studiostoks - Fotolia

Case study: Specsavers furthers digital transformation with single customer view

UK retailer Specsavers has been in the process of digital transformation for several years, and has now partnered with Fujitsu to eliminate disparate systems and create a single customer view

Specsavers has been working with Fujitsu to use a combination of retail technology systems to create a single view of each of its customers across its global business.

In 2015, the UK optical retailer began a digital transformation which brought tablets and iPads to its stores and an application to its customers, giving store associates the tools they needed to serve customers faster and more effectively.

But Phil Pavitt, global CIO of Specsavers, admits these new technologies were all plugged into the firm’s legacy systems, causing a disparate back end which made it hard to keep data in a single location.

The Fujitsu implementation, alongside other projects to redevelop all of its core systems, will reduce its current 2,500 critical platforms down to around five or six. “It’s quite a dramatic journey in quite an interesting area,” he says.

At the start of the Specsavers’ digital transformation, the firm originally “cobbled together” its legacy platforms to make new technology function, but soon realised this solution would not scale.

“We decided we needed to have a brand new retail platform that was a combination of retail and medical, and, in our case, optical and hearing,” says Pavitt.

“It became patently clear that the introduction of our e-clinical platform and what was already in store, such as the large amount of iPads and digital, would actually begin to struggle.”

Read more about digital transformation

  • Find out how a visionary approach to technology is transforming healthcare at London’s world-leading Moorfields Eye Hospital.
  • IT leaders are shifting the focus of the IT department, providing more staff to support digital transformation initiatives.

Technology is becoming a big part of store branches, and store associates are getting more used to using technology to assist them in the selling process.

The Specsavers store associates enjoy using the existing in-store technology, but as demands for applications and functionality grew, Pavitt realised the in-store infrastructure would have to change to support future technologies.

“We wanted a single partner who could handle all the geographies we operate in, and we wanted to take a proven model,” he says.

With the help of its £17.6m deal with Fujitsu, Specsavers hopes to build a “single common platform” to replace the “hodgepodge” of software and hardware the firm has developed over the past 20 years.

The importance of a single customer view

At the same time as the development of the Fujitsu back-end retail system, Specsavers is working to amalgamate all of its existing customer data, including datapoints such as online interactions, in-store sales and prescriptions.

“There’s a separate programme going on, which is almost the same size as this one,” says Pavitt. “It involves taking all of that data – along with hundreds of data applications, warehouses and storage devices – and migrating them into a single customer record in Oracle. We will have a single record within a few weeks, and that’s been going on in parallel with the other programme.”

As retail becomes more omni-channel focused, customers are expecting a similar experience from a brand regardless of the platform they are interacting through – be that online, in-store or via an application.

For Specsavers, these single datasets will help in-store staff manage their customer interactions better, know more about the customer’s past interactions with the brand online and their activity in other stores. Customer relationship management datasets also contribute to better marketing practices for firms, as they can tailor their strategies for marketing around individuals.

“For omni-channel, it’s important they do not get a better or worse service online or in store,” says Pavitt. “If we really want a true, in-store digital journey, starting with online appointments, a single customer record is important.”

Customers expect to be remembered

Customers are increasingly expecting store associates to be aware of their previous interactions with a brand, and Specsavers has found this in its customer base due to the nature of its product. Its customers are expecting the store associates to have more knowledge of products during the sales process, as well key information about their prescriptions.

People are also increasingly considering their glasses as a fashion item. Once made, they cannot be returned, and are seen as a pseudo-luxury product of which Specsavers makes approximately 30 million unique pairs a year.

“If we really want a true, in-store digital journey, starting with online appointments, a single customer record is important”

Phil Pavitt, Specsavers

“Because it’s a medical corrective device the expectation and the desire to get it right is very high,” says Pavitt. “Glasses and hearing aids are helping you live your life, so getting it right and providing personal attention is very important.”

Different customers will also expect a different experience, and younger customers are a lot more used to technology being part of the retail experience, whereas some customers have not even looked at the brand online before visiting a store.

“We don’t have a huge presence online where we are taking a large amount of data,” says Pavitt. “We allow them to choose their journey. Some start online and finish in-store, and some never actually go online”  

A platform for the future

After three years at Specsavers, Pavitt is planning to move on to another challenge, leaving future optical retail transformation in the hands of someone new.

But digital projects will by no means halt at Specsavers, which is running a UK pilot of the “magic mirror” which uses facial rendering through in-store iPads to measure the customer’s face without the use of rulers, compare glasses styles and create a more relaxed retail experience.

The firm has also partnered with software firm Ditto to create a Specsavers application which allows customers to virtually try on hundreds of pairs of glasses before they make their way to a store to purchase them.

Pavitt says the Fujitsu implementation “brings Specsavers up to date to build some exciting stuff on top”.

Once the firm has “the basics right”, it has further opportunity to build on this foundation and increase the amount of online and in-store technology, all focused around giving its customers the best experience possible.

Read more on IT for retail and logistics

Data Center
Data Management