CMO interview: Building a precision marketing and CX engine

Foodstuffs GM of digital and marketing and experience shares his ambitious plans to bring customer experience excellence into the New Zealand retail giant

Dominic Quin
Dominic Quin


Foodstuffs general manager of marketing and customer experience, Dominic Quin, is rather accustomed to being the customer experience custodian within organisations he works for. And it’s work that’s required him to wear many hats – from marketing to technologist, digital transformation leader, product manager, customer custodian and growth driver.

Having formerly stepped up from marketing to take the digital reins at New Zealand’s largest company and world’s biggest dairy producer, Fonterra, for example, he oversaw the unification of experiences under what was internally called ‘digital 1.0’. The work involved fusing together an ecosystem of digital technologies that importantly, could fuel cohesive customer experiences whatever the channel of engagement.

Prior to this, Quin built marketing and product management expertise across tier-one UK and Australian brands such as Dairy Crest, Yum (KFC and Pizza Hut), Tabcorp, Goodman Fielder and Tip Top, before making the shift back to New Zealand in 2009.

It’s this culmination of expertise Quin is now bringing to bear on his role at Foodstuffs, New Zealand’s largest retail organisation. His remit? Unlock growth through customer-led innovation and transformation.

Foodstuffs is a 97-year old New Zealand cooperative group, operating two major cooperatives across the North Island and South Island of the country. These represent 485 stores nationally through core supermarket brands such as New World (New Zealand’s seventh most loved brand), Pakn’Save (low-cost brand) and Four Square (convenience-based grocery store).  

In total, the group boasts of 3 million shoppers every month, visiting 13 million times, as well as two loyalty programs: New World, with 1.5 million active members; and the recently launched Pakn’Save Sticky Club rewards program, with 130,000 members.

Quin took up the post six months ago, replacing Foodstuffs’ longstanding and first GM of marketing, Steve Bayliss, During his seven-year tenure, Bayliss built out a centralised marketing team including an in-house design studio plus brand, retail marketing, insights and loyalty program management skills.

Quin’s overarching priority is growing the differentiated proposition for each of Foodstuff’s brands in order to meet and even keep ahead of changing consumer expectations. One step he’s made to help achieve this is restructuring the team to bring on dedicated heads of marketing for his core supermarket brands, aligned with retailing teams.

The second major priority is creating compelling customer journeys and experiences. To do this, Quin is moving Foodstuffs away from its core traditional marketing focus into precision and experiential-based marketing. With that comes a whole stack of investment in digital, data and direct marketing capability and go-to-market strategy.

“It’s now about how we set ourselves up for the future, particularly with online starting to take shape in New Zealand,” Quin tells CMO. “It’s also about putting digital and direct at the front and centre of everything we do.

“It’s the next stage of the evolution and what I was brought in for; it’s what we did at Fonterra in terms of building out digital ecosystems, putting a single view of the customer into the business.”

The good thing is Foodstuffs has a lot of great customer data and is starting with a strong brand and intelligence position, Quin says. The group also recently adopted SAP’s customer management platform and over the past 18 months, and has been building out its ‘ishop’ digital shopping application for New World stores in the North Island. Based on the Sitecore digital experience platform, this allows shoppers to have orders home delivered as well as click-and-collect from onsite lockers.

“We’re going from the art of retailing to the science of retailing. In a way, being late in that journey has helped us as we don’t have any legacy issues in the systems we have built,” Quin says.

To make any of this happen, it was important to be clear on company purpose and mission from the outset. One of Quin’s first pieces of work was to clarify the mission of ‘driving the most preferred retailing experiences in New Zealand’ across the business.

“It’s about we create those experiences every day for Kiwis, based on our brands and the portfolio we have,” he says.  

Pillars of delivery

Quin has then devised four pillars of work to drive the group forward. The first is having compelling and inspiring marketing and brand programs.

