Last week, we brought a dream team of senior leaders together for a deep dive into data and what brands need to do to thrive in the future. Representing a range of industries, including retail, travel, automotive, and FMCG, the group highlighted the challenges and realities of becoming more data-centric, with a lot of commonalities despite their different sectors.

Being good at data and technology is essential for businesses experiencing disruption. The disruptors are all experts in delivering enhanced customer experiences because they are experts in understanding their customers and using technology to delight them. The battleground is becoming increasingly focused on customer experience and personalisation.

For traditional businesses, this creates a number of challenges. There are immediately new skills to learn outside of the previously core subjects of product/service design, distribution, and sales and marketing. The need to prioritise data as a business asset is a role of many, not the few while investing in expertise, tech, and change programmes at a time when market share and margins are under attack is a tough internal ask. This is even further complicated when one faces the issue of having to run the business on existing systems while trying to build a platform fit for the future, or even knowing what new tech to buy and how to integrate it.

Success in this fight isn’t just limited to having the right tools but also having the right approach to data when it comes to quality and availability across the broader organisation. With a huge array of tech out there to choose from, brands have never had so many options at their fingertips – but it’s also even more important to have the right advice and expertise during the design, build, and operation phases. Data leaders need to have the remit and backing to help enact cultural change across the business, putting customers at its heart and making customer-centric decisions that are also measurable.

A fairly daunting task, then.

We kicked off the conversation with the help of one of our clients – one of the nation’s favourite food retailers – who shared their ongoing journey to data-centricity.

Facing competition from industry challengers, they embarked on an ambitious effort to capitalise on their wealth of data to make the customer experience as fluid and personal as possible. This involved moving from 90m customer records to 9m and adding purchasing and other behavioural data – unlocking an unparalleled level of analytics and insights to use when improving experience.

The next challenge was to adopt the right technology. Like most businesses, this was a sizeable challenge since the brand had already invested significantly in martech – although not all were being used, being used optimally, or missed a few key pieces to be able to deliver the envisaged future customer experience. Following our review of what they had and recommendations on what to keep/lose/buy (which saved a significant amount of money a year), they were able to approach replatforming in a phased way to deliver value continuously– which we refer to as the ‘Sawtooth of Success’ – rather than waiting until the end of total build.

Following this case study, a lively roundtable discussion landed on a few key takeaways for those embarking on any data related journey…


The media is full of stories about the future of tech and how AI is revolutionising the way we handle data – but this is simply not the current reality for the majority of businesses. Organisations in all industries have the more pressing task of streamlining the technology they’ve already invested in; upgrading to the newest innovations isn’t a priority. Adoption takes time – and most are still plugging in.


Identify the opportunities a better use of technology can give you. What are your current strengths and weaknesses – and how can data and martech help? Specific needs will vary across industry and customer type, so you need to understand them thoroughly to react accordingly.


Getting buy-in from the rest of the organisation seems to be a universal struggle, as it’s difficult to get a business to pull back from the nervousness of previous habits. Even with plenty of testing, there’s a lot of anxiety about potential loss of revenue from changing direction – for example, when changing approach to email campaigns. Initial results/evidence are a powerful tool to get stakeholders on your side and understand the benefits of truly interrogating and sorting your data.​


If you’re going to do something, do it well. There’s no point in rushing to create a tool for Alexa or Google Home if you don’t have a well-developed purpose. Save your investment and shape a real proposition that addresses customer needs, rather than chasing trends too quickly. Your customers (and finance team) will thank you.

Ultimately, what really stood out in the session was that everyone is on their own data journey – and while some may be at different milestones, the challenges that leaders face along the way are very similar.

We hosted another senior leadership breakfast in Manchester and shared more of the resulting insights – but if you want to discuss this subject in more detail with our team, give us a shout at

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