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“A chief data officer’s (CDO) journey is never over – there is always more you need to do,” says Currys CDO Susie Moan.
Two years after Moan joined Currys as its first ever CDO – tasked with helping the business ensure it is “leveraging our data” in the most optimal way – Currys Connected Media, the tech retailer’s new retail media proposition, was unveiled on 4 December.
It is a clear example of the retailer using the growing volume of customer data it has collected in recent years in a practical and potentially revenue-escalating way.
Currys hopes its Connected Media proposition will help to put more products – and more relevant products – under the gaze of UK shoppers. And with retail media viewed as the fastest growing segment of the advertising market – GroupM forecasts brands will spend £6.5bn on retail media in the UK by 2027, equating to 16% of digital ad spend – it could prove to be a commercially astute move.
“The data strategy I’ve defined is that we will collect, protect and use our data to help everyone enjoy amazing technology,” Moan tells Computer Weekly, at the launch of Connected Media.
The “collect” and “protect” aspect of the strategy relates to the cloud architecture migration the business has embarked on alongside Microsoft in the past two years, which has helped Currys break down data silos from legacy mergers and acquisitions. The “use” part of the strategy, according to Moan, is evidenced in Currys actively being data-driven in pricing, and in how it understands group profitability, performance and customer behaviour.
That new relationship with data is also evident in Currys’ e-commerce platform and in-store tech tools switching over to Salesforce software in the past few years, which has enabled online shoppers to see content and offers based on their past behaviour or the data Currys already holds.
New adventures in retail media are the latest example of data being used in a strategic way.
‘We believe in it’
Many of the brands that sell through Currys, including some of the biggest names in consumer tech such as Samsung, Acer and Hisense, are already using Currys Connected Media.
The platform provides first-party customer data that brands can use to better understand what people will be shopping for, and when. The wider suite offers ways for brands to act on these insights and engage customers at the point they intend to make a purchase.
“The data strategy I’ve defined is that we will collect, protect and use our data to help everyone enjoy amazing technology”
Susie Moan, Currys
“We definitely believe in it and – already – the response we’ve seen from the brands is positive,” says Moan.
“There is also an element of test and learn – we are carving this out as separate from our previous retail media play. We’ll always have new things we’ll want to try and explore for brands as well.”
At the base of the retail media offering is “Currys Tech Insights”, which transforms Currys’ first-party customer data into actionable insights for the retailer and its partners. This is supported by in-house consultancy from Circana – the newly branded business born out of last year’s merger of market research powerhouses IRI and The NPD Group.
Once brands have the insights on Currys’ customers, they are then offered the advertising vehicles on which to market to them: labelled Tech Hunters and Tech Buyers.
Tech Hunters is built on technology from Epsilon, part of the Publicis Groupe agency, and enables brands to target potential customers as they are browsing digital media. Using this facility, brands can produce relevant ads to connected TV viewers, or in the form of display and video messaging.
Ultimately, customers will see ads relevant to their purchasing criteria, and the advertiser will have a direct link back to their investment to gauge return on that spend.
Meanwhile, Tech Buyers is the name given to Currys’ onsite retail media capability and brings brands closer to their target customers at the point of sale via placements such as sponsored product ads on search, category and product detail pages.
This capability is built on a retail media platform from Criteo, a supplier Currys previously worked alongside in its earlier ad business work.
Currys says these are “highly relevant ads, delivered right before the digital checkout”.
Indeed, Insider Intelligence principal analyst Andrew Lipsman said on the Behind the Numbers: Reimagining Retail podcast in June 2023 that on-site search ads are like “taking that Google ad and putting it on steroids because it’s in a place where people are already shopping and buying”.
Moan adds: “The work we’ve done with some of our brands already shows the return on ad spend is really strong.”
As is the case with all Currys tech partners, Moan’s team will conduct weekly calls with the retail media tech providers to maintain a running dialogue.
“The aim of that is to be collaborative because if there are blockers we can help with that, or if there are opportunities we need to talk through them and work on it collaboratively,” she explains.
“You get more out of people if you work collaboratively and supportively. It’s more satisfying for everyone.”
In the future, advertising placements for boosting brand awareness will also be available, with display and video ads on higher traffic pages coming soon as part of the continually developing Connected Media ecosystem.
In the months ahead, the platform will give brands more connected advertising opportunities on screens in stores and via in-store radio marketing.
Moan says: “The ultimate goal is to get a win for customers so they receive a better, personalised and more relevant experience through targeted offers. But with that comes a win for brands and us as the retailer too.”
Something for everyone
In the UK, high street grocers have led the way in launching retail media platforms. Morrisons launched its ad division in 2022, in the wake of supermarket competitors such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-op.
Launching a retail media platform connects multiple divisions of a retail business: “It’s a blend across data, marketing and commercial [teams],” says Moan.
There are different category teams working with their respective brands as well, and the IT team “helps get things done”, she says, adding that Connected Media comprises a small but growing team in her department that collaborates across the business.
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That effectively defines it as a data-led proposition for Currys, but it is not yet of the scale or dimension of a Dunnhumby or Sainsbury’s Nectar 360, which sit as separate data divisions of Tesco and Sainsbury’s respectively.
Moan has previously worked at these two organisations, leading the retail media division at Sainsbury’s before departing for a CDO role at CompareTheMarket in 2019, where she remained for two-and-a-half years before joining Currys.
Senior executives will no doubt be looking at how Connected Media develops, with Moan saying group CEO Alex Baldock and his team were quick to see the size of the opportunity. That was a factor – alongside the dedicated data work going on behind the scenes and Moan’s background – in this retail media play coming to life at Currys.
Were Baldock’s eyes filled with pound signs? “I’m sure there was an element of it,” Moan says, although she is adamant retail media can’t be successful if it’s simply about monetising a retailer’s assets with no regard for making it work for brands and shoppers.
Moan is positive about her 24 months at Currys in what has been as much a new role for the business to get to grips with, as it has been for the incumbent herself.
“Overall, really good,” she says of the elevation of data strategy to sit alongside business strategy at the retailer. “The business has been hungry for data. We’ve made it hard in the past for my team to get that to people due to disconnected systems, partly due to various acquisitions.”
She adds: “The Microsoft Azure piece combined with the data product/data science approach is all about bringing that data together and enabling people in my team and others to use the data faster.”
Moan says data must fuel how Currys targets customers in order for it to spend brands’ budgets effectively. But she says it needs to be continually measured, and retailer and brand must iterate together.
“Part of the premise by being more collaborative and transparent with the data means you’re looking at the same things so you can identify the opportunities together and challenge collectively and collaboratively,” she says.
“Currys hasn’t done that in the past, so there was some nervousness of doing it, but the conversations we’ve had with those using the tool show it’s making a big difference and there’s a hunger and desire from brands to get better insight into our customers.”
Although Moan acknowledges the work of a CDO is ongoing, she describes what has been undertaken in the two years since joining Currys as a “step change” in data strategy.
“Retail media is almost the icing on the cake,” she says. “It’s a really neat way of using data to drive collaboration with supplier brands and ultimately get a better outcome for customers as well.”