“We don’t want to get away from the always-active, always ‘new news’ that both New World and Pak’nSave have. But it’s also about creating compelling propositions that are meaningful for our customers,” he says.  

The second pillar is driving these customer journeys and upping the experiential piece. “That’s about how that online/offline relationship works, how we understand what the pinchpoints and the zero first, second moments of truth are for customers, and how we unlock those,” he explains.

“For example, queue time might be a big issue for a lot of customers, so it’s about asking why are we investing heavily in one area where we could be trying to unlock that for customers, and making sure it comes to the forefront of our strategies.”  

The third pillar is insights and intelligence, and Quin says Foodstuffs boasts of a strong insights team with access to a wealth of information through its loyalty base and research.

“It’s how we put that back into where the decisions are made that’s key,” he says. “As an owner/operator model, how we get that data back into the hands of owner/operators is the most important thing.”

One major way Quin is looking to tap these insights is by creating playbooks on what makes a great experience in-store. These would help operators learn from each another while creating consistent brand standards, he says. Another way Foodstuffs is developing insights is through bespoke pieces of work drilling down into consumer behavioural shifts.

“The great thing about our analytics is we segment by behaviour. What goes into your basket determines the way you get segmented,” Quin says.

On top of this, it’s important for Quin to recognise and act on wider shift in consumer attitudes. “For example, we’re seeing a major shift towards value. That could be fear in the economy, or the pressure of living going up – average house loans have gone up 23 per cent in the last five years,” he says.

“We can identify what is happening on the behaviour side for a lot of our shoppers, particularly in New World, where our loyalty program is so far advanced. We can do this by basket and by store, and give that information to store owners so they can make informed decisions. 

“Then there’s more trend information down to a category level. Harnessing these insights lies at the core of what we need to do.”

With this comes Quin’s fourth pillar of personalisation, a foundation reliant on building out the single view of customer. He describes personalisation as about making every experience relevant in that moment in time.

“That’s really about driving loyalty. We know the average basket size for these loyalty customers is 50 per cent more than a non-card member at New World, and they’re spending 60 per cent more. So they’re very valuable for us,” he says.  

As well as personalised suites of offers, the focus is on building personalised experiences, with the end state being “predictive personalisation”.

“We should be able to help support you if you’re looking for what you want for dinner tonight,” Quin says by way of ambition. “Sixty per cent of people when they shop during the day don’t know what they want for dinner.

“How do we know if you are a solution seeker, or a convenience or value seeker? And then how do we understand that so we can push the right content to you and in the right form that then allows you to go right, I’ll go to New World or Pak’nSave because you have what I want and you inspired me or know exactly what I like?

“That whole area of relevancy and convenience is going to be a big part of it.”  

Being the voice of the customer

To make any of this happen, Quin must be the customer champion within the business and take a remit far broader than what has historically been given to marketing leadership.

“When I spoke to our joint CEOs, there was an understanding that marketing can only get you so far; if you really want to put the customer at the centre of what you do and have a clear voice of the customer, then marketing is obviously playing a key role. But it’s giving us the remit to have an opportunity to go back to retailers and different functions and say the experience at the checkout for example, is maybe more valuable than investing in a campaign or above the line media,” he says.  

“The way you see media being consumed and the way you see loyalty being generated is often being driven by the customer experience. That’s particularly the case with Gen Z coming in. They don’t watch traditional TV, and it’s very hard to reach them, or do it in a new way.”

Experience in retail comes back to service in terms of assortment, ease of access, frictionless transacting, and meeting the rising demands of the conscious consumer, Quin continues.

“Often the weight you need to put behind the experience is more than the advertising,” he says. “I learnt that when I ran customer experience for casinos in Australia – you quickly grasp you’re sometimes better off investing into that experience and creating those playbooks. That then comes down to how you work with different functions in different ways to put the customer at the centre.”  

At Fonterra, a lot of that ‘CX’ work was done upfront, supported by the IT department.

