In this episode of Ecommerce Experts Talk, Marc Bishop interviewed Gary Hawkins, the man who is the inventor of CART, the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology. Gary reveals how he got inspired, what were the initial challenges he faced and how he uses his digital marketing strategies to upkeep his Ecommerce business. Watch now for some profound insights.
Great, thank you, Marc, and great to be with you today. Glad we’re able to finally get schedules linked up here so we could do this.
Sure. And I’ll try to make a long story very short, but I literally grew up in the supermarket business here in the U.S. market. My family owns some stores and wholesale businesses. And how I got from there to this, I actually launched the first loyalty programs near a supermarket sector, gosh, 28 years ago. I really date myself here, but drove a lot of early industry learning around customer data, understanding customer behaviour through all that data and you know, customer-level economics, if you will, at retail, just an exciting time that opened up a whole new world of the retail business able to really for the first time not only measure but understand the business from a true shopper perspective, not just from a product lens. But went on to work with a number of leading retailers here in the US market. Other markets around the world that work then branched out into work with some of the big CPG brand companies like P&G, Unilever and others, helping them understand what retailers were doing with all this data and develop more and more of a shopper. Focus then on understanding, you know, the supply chain and in particular how marketing funds flow across the supply chain. I became very focused on the inefficiency of that, the waste in mass marketing, and became very focused on personalization, actually built the first to personalize marketing capability for mass retail, gosh, 15 years ago. And then more and more of the years have been pulled into the world of technology. So Kurt’s mission today is really to help identify and guide into the industry all these new innovations, new capabilities, and new technologies, and help everyone understand what to do with these things.
Sure. So, you know, I guess from our particular perspective, what we really focus on is the role of innovation or new capabilities or add to across the supply chain. And that can be everything from actually, you know, new methods of food production. Believe it or not, there are all sorts of activities happening on the farms and in, you know, different businesses, you know, like the beef business, poultry business, etc., but growing automation. So robotics on the farm not only plant crops but harvest crops and so on. You know, tracking product through the supply chain, you know, as it’s moved from the source to different distribution centres, you know, helping document sourcing and transparency through the supply chain. Obviously, a lot going on in distribution centres with robotics and automation today, you know, including automated, you know, trucks and so on that are increasingly on the roads moving that product from place to place. And then certainly at the store and to the shopper.
So, you know, coming from my background, my experience, you know, operating retail for a number of years, leveraging all this customer data, I go pretty deep in marketing, digital marketing, personalization, etc. Right. There’s just an immense amount of activity happening around marketing today. You know, certain things that, you know, you see every day in the newsletters and so on or on personalization and relevancy. But something that’s happening that is not as often talked about is automation. You know, when we talk about automation, most people immediately think about robots and, you know, automated distribution centres and so on. But there’s another side to automation that’s around software automation, process automation, you know, leveraging of, in particular, his is really beginning to kick into gear now in different areas of retail. One of those, in particular, is in the world of marketing. So, you know, leveraging big data, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning systems to automate a growing portion of marketing and, you know, different steps in creating marketing campaigns and executing them.
