Communicate the benefits of AI or risk competitiveness, says Woolies

Marketers need to sell the benefits of data-driven personalisation to the consumer

Ingrid Maes, Woolworths
Ingrid Maes, Woolworths

Marketers need to sell the benefits of data-driven personalisation to the consumer and those who might not be as digitally-savvy if Australian retail businesses are to remain competitive.

Woolworths director of loyalty, data and direct media, Ingrid Maes, told attendees at the ADMA Data Day event in Sydney that while AI might be disconcerting for many, it will transform marketing for the better. But those benefits need to be communicated to the consumer to be effective.

Maes noted China is far less concerned about data privacy than countries like the US, giving its businesses a competitive advantage in the retail arena.

“It is in data’s intelligent and respectful application that we create organisations that are 100 per cent responsive to the people they serve, with better products and better services,” Maes said. “As data-driven marketers, we can help non-digital natives understand this data picture. More importantly, we need to ensure people experience the benefits first hand. This means using data as a precious gift, and only using it for the improvement of your customer experience. 

“We also need to ensure people understand what’s at stake. We need to get a compelling picture of the benefits of the data connected to the consumer, it is extremely important for the future competitiveness of Australian businesses. If we fail, businesses that are headquartered in more data-friendly nations will out-compete us.”

Maes said data-driven marketing helps customers get what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and at the right price point.

“In retail, we talk a lot about putting the customer first. Data is a synthesis of human behaviour, and it allows us to reshape our business to become truly responsive to the needs of our customers," she continued,
“While AI might be disconcerting for many, it will transform marketing for the better.   

“There are many practical benefits to data driven marketing programs, like loyalty programs. In fact, the loyalty program is the fourth most important factor in where customers decide to shop."

Woolworths has 10.5 million customers, and uses a customer loyalty program and the most advance machine learning algorithm available to send customers highly targeted offers.

“To offer a personalised experience, we have to understand how each of our 10.5 million customers’ habits are in order to give them what they want,” Maes said.

“Our brains are wired for habit. For example, we’ve found that to launch a new product, it works better from a brand that is familiar and from a position on the shelf that is familiar."

And there is more potential in the data revolution, with AI opening up opportunities to create models of customer predictive responses, Maes said.

“The big-picture goal must be a revolution of data-driven supply chains starting from the consumer and projecting all way the back," she claimed.

“But to do this, we must integrate marketing into their lives, and not push it on them. We can develop a 360-degree view of a customer, to make marketing more targeted.

“We can also use AI and machine learning to personally engage and predict what customers might like based on what they already like.".

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