Insights from Tom Langley from John Lewis Partnership

Communicating Sustainability and Ethical Practices to Customers

Tune in to Time for A Reset

In today’s highly competitive retail industry, the importance of prioritising marketing and brand-building cannot be overstated. With countless options available to consumers, retailers must find ways to stand out from the crowd and create a lasting impression in the minds of their target audience.  Multiple studies reveal that consumers prefer brands that have ethical supply chains and those that actively pursue sustainability as part of their corporate philosophy. John Lewis Partnership is a legacy brand in the UK, or in the United Kingdom that has ticked all the boxes for over 90 years. 

On a recent episode of Time For a Reset: The Marketing Podcast with Global Leaders, Nick King, Global Practices Lead at CvE,  sat down with Tom Langley, Head of Personalisation and Retail Media at John Lewis Partnership. The John Lewis Partnership is the UK’s largest employee-owned business and the parent company of two legacy brands – John Lewis and Waitrose. For over 90 years, the Partnership has operated as a force for good with the purpose of creating a partnership that is fair and sustainable for all, including customers, suppliers, and communities.  

The engaging discussion covered Tom’s role in creating new data-led customer propositions and capabilities for the group’s brands and the need to press the reset button to prioritise marketing and brand building in retail organisations. Tom also highlights the importance of data and technology in personalisation efforts and how it can simplify the marketer’s job by automating routine tasks.  The conversation also covers privacy and data protection and the Partnership’s sustainability drive. 

A simply not to miss podcast! Here are some touchpoints from the episode:

 A Reset to Measure and Articulate the Value of Marketing

A high-level challenge in the retail world is the lack of understanding of marketing at the executive and board levels. Strange as it sounds, the fact remains that, at a COO level, the focus is on driving positive outcomes across the product range and availability and deliveries from the supply chain. As a result, we have lost our way on the role of marketing in driving growth and brand building. Hence, we need to press the reset button for measuring and articulating the value of marketing in brand building and brand perception.

“I think, as a retailer, you have to remember that you are a brand first and hence have to ensure that you’re giving clear reasons for the customers to turn right to go to Waitrose instead of the competitor, and the same is true online. We put the brand building and perception of the brand right at the heart of the business strategy and growth strategy”.

Using Data Science to Deliver Value Exchanges to Customers 

Tom explains how the Partnership uses AI and machine learning driven data science to predict customer behaviour. The idea is to show the customers products that align with their browsing history and their past purchases.  A physical store that covers thousands of square feet allows the visual merchandiser to group products and ranges in one area, the digital challenge is to accomplish that on a six-inch screen. This is where data science steps in and identifies the top four to five products that the customer is most likely to buy to then display them on the customer’s screen. 

“I think data science is absolutely critical to ensure that a customer sees the products that they’re interested in and the products that they’re potentially going to purchase. We need to ensure that we help customers find things quickly and find inspiration while getting great service”.

Walking the Fine Line Between Personalisation and Data Privacy

A major USP of the retail industry is that you have customer interactions on a daily basis. Tom explains how the research panel at the Partnership continually interacts with the customers and that customers are okay with the brand using their data to provide value exchanges that enhance customer experience. In return, they expect the brand to use their data judiciously and protect its privacy. This starting point gives the Partnership the freedom to figure out the best way of using customer data to solve their needs, improve the experience, and create the right value exchange.

“The right focus should be on how we’re using the data the right way to deliver brilliant customer experiences”. 

Overcoming the Attribution Challenge for a Clearer ROI Picture

Another USP of the retail industry is the ability to close the loop on every customer purchase journey. The data and how it’s used is the glue that keeps the customer close to the brand. A common challenge in attribution modelling is that it relies heavily on e-commerce data and, with a category like groceries, 90% of sales happen in-store.  Hence, traditional assets like loyalty cards play a big role in tracking customer behaviour and purchase patterns. Tom believes that the physical store plays a significant role in building brand perception and moving the customer through the upper funnel stages. You can then complete the lower funnel journey with personalised offers.

“If you ask most people what’s the USP of retail media, they will say it’s the fact that you can close the loop on the customer purchase journey from viewing the media through to the customer purchasing”.

The Sustainability Drive at the Partnership

Tom explains how the Partnership keeps ethics and sustainability front and centre in how they operate. From the Waitrose Agriculture Plan that connects the brand to the farmers who are paid fair prices, to ethical supply chains, and sourcing from ethical suppliers who follow sustainable practices, the drive for sustainability is part of the Partnership DNA. In fact, there’s a TV show in the works that covers the story of sustainability at John Lewis Partnership.

“So it’s trying to find that happy medium for customers where you know they can buy products sourced from ethical and sustainable sources, as well as at a price point that they can afford. And I think that that’s probably the challenge in the market at the moment”.

A Few Words About Tom Langley

As Head of Personalisation and Retail Media at the Partnership, Tom’s role focuses on evolving and scaling the retail media services of the brand for the benefit of its customers, advertisers, and the Partnership.  Prior to joining the Partnership, Tom spent 15 years at Dunnhumby, working with Tesco and other retailers around the world to design and build their retail media businesses. Tom is a passionate and energetic business leader with extensive experience in digital marketing and E-Commerce at Retail and FMCG brands. He is adept at dealing with complex and innovative data sources and using customer data science to understand and improve shopper experience.

Join us on Time For a Reset: The Marketing Podcast with Global Leaders

Tune in to the latest episode of Time For a Reset: The Marketing Podcast with Global Leaders, where we sit down with representatives of household brands to uncover the secrets behind driving business growth in today’s rapidly evolving world. From shifting consumer behaviour to the increasing importance of marketing in driving business transformation, this podcast delves into the strategies and insights that are shaping the future of marketing. 

You can read the full transcript episode here.

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