So I think, you know, when we think about retail, we think about e-commerce, we think about digital. There’s really a handful of things that I think people need to keep sort of top of mind here. The first is that. The shopper or customer. User experience is all-important today. And while I hear a lot of marketers, and retailers speak to that, I still see a lot of issues out there. Right. And when I say user experience, there’s there can be and are a lot of nuances to that. But even if we start with some of the basics, you know, ensuring that you’re delivering a seamless user experience and similar user experience across devices. Right? So think about what Amazon does. You know, I can be at my desk on my desktop or my notebook, you know, on Amazon.com. I can add things to my shopping list, and so on and so forth. I can turn and pick up my iPad and instantly pick up where I left off from my notebook or my desktop. Right. You know, the things I just added to my shopping list I see now when I turn on my iPad and I can do whatever I want to do on that, I can put that down and pick my smartphone up and open up the Amazon app. And again, seamless, real time, everything that’s there. And it’s a, you know, the same look and feel, same user experience, same buttons, lists, etc. It may seem like it’s basic, but there’s still many, many retailers that are not delivering that type of experience. And it is just so, so important today. You know, I continue to run into retailers that, you know, have over time sort of cobbled together different digital pieces. You know, their website is powered up by this agency or that company. They’ve gone somewhere else through their mobile app. They do something else for, you know, email and text messaging and so on. So it’s all these pieces they’ve tried to cobble together. And, you know, some have done that more or less successfully, but it makes for a really disjointed, disparate, poor user experience. So I guess it’s the first big thing I’d call out, but rolled into that user experience are several other things the importance of personalization and relevancy. And again, you know, we can use Amazon as a great example of this. Right. Every time you open up Amazon.com, you know, what you’re seeing presented to you there is being driven by what you looked at the last time you were on the site, items you just purchased, items you’ve added to your shopping list, things browsed for, searched for, etc. So every time I go there, they’re experiences being personalized that’s being made relevant to me. And again, that is so, so important. And there are all sorts of statistics out there, you know, showing the importance and the value of providing that personalized and relevant experience. Now, the third piece is connected to those. First, two is the use of different attributes for products that are being sold to aid in and search in aid and filtering. Right. Again, it’s all part of this user experience. So, you know, I spend a lot of my time in the world of grocery and food retail. So, you know, as a shopper, if I go to a retailer’s website and I am diabetic or I have a gluten allergy or whatever, I want to be able to quickly sort, you know, their product catalogue or their product offering by those different attributes. Right. Show me all the products that are suitable for a diabetic or show me all the products in this category or that category that are gluten-free. You know, I’m seeing a lot of retailers making progress in this area, but there’s a long, long way to go in that idea of all of the attributes obviously going way beyond simply food retailing. You know, that’s an easy example. But whatever products that online merchant is selling, you know, the more attributes, the more filters that you have available to you both get used and personalizing. You know what that shopper is seeing when they come to your site and giving them the tools to filter through quickly, you know, the massive number of products on your site to find what they’re really looking for at.
No, that’s absolutely right. So, you know, I guess is sort of the foundation of what we’re talking about here. It’s all about data, right? And, you know, sort of related to that is an area where many, many retailers of all sizes have problems around their data. And let’s call it data discipline. Right. You know, ensuring that you’ve got accurate product descriptions, accurate pricing, accurate attributes on that product. When a new product is, you know, brought on board that you’ve got all that correct information there that’s been assigned that’s assigned to the right categories, departments, all those attributes are, again, gathered and made available and so on. And it’s a lot. It’s an awful lot. You know, just again, I’ll use it as an example. You know, typical supermarkets have 4000 SKUs, you know, 40,000 different products. And when you look across stores in markets, you know, that number explodes to double or triple that. So maintaining their data discipline is not a simple thing, but it is just so, so important.
No, that’s right. To your point, you know, if you’ve if you’re using SEO or any kind of digital advertising of your properties, you know, the idea being to drive people to your properties but then, you know, making sure their experience is a good one when you get them there.
All right. Well, I appreciate you reaching out to me and glad we’re able to work this up and are happy to be with you. And, you know, certainly, yes. Marc, if you want to make my contact information available to your listeners, happy to, you know, talk with anyone, you know. And I again, I guess I would just leave this thought with your listeners, right, that while there’s a lot happening today, you know, from another perspective, today is going to be the slowest pace of change we’re going to experience for the rest of our lives. Right. Innovation continues to grow. It is not going to slow down. We have sort of rounded the inflection point on this exponential growth curve of computer processing power, of the exponential growth of data. And, you know, we’ve got A.I. that is feeding on all of that. So all of this is just creating a flywheel that is growing momentum, powering all this new innovation capabilities every day.
That’s right. That’s a lot to keep up with.
Alright, thank you so much, Marc.