Technology is transforming the retail landscape, with the two becoming inseparable, says Michelle Anderson, Chief Digital Officer of The Warehouse Group.\n\u201cCustomers expect the transition between traditional and digital channels to be frictionless with personalisation and relevance becoming increasingly important to them,\u201d she says.\n\u201cWe live in a world where the power has shifted to the consumer and external forces such as global sourcing, technology and increased competition are pushing up against us. This has created a need for The Warehouse Group to evolve and reinvent itself as a 21st century retailer.\u201d\nThis, she explains, is the backdrop of her team\u2019s \u201cSingle View of Customers\u201d project that was carried out across multiple functions including Digital, Information Services and Marketing.\nShe says the project had two objectives.\nThe first was to become a data-driven organisation that uses analytics and insights to power business decisions to drive sustainable profits.\nThe second was to transform relationships with customers by understanding more about them through the deep analysis of data, enabling more personalised customer experiences across channels.\n\u201cWe knew we had a strong customer data asset across the group that there was an opportunity to drive greater customer satisfaction.\n\u201cWe also knew that better business outcomes would be possible if we could create a single view of customers across channels and leverage that information to develop a better customer experience.\u201d\nShe noted that companies that invested in, and successfully derived value from their data, have a distinct advantage over their competitors.\n\u201cThe question was how to pull together the technology to deliver our vision to build a single customer view,\u201d she says.\n\u201cWe needed to know who our customers were, but with 95 per cent of transactions still happening in a bricks and mortar environment and no loyalty scheme or reason for the customer to identify themselves at checkout, the vast majority of customers were anonymous to us,\u201d she says.\nAnderson says the team \u201cstitched\u201d together customer data from a variety of systems - Google Analytics 360, DoubleClick, payment tokens, and the CRM - to create the single customer view.\nShe says it was important to ensure the data was in a form that could be leveraged for analytical insights and also drive seamless customer experiences.\nKey to the success of the initiative was their working relationship with Google. The Warehouse Group team had access to technical and development resource from Google teams, who worked alongside the retailer\u2019s technical, data, analytics and digital marketing teams to deliver the solution.\nIn the inaugural \u2018Warehouse Group Google Hackathon\u2019 the team overcame some of the challenges they faced on completing the project.\nThis single view (linking digital media interactions, online browsing and purchase behaviour, CRM and email behaviour and instore transactions) offered a wealth of opportunities to the business to both understand customer purchase behaviour, calculate return on advertising spend, and drive sales performance through personalised user journeys, she says.\n\u201cI had a really strong team \u2013 great talent, experts in their individual fields, who were passionate and determined to get this done. They were up to the challenge,\u201d says Anderson.\nAs well as strong support from the group executive team, \u201cOur simple single-minded goal kept us on track,\u201d she says.\n\u201cBy adopting an agile approach and a \u2018test and learn as you go\u2019 attitude. we greatly increased our chance of success and were presented with more opportunities to extract value along the way.\u201d\nAnderson is on the Group Executive Committee (GET) and is accountable to the Group CEO, Nick Grayston, and the board. \nIn addition to regular executive meetings, the Group operates \u2018Internal Boards\u2019 which allow the GET visibility of activities across the business. \nAnderson sits on both the IS and marketing internal boards. She says this allows her to look at the business with a wide-angle lens and identify opportunities for improvement, as well as share her expertise and connections with other departments. \nWithin her team, she has adopted a \u2018flat structure\u2019 where everyone is encouraged to participate in idea-sharing and people can contact her directly. She has also been involved in reinvigorating the Group\u2019s culture and values, launched earlier this year. \nShe leads a team, the majority of whom happen to be women \u2013 but always hires based on suitability for a role, rather than gender. \nFurthermore, she personally mentors two women within the business \u2013 one at the request of CEO of Noel Leeming and Torpedo7 Tim Edwards, and one through the Group\u2019s Aspire Women in Leadership programme. \nShe shares some lessons on making tough calls in delivering major programmes.\nShe says early in her career, she was faced with a \u2018go live\u2019 situation that did not go as smoothly as she and her team would have liked.\nThe first was for a large FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) company and involved the cutover of their legacy financial system to a new one.\nThe cutover was scheduled over a weekend, but due to a couple of challenges that came up during cutover, was running behind schedule. There was pressure from the leadership team to pull the pin and revert back.\n\u201cHaving worked closely with the team all weekend, I knew that whilst we were behind schedule we were going to complete the cutover before business operations commenced on the Monday with all systems functioning as expected,\u201d says Anderson.\nThe second incident was when she was already at The Warehouse Group. It was for the \u2018go live\u2019 of their first transactional thewarehouse.co.nz. \nShe says the site speed was poor. \u201cWe knew there was no way we could leave the site live in that state, and as we could not find the issue, we reverted back.\u201d\nA senior executive at the time reminded her, \u201cNo one will remember if you are late, but everyone will remember if you mess it up.\u201d\n\u201cFrom those two situations, both of which required different decisions, I have learned that you need to trust your gut, know your team, understand the real facts and be bold enough to make the right decision to deliver the right outcome for both the business and customers,\u201d she concludes.