Why Coles is ramping up investment in a customer data platform

Coles GM of technology and customer experience talks through the personalisation ambitions of the supermarket giant

The supermarket shopping experience of the future will not only be driven by seamless and personalised omnichannel experiences that mitigate friction in the buyer journey for customers, they’ll be predictive, Coles’ technology and customer experience chief says.  

And as a further step towards realising this vision, the supermarket giant is unifying systems and making further steps to improve the way it manages customer data this year.  

Coles’ latest platform investment is Adobe’s Real-Time Customer Data Platform (RT-CDP), which it plans to use to build a single view of customer data across the organisation. The ambition is to manage scheduled omnichannel campaigns and one-to-one moments for millions of customers from a single application. Coles has been a client of Adobe’s since 2014.  

The supermarket said it will be using the CDP as well as its Adobe Journey Optimiser (AJO) toolkit to unify customer data sets drawn from the Web, apps and in-store channels. Customer journeys will be optimised using intelligent decisioning and insights, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning from Adobe’s AI engine, Adobe Sensei. Coles’ centralised data approach will provide the foundation for orchestrating more personalised and contextually relevant experiences for customers across channels in a privacy conscious way, the companies said.  

Speaking on a panel during an Australian media event for this year’s Adobe Summit, Coles GM of CX and technology, Sunjeet Rana, said 80 per cent of its customers now expect personalisation in everyday interactions with the brand, making it table stakes today.  

“In fact, customers will punish a brand that doesn’t offer them personalisation,” he commented. As just one example, Rana noted customers receiving personalised email communications from Coles generate three times the revenue of those that aren’t.  

“It’s becoming an important part of our business – making sure we are using data, content and platforms in the right, ethical way to create that consumer trust,” Rana said.  

Since joining Coles in 2020, Rana has overseen the introduction of the first Coles shoppable app, single click checkout and a raft of personalisation features all aimed at enhancing seamless omnichannel experiences for customers. These have been spurred on by the rapid acceleration of digital over the past two years, which has fuelled ecommerce take-up. Over the first half of FY2022, Coles reported a 46 per cent increase in ecommerce sales growth, bringing total online sales penetration to 8.2 per cent.    

Alongside platforms, it’s important to have one view because customers don’t see the delineation between channels like retailers do, Rana said.  

“The key word here is the omnichannel piece: It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that when a customer wakes up, they don’t think about channel,” he said. “They are just interacting with us as a brand in ways that make sense for them. So from a personalisation perspective, it’s about recognising them as one customer, one Coles experience, irrespective or channel or the brand across our portfolio, and make sure we keep that experience as seamless as possible.”  

Rana noted grocery customers commonly operate on seven-day cycle. But they could also be interacting with other Coles partners and retailers, such as fuel or liquor, during that weekly shopping cycle.  

“It’s important to keep context consistent throughout all experiences so there are no additional friction points for me as a customer,” he said.    

From a personalisation spectrum perspective, Rana said Coles is making the transition from one-to-everyone to one-to-some, where segmentation is serving up tailored offer and products, to true one-to-one experiences.  

The CDP investment will allow Coles to offer customers access to a number of shopping and brand experience enhancements such as timely communication that’s sent at the right time, in their preferred channel, with more personalised recommendations and offers across online, mobile, app, click-and-collect and in-store.  

In addition to the RT-CDP, Coles is rolling out Adobe’s digital asset management (DAM) and marketing resource management (MRM) solution, Adobe Workfront. The intention is to consolidate digital assets Coles uses to engage customers and facilitate more effective collaboration between its marketing, agencies and broader business functions, to drive efficiencies through workflow automation.  

“Where we want to end up is in predictive state – recognising most of the information we have and using that to predict where our customers will be shopping and making sure we can prompt and provide the right product at right price and time,” Rana explained. “Bringing that all together in that one customer, one Coles experience, is key to our future success.” 

Read more: Coles: Using metrics to foster end-to-end customer thinking

Nine debuts audience matching offering; signs up Coles as launch partner

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