our shops that we think it will, then we have to give those extra customers reasons to come back by offering a great experience when they come into our stores.
We are continually looking at new innovations in technology which could help us to improve the customer experience so our shoppers get the hassle-free experience they tell us they want.
For example, self-service checkouts have transformed the way our colleagues interact with customers. Instead of sitting behind a till they are now ‘checkout hosts’ guiding customers through the self-scan process and engaging them with the Asda personality. 50% of transactions are now completed via the self-scan checkouts with 35% of in store colleagues helping with that service compared to 15% five years ago.
We know customer shopping habits are changing – people are shopping around and looking for greater convenience and they are moving away from the traditional ‘big shop’ in favour of little and often. The better and more convenient we can make the store experience, using the latest developments in technology, should ensure a smooth shop for our customers.