Name: Dr Alex JiTitle: Chief information officerCompany New AimCommenced role: September 2021Reporting Line Chief executive officerMember of the Executive Team: YesTechnology Function: 70 staff, 6 direct reports
Since joining ecommerce company, New Aim, as chief information officer in 2021, Dr Alex Ji has helped lead the company from being data-driven to data-centric.
“Data-driven relies on data sets, while data-centric creates frameworks to link data back to strategy,” Dr Ji says.
“[I] came to New Aim with a view that we needed to centralise data from 40 sales channels into a single data centre.”
This meant significant investment and a major shift of focus away from relying solely on data from eBay – historically the company’s biggest sales channel, to developing its own insights across all channels.
New Aim accelerated its journey towards a unified data model in 2022 – shifting the business from conversion rates to logistics technology.
AI-enabled last-mile delivery
However, it was the rapid change in consumer shopping behaviour through the COVID-19 pandemic which was the catalyst for this shift in focus.
“We prioritised developing our logistics tech through this period. It was important to uplift parcel delivery to ensure feasibility, scalability and customer satisfaction,” says Ji.
This drove the need for New Aim to speed up the development of its own technology to improve last mile delivery, which accounts for 53% of overall supply chain costs according to recent industry data.
Developed entirely in house by New Aim’s data team based in Hawthorn, Victoria, Last-Mile Postage Optimiser (LPO) technology is designed and trained to optimise last-mile delivery by self-selecting the optimal courier service for every New Aim order.
LPO uses historical courier data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver products to customers purchasing across various sales channels at a better rate, with greater speed, and more efficiently, says Dr Ji.
“Most businesses deal with several couriers to guarantee a competitive shipping rate, enough zone coverage and a high-quality service to their customers. LPO provides a flexible, scalable and intelligent approach to augment and optimise the courier selection process, ensuring a cost-effective solution from the retailer’s end,” he says.
“Integrated across all sales channels, LPO is transforming last-mile delivery, turning postage data into an asset that benefits retailers and their customers.”
The LPO technology now facilitates the delivery of more than 4,000 product lines, and customers appear to have responded well to the speed and service quality it has enabled with these factors increasingly referenced in customer reviews for New Aim products, says Ji.
““On our eBay channel, we’ve earned a rating of 4.9/5 from more than 1.6 million customer reviews.”
As a multi-channel retailer and supplier, New Aim has all the data it needs to optimise last mile delivery, adds Dr Ji.
“We’re unique in our ability to optimise for postage at this level because we’ve delivered products to more than 50% of Australian households over 17 years, giving us volume, velocity and variety of data.”
These costs can be even greater for businesses new to ecommerce, even already established large retailers, since they may not yet be equipped to handle online orders at volume, says Dr Ji.
“With New Aim products sold across more than 40 sales channels, LPO reduces supply chain costs for large Australian retailers.”
Overall, LPO has changed the cadence of how New Aim operates, says Dr Ji.
“We’re continuously reviewing courier data daily so we can improve LPO for our customers. This is about taking a hybrid ‘heads and hearts’ approach, where we balance the data, automation and tech, with a personal, human touch,” he says.
“We run a human-in-the-loop model, because we acknowledge there are still some things that AI can’t quantify or understand. Technology can amplify human decision-making, but it can’t replace nuance or evidence-based opinion.”
With this impact on New Aim’s business, leading the development of LPO and other technologies, has put Dr Ji as chief information officer in charge of some of the most important projects within the company.
Acknowledging it’s never easy to balance different projects within one business, Dr Ji says he achieves this by viewing projects as complementary, rather than competing.
“I’m focused on making sure everything developed in one arm of the business could be of value to another arm of the business or offered as a public service,” says Dr Ji.
“This isn’t possible for every company, especially those experiencing such high levels of growth.”
Increasingly, Dr Ji also sees his role as creating an environment that sets others up for success, and he champions innovation by bringing in the right people to create the right processes.
To celebrate the achievements of his team members,Dr Ji initiated monthly and quarterly recognition programmes, while he showcases the successes of the IT team at regular company-wide meetings.
Another important focus for Dr Ji has been to actively foster a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing within his team.
Alongside Dropshipzone Chief Digital Product Officer, Carrie Hu, Dr Ji has initiated the adoption of anAgile working approach, fostering cross-functional collaboration, implementing mentorship programs, and promoting a culture of continuous learning among team members.
Dr Ji aims to harness the advantages of Agile methodologies, such as increased adaptability, faster response to change, improved team communication, and enhanced transparency.
This approach empowers New Aim teams to be more agile, efficient, and innovative, resulting in accelerated project delivery, higher customer satisfaction, and a more resilient and competitive organisation.
Meanwhile, Dr Ji encourages an inclusive workplace through his own leadership and ensuring leaders at all levels actively support and promote diversity and inclusion initiatives, while holding leaders accountable for creating and maintaining an inclusive environment.
Louis van Wyk