Loblaw's plan for better data-driven customer experiences

President Sarah Davis outlines the areas in which the grocer is excelling thanks to an investment in digital

Faster service. Personalized communications. Easy to prepare meal solutions. Relevant promotions.

These are a few of the areas in which Loblaw is using its wealth of consumer data to provide the best online or in-store experience, according to Loblaw president Sarah Davis. The company now has more than 400 employees focused on digitally-driven projects in what Davis called Loblaw's "data and analytics centre of excellence."

"Across our stores, brands and services, via in-person or digitally, our focus is centred on our customer," said Davis during a recent call with media and analysts to share the company's first-quarter results.

The grocery company has spent the last 18 months building out its digital capabilities--it was a significant area of discussion during Loblaw's fourth-quarter earnings call earlier this year--with the introduction of electronic shelf labels, the expansion of self-checkouts, and other initiatives.

However, in the most recent quarter, there was a large shift in the way the company is using data "to provide consumers offers, make better promotional decisions and more efficiently manage our supply chain networks," she said.

That change will continue throughout 2019 as Loblaw makes "further investments in data and technology to drive customer adoption and improve customer satisfaction," she said.

In some cases, improving customer satisfaction means faster turnaround times for its PC Express click-and-collect pickup service. Davis said Loblaw was using a new technology to track when a customer arrives at the store and the time it takes to load their car.

Additionally, customers can now add an item to their basket right before pickup. "The quick turnaround time with PC Express is just one way we are helping solve meals for Canadians," she said.

Also, available through PC Express, are heat-and-eat meals such as pad Thai and butter chicken that can be ready in as little as 20 minutes. Davis said Loblaw's would also be introducing meal kits at 92 stores in Ontario following the May long weekend.

"We are inspired by the challenge of helping our customer solve meals for their families in a convenient way with solutions that bring home style restaurant quality innovation inspired by our head chefs," said Davis.

Loblaw is tracking around 400 initiatives and ranking each one based on their returns, said Davis. An example is the electronic shelf labels introduced within the last year. 'We see that one worked out to be better than we expected... It reduces the amount of labour in the stores focused on a non-value add job," she said.

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