“We Must Treat Data As A Precious Gift”, Says Woolies Exec

“We Must Treat Data As A Precious Gift”, Says Woolies Exec
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Sure, data-driven marketing is the future, but according to a Woolworths executive, it is most powerful when used for good, and for good only.

Ingrid Maes is the director of loyalty, data and direct media at Woolworths, and at the ADMA Data Day, she blew the audience’s minds with the way Woolworths uses artificial intelligence (AI) for marketing purposes.

There’s no doubt that AI is a drastic change for the industry – personalised videos are a far cry from the days of flyers and door-knocking.

But this technological change hasn’t exactly crept up on us, and Maes argued that change is always around the corner.

In the case of AI, other cultures are struggling more than others.

“People in Western countries are struggling more than most because of our attachment to humanistic ideas such as personal privacy,” Maes said.

And the best way to ease peoples minds in the face of change is to help them understand it.

“We must help customers understand the considerable benefits they can get from a data-driven, personalised experience. Artificial intelligence allows us to harness our customers data to give them what they want, when they want it, where they want it – and at a price they’re willing to pay for it,” Maes continued.

There are 10.5 million customers in the Woolworths Rewards program, and the team can reach them all in a personalised way (that’s eight per cent of Aussie households, BTW). But Maes stressed the importance of using customers’ data only for their benefit.

“We must treat data as a precious gift, and only ever use it for the benefit of our customers, to make their experiences dealing with us as personalised as possible. This will determine which businesses survive, and thrive, in the future,” she said.

That’s probably why Woolworths has become one of the most successful Aussie grocery companies since opening its doors in 1924.

“We have built one of the most advanced algorithms in the world, and we use it to send our customers a weekly catalog of hyper-personalised offers,” Maes reiterated.

This (and the Woolworths Rewards program) is based on what customers have bought in the past and what they’re likely to buy in the future – using their data to figure all this out, of course.

Woolworths also use customer data and its rewards program for suppliers to reward their loyal shoppers, or to launch a new product that a particular customer is more likely to want to buy.

And when it comes to marketing and launching new products, Maes said new products sandwiched between familiar products or brands are more likely to be bought and tried by consumers.

It’s also easier to launch a product within a brand that’s already successful, because the brand itself is well-known, which creates a self-marketing effect.

Woolworths uses this method to market new products to it’s rewards members by including it with a customers favourite products in an email. Smart, right? Maes thinks so too.

“I’m confident that we are operating the most sophisticated personalisation strategy in Australian retail, but there is so much more potential in the data revolution,” she said.

“In its intelligent and respectful application we create organisations that are 100 per cent responsive to the people they serve. This means better products, and better services.”

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