Robin Langford Robin Langford Premium Content Editor, Performance Marketing World

Rethinking what success looks like - from 'my' to 'our’

The dark days of siloed data hoarding are over. If traditional retail businesses fail to share data informed strategies across departments, they risk being left behind by digital native competitors.

Fran Quilty, CEO of e-commerce data specialist Conjua, examines why interdepartmental competition doesn’t just impact efficiencies, it actively limits growth potential.  

A digital native business exists as more than the sum of its parts. Every department within a consumer-facing organisation has to work seamlessly with the others because silos are the enemy of agility, they result in missed opportunities and dissatisfied customers. 

Most digital businesses understand this, they have to if they are to meet the highest standards of customer service set by the digital giants, which consumers now expect as the norm. Customers aren’t willing to put up with the likes of poor fulfilment and long delivery times, badly performing websites, or inflexible payment options – even if the price is right. 

This can be a culture shock for those that have previously been able to fall back on lower margins but high sales volumes. Those hit hardest are typically high street retailers that have been forced to transition to digital-first strategies over the course of the pandemic. 

In many cases, this isn’t a technology issue, so much as a cultural issue. This doesn’t make it any less of a problem though as a siloed approach doesn’t just impact efficiencies, it can actively limit growth potential.      

The first casualty of digital is loyalty

Consumers have different motivations for shopping online, where convenience is king, to offline where experience and price matter most. If either doesn’t meet expectations then brand loyalty will mean little. The fact is that as digital increasingly becomes the norm, then it’s the established high street brands that have most to lose. 

This amounts to an existential threat for many. As online competition grows, it is more important than ever to hold on tight to existing customers and there’s a limited timeframe to transfer those audiences to their online platforms.  

Consequently, we’re in the midst of a race between the established retailers and online only competitors to scale fast enough to gain digital market share. Ultimately, it’s those that are best able to leverage the customer data they hold that will win out.

Arguably, the longer established physical brands – especially those that have invested in loyalty schemes such as store cards – should be in the strongest position given the vast quantities of on-and-offline customer data they hold. The reality is not quite so simple. 

Death of a salesman

What holds traditional players back is how they are structured and remunerated. 

Traditionally, retail success has been measured – and rewarded - by sales targets broken down at a store, or even departmental level. This means business units even within the same chain have been pitted against each other. While this may be a valid offline tactic, it doesn’t translate to digital. 

In a data and performance-led business, there is little room for star sales people to drive success. Instead, this is contingent on data transparency and for internal stakeholders to have equal access to a shared data source. 

In practice, this means having a specialist cloud-based database as a single point of truth to feed into the broader sales and marketing suite. After all, there are clear overlaps between departments. For instance, within many online retailers marketing teams are responsible for increasing traffic to the website whilst trading teams must convert this traffic into customers. Both functions need to constantly provide feedback to each other to make sure that the right leads are being sourced onto the website and that the right experience is greeting these leads once they land.

As such, it makes sense to foster collaboration across departments to unearth growth opportunities or blockers, which can be found in operational data as much as marketing.

Unfortunately not everyone will necessarily recognise this, especially in business in which data has been jealously guarded as one department’s ‘IP’. Consequently, the greatest limit on establishing data cultures is often internal politics, the issue is that not everyone understands data or recognises the opportunity it brings: some may see its value but are unwilling to share, while others worry data transparency won’t show their department in the best light.

Consequently, businesses will only succeed in digital if their leadership understands data and are willing to take a firm hand in establishing a data culture. However, the first issue to address in doing so is to define what shared success looks like. 

Remuneration models need to take into account the complexity of the digital funnel. This means looking further than sales and marketing teams to take into account business-wide performance including operations, from customer service to fulfilment and beyond. 

While this won’t always sit well with the more seasoned sales professionals, a fairer and more equitable reward system taking into account everyone’s contribution speaks to a much-changed business landscape that is connected in every sense.

By Fran Quilty

CEO and founder