Comment: Time for Tesco to face facts


The news that Tesco plans to use face scanners to target advertising at customers certainly comes as a surprise. We live in a world where technology continues to develop and impact upon many sectors, so it‘s only natural that the retail sector continues to leverage new technology. However, the vast wealth of data available to retailers such as Tesco offers far more interesting, useful and beneficial uses than face scanners.

While tailoring advertising to each customer is a great idea, there are far better ways of doing this than simply scanning people‘s faces at a till. Retailers need to make informed decisions about an individual customer‘s needs. This should extend further than categorising somebody by only their age and gender – there‘s so much more to people than that.

There could also be a negative impact on customer satisfaction if the scanners‘ estimations are wide of the mark. Starbucks came in for some flack when customers‘ names were written inaccurately on cups, and Tesco is putting itself in a position to offend people even more. Just imagine a short-haired woman being targeted with shaving products for young men …

What supermarkets should instead be doing is using information about their customers to provide them with a more compelling and intuitive service that engages them on a truly personal level. This would also make for a more responsible use of data. For example, it was recently reported that Tesco generated almost 30,000 tonnes of food waste in the first six months of 2013 alone. The company says that it‘s already introducing measures to combat this. However, they could use their data to much better effect and for the greater good – to benefit their customers‘ pockets, the business‘s bottom line and society as a whole – if they focused on this major issue, rather than on more gimmicky initiatives.

A good first step for any organisation is to use data to analyse customers‘ purchasing trends in order to solve the biggest issues impacting their business – whether that be supply chain management, store opening hours, store layout and stock or channel management. By looking at where and what customers are choosing to spend their money on, organisations can tailor every interaction (whether online, in-store or over the telephone) so that customer satisfaction is always exceeded, and that opportunities to responsibly increase sales to meet customers‘ buying needs are increased. It‘s a clever way to understand customers, and the results are more useful for driving strategic business plans – from logistics, to store investment, to marketing and advertising plans.

Businesses that use their data to put customers first can expect to better manage risk, cut costs, satisfy escalating consumer expectations, drive informed decision making and maintain a high level of business integrity. Data analytics needn‘t be time-consuming and it pays dividends if done correctly.

In today‘s tough climate – where fickle customers shop for the best prices and promotions – the most successful businesses will be those that understand their customers‘ needs: how they shop, when they shop, where they shop and how much they are willing to pay.

To me, the wealth of data that Tesco has at its fingertips could be used so much more powerfully: to turn data into wisdom, quickly and easily, and enable better decisions, so things get done better – and better things get done. This is where it should focus its efforts.