“I see that model being right for us here – do the work upfront on CX and anticipate that need,” Quin says. “You have to think further out too, because by the time you’ve built it, everyone has moved on. You have to be constantly moving and innovating forward.”

It’s still early days, and Quin agrees there’s technical marketing as well as strategic brand activity must remain in focus to keep Foodstuffs’ sales ticking over.

“But allowing the brand owners and heads of marketing for our banners to own part of the customer experience solutions becomes very important,” he says. “Everyone benefits at the end of the day, particularly when it’s more difficult to read what the needs are of different cohorts. When you’re dealing with GenZ, versus GenX or a millennial, and a new changing need coming through, you need the marketing element to go over the top and customer vision and experience to go through.”

Digital has to play a much bigger part of the marketing mix, too. “That whole digital enablement for the consumer to make the right decisions is more important than ever, which is why we want to put it at the centre of our marketing and CX work,” Quin says.

One lesson from Fonterra Quin draws on is creating a technology ecosystem Foodstuffs can build differentiation on top of. Another lesson from Yum is the need to be insightful and take bold steps to meet the changing consumer, who commonly travels faster than businesses.

“Big businesses work off really good and sound models, but half of it is about getting retail and brand campaigns, which tap into the customer psyche at the right time,” Quin comments.

The example he notes from KFC is sponsorship of the 20/20 Big Bash cricket, a step purposefully taken to target a group of consumers at a certain time.

“Big Bash completely changed the way everyone saw the KFC brand,” he says. As teams create calendars of activity, it’s therefore key to have a few clear ‘big plays’.

“These are catalytic mechanisms that shift your brand. If you get it right, it’s so powerful,” Quin says. “It’s difficult with us given the five cohorts coming through – GenZ with their value set, versus a Gen X or baby boomer, who wants a completely different value proposition from retailers.

“It’s all about shifting your brand closer to the customer.”

Skills mix

To balance this need of everyday and innovation, Quin has positioned some of the team on building, and some on executing.

“We’ve tried to separate out the commercial roles, which are there to drive an outcome in terms of growing sales week by week, and growing the brand; there’s the everyday support team; then there’s the build team,” he says. “So the people building out the data platforms, DMP or social channels or single view of the customer are different groups with different remits. Otherwise we’ll never get to the end game fast enough.”

In addition, Quin has replaced a structure previously focused on functional expertise with a matrix model. Importantly, the new heads of brands are working closely with operations.

He’s also looking to build up digital and direct marketing skills internally.  In the enabler functions, the big emphasis is growing CX capability and customer journeys.

“It’s an area we’re building out and making sure it works well with the brand owners, so they know if they should be pulling the CX or traditional marketing lever to grow the business,” Quin says.   

The third skills area is personalisation. “Rather than getting someone to run the day-to-day, we have separated this out so staff build the tech and work with IT teams in the North and South Islands,” Quin says.

“We have an in-house studio too, and we’re extending that remit to content services… It’s important we get the content right and hold it ourselves.”  

On top of this, Quin is building out a corporate affairs and CSR team out from its PR team. The key is to ensure CSR as a key cornerstone of Foodstuffs' corporate and banner brand value propositions and in paid and earned media channels.

Core attributes of modern CMOs

To orchestrate this, Quin says modern CMOs need a healthy dose of curiosity, as well as commerciality.

“Plus you have to have great judgment – you can’t test everything to death, you do have to place bets on what’s going to move the dial,” he says. “The other attribute is collaboration. Marketers used to be in a position where they’d probably just work heavily with the sales team. Now, you’ve got to take IT on a journey and sell the vision, you’ve got to bring sales with you, bring the commercial leads, your CEO, and more.”

The last must for Quin is leadership. “Surround yourself with good people, let them do good stuff,” he concludes.

“Everyone has a different skillset, so setting up a team to make that work for you is key.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu 

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