Creating a dataverse at Metcash

CIO of IGA independent retail owners group talks through the data strategy he's looking to realise

Data can be incredibly helpful for marketers to optimise around the things they already know, but not so useful when it comes to those things they don’t know.

For Metcash chief information officer, David Reeve, assisting his organisation to see things it otherwise couldn't is one of the many ways he is supporting digital transformation. As a loyalty and data specialist with a career that spans organisations including Qantas Loyalty, Macquarie University and Macquarie Bank, Reeve is deploying a data strategy that’s pulling in data from across Metcash’s diverse portfolio to better inform its divisions.

“My role is to drive an organisation-wide transformation which really puts our purpose at the heart of everything we are doing from a technology perspective, and our purpose is champion successful independent retailers,” Reeve tells CMO. “In our model, the retailers are independent business owners who are connected with communities, and we provide them with a capability that allows them to compete with large-scale integrated retailers.

“What we are doing is completely transforming our organisation to make sure that from a connectivity and data perspective, we are putting successful independent retailers at the heart of every decision we make.”

This is where Reeve sees Metcash having a natural advantage over several competitors. Its network includes hardware brands such as Mitre 10 and Home Hardware in addition to its IGA grocery retail and liquor retail brands. By tying these organisations more closely together, the data they generate can be used to create insights valuable across other members of the group.

“If we look inside our hardware business, we can see building ‘starts’. These building starts are going to bring consumers with them,” Reeve says. “So how do we help the local retail stores prepare for the influx of new consumers into their area, and build towards a model that is going to accept all of those new consumers?

“Or maybe we can see there has been a demographic shift in their area, and stores should think about moving some products to a lower price point. Things like that help them gain insights into how they can improve their margins or operations.”

Reeve’s ultimate goal is to create what he terms as a ‘dataverse’ based around Metcash’s investment in Salesforce, which can pick up signals in one part of the business and generate insights that can be used elsewhere.

“I know from my history in the loyalty industry that some of those things are golden - those things you don’t expect to have any correlation, but that often do,” Reeve says. “So how do we engineer a dataverse that will allow us to look at whatever we want to look at, and that will allow us to see signals that we are not actually looking for?

“Data is the oil in the machine. We need to be as efficient at moving data and gaining insights as we are at moving boxes around our network.”

Business-driven data decisioning

Over time, Reeve sees this capability providing more benefits beyond just helping stores manage range and promotions.

“The store layout, for instance, should be one that matches the needs of that community in that size of store,” he says. “There are lots of things that can come together through getting insights into that environment.”

Another recent data-driven outcome has been creation of Metcash’s Supa Valu stores, which deliver a ‘big box’ approach to independent retailing to compete with discounters such as Aldi and Costco.

“It is a successful model when done in the right locations with the right demographic,” Reeve says.

For Reeve, the independent nature of Metcash’s retailers means they are best viewed as customers in their own right. This provides both a challenge and an opportunity from a data perspective.

“It is really about making sure that what we do with information is actually providing value back to the individual retailer, so that we are not aiming to use their data for things that don’t return value to them,” Reeve says.

Hence building trust with members and retailers has been critical to ensuring they are willing to share information in the first place.

“We need to demonstrate value in those equations to them, in order that they understand the point of sharing,” Reeve says. “If they share everything, then we can provide fairly sophisticated insights.”

Reeve says the relationship with Salesforce has proven critical, as it provides a foundation for data management that enables Metcash to take what it has learned about building loyalty in consumer engagements and translate that to its business-to-business relationships.

“We are working hard with Salesforce to make sure we really do bring to life our emotional connections with our retailers, all the time,” he says. “The independent retailer is so special in Australia – they are so good at what they do, and they are connected to their communities in a way that no other people can be.

“Our sole purpose in life is to champion successful independents, and part of it is how do we really make it easy to do business with those retailers, so we can get out of the way of their daily life and let them do what they really need to do in the best way possible.”

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