Walking in the shoes of the ALDO consumer

Executive Interiview:
Zack Hazim, Director, Global Enterprise Architecture & Digital Strategy

January 16, 2018: Why is it so important to have a complete view and understanding of your consumers? With nearly 200 million consumers visiting Aldo stores yearly it was time for them to get a little more intimate with each and everyone of their customers. ALDO has since embarked on the C360 omni-channel program to create a 'golden record' for each customer in order to better interact with them and understand their specific needs and wants. In this interview, Zack Hazim, Director, Global Enterprise Architecture & Digital Strategy at ALDO Group, talks us through the initiative and provides a sneak-peak of what is to come in his session at CAMSS Québec 2018.

Aldo has embarked on a journey to obtain a complete 360-degree view of its consumers. Can you explain why you believe this is so important for a company in the retail sector?

Before I talk about the C360 program, I want to first talk about omni-channel and why it is important to us - as it is part of the 360-consumer project. A lot of retailers today offer multi-channel experiences. This means you can go to the store, go online or call up to buy our products. For the most part, these channels operate in silos, they don’t communicate with each other and they have different strategies. From a consumer’s perspective, that does not look good because you cannot link prior transactions across the multiple channels. With omni-channel, we can provide a seamless experience across all of these channels – whether you go online or you buy in-store, you will be the same consumer with one ‘golden record’ of your account. This is why it was important to build the C360 program to help us understand our consumers, understand their behavior and, most importantly, providing a better experience.

What do companies risk by not adopting similar methods?

There is a lot of competition, so providing a more efficient experience creates loyalty to your brand and encourages them to continue shopping with you whether online or in-store. You must delight your consumer and provide them the experience they are looking for. If you don’t follow them the way they want, they will drop your brand.

When was the project / idea at Aldo first conceived?

The biggest trigger was a decrease in sales in-store. Most consumers across the globe don’t like to shop in-store any more. This is why the omni-channel experience is so important. This made us want to understand how to better engage with our consumers as face-to-face interaction is becoming limited.

Can you explain how this has enabled the company to get more intimate with your consumers?

The idea is very simple, but the implementation is very difficult. If I am able to know what you are buying online or in-store, if I have one golden record, that will help solve half of the issue. As I have previously said, most of the time the channels are disconnected. So I could have five different records for the same person across five different channels, which means I have to connect with a consumer in five different ways, depending on the channel. This can be extremely frustrating for the customer because this indicates we do not know them very well. So the first step is to understand who you are as a consumer – your entire record.

The second step is linking all of your transactions, no matter the channel, to your golden record. On top of that, your engagement history, whether that be by phone, email, social media, etc. If we can get all of these interactions and transactions linked to your golden record, then we can understand exactly who you are, what products you buy and your opinion of our brand. Then we can provide you with a better consumer experience. We can recommend products more efficiently.

These are the key elements. Very easy to think of but very hard to implement.

A project this large and complicated clearly comes with its challenges. Can you share some?

Definitely, and that is a key element of the presentation I will be giving at CAMSS Québec.

The primary challenge was the disconnected channels. Due to the legacy systems we had in-store a long time ago, then to e-commerce, then mobile – these technologies are unable to talk to each other. This makes creating the golden record from your first interaction with our brand very difficult.

The second challenge: we have reached a point in time with an extremely high volume of structured and unstructured data. Unstructured data in particular is very difficult to digest and understand for purposeful use. Once you are able to use that data as an asset and link it to the omni-channel, you can start seeing the results.

So what’s next for both ALDO and the retail industry as a whole?

Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. A lot of people think brick and mortar will eventually disappear. I don’t believe this. I think it will still exist, but will evolve in to more of a “showroom” where you can come in, meet with staff, view and trial the products, but there will be no in-store inventory or it will be significantly decreased. For example, you can use your mobile app - linked to your account - while you are in the store to pick a product, trial it, pay for it and get it shipped directly home. No waiting in line to pay, no having to ask if they have it ‘out the back’. The in-store inventory is strictly for showcasing and is never actually sold.

What do you want people to take away from your session at CAMSS Québec?

First of all, I feel Québec is behind a lot of areas in the technology space. I don’t know why, maybe it is cultural; maybe it is lack of resources. So I want people in the session to be aware of what is happening around us. Look at Sears, look at Target and other large retailers. What did most of them do? What was their strategy? It wasn’t about investing in the future and gaining a better understanding their consumer’s experience. Their strategy was to be more effective on cost. They kept on cutting costs, didn’t invest in these new digital technologies and here they are on the cusp of bankruptcy and struggling to keep up.

I want the takeaway to be: do not be afraid of investing in to the digital platform and in to understanding your customers. That is the future. If you don’t do something about it today, then in 5 – 10 years you may well experience a lot of challenges in keeping the business going. I want them to be aware that the solutions exist. Yes, it takes time to implement them but once you have these capabilities your business can thrive and continue to grow.

Raise awareness
Make sure they are investing in the right areas
Don’t be afraid

Zack will be speaking at the 2018 CAMSS Québec conference taking place on March 14 at the Ritz-Carlton Montréal. For information and to register to attend, go to www.camsscanada.com/quebec