Specsavers: Enriching customer experience with transformative digital infrastructure
• Phil Pavitt will be speaking at Fujitsu World Tour 2017 in London on 6 July
When Phil Pavitt joined the world’s largest privately owned optical group, Specsavers, as its global CIO in June 2014, he set in motion a bold digital journey designed to dramatically transform the £2.2 billion ($2.8bn) UK-headquartered company.
Unlike many digital transformation strategies in which organizations undertake major projects sequentially, often to limit risk and big capital outlay, Specsavers decided that it would push ahead with multiple transformational projects in parallel. And for the past two years the organization has been undergoing what Pavitt characterizes as nothing less than a ‘technology revolution.’
For the optician and eyewear retailer, which sold around 20 million frames and 400 million contact lenses in 2015/16 across eight countries in Europe, plus Australia and New Zealand, there were two ultimate goals in mind: to create a robust ‘single view of the customer’ and to enhance engagement with customers online and in-store through a host of new digital services.
To achieve that the company needed to establish a unified data platform or repository, Pavitt outlines. “Historically, we have had thousands of data platforms. And during the past three years we have had 54 interlinked data programs across the organization. Now, with the multiple data initiatives we will bring the number of data platforms down to just 14 or 15,” he says. Key to getting to the single view of the customer is the Oracle Customer Hub, Pavitt says: “One technology to hold, view and manipulate our data.”
“No retailer is doing anything like this; the programs we have underway and the style in which we are doing them are truly innovative. Together with our partners [Specsavers operates a joint-venture model involving 2,400 partners worldwide] we have recognized that the technology that used to be at the back or edge of the store needs to be at the center. So we’re investing to make that happen,” he says.
Transforming the retail experience platform
A central component of Specsavers’ digital transformation is a shift to a new retail platform provided by SaaS electronic health record specialist eClinicalWorks. This will replace the multiple different retail platforms used by partners around the world.
However, the technology infrastructure underpinning the transformation in stores is also in line for a major change. As Pavitt describes, that requirement only became clear at the pilot stage of the application roll-out. “It is a situation that every CIO encounters at some point,” he says. “That putting modern applications on old infrastructure would impede the business’s future plans,” he says.
“If you want a customer-assisted journey that uses in-store tablets that are as fast as the customer’s own devices and offer a richness of experience to both the customer and employees, then you need strong technology in every single store,” he says.
That infrastructure technology is coming from global IT provider Fujitsu as part of a £17.6 million ($22.4m) deal that will re-tool Specsavers’ 1,179 stores across Europe. The new systems will enable Specsavers to deliver an improved customer experience by enhancing the use of customer data, ensuring employees are better informed and empowered to improve service, track orders and incidents, says Specsavers.
Pavitt describes his choice of partner as driven by three key elements:
• Single global partner Fujitsu can to provide high-quality systems and support across every one of Specsavers’ current and future target markets, he says — something that is not evident at all vendors. “We have lots of partners but when they aren’t strong in a particular country they sub-contract the work and we find ourselves dealing with someone else. That’s not what we wanted to do,” Pavitt explains. “Fujitsu’s extensive global retail capabilities and consulting expertise will help with our international journey.”
• Innovate and industrialize Specsavers wanted a partner that could take new ideas and industrialize them, says Pavitt. He cites the optician’s use of CGI technology to render customers’ faces, allowing them to model different types of glasses. “We have taken that, industrialized it and put it in all our stores where it is used by millions of customers,” says Pavitt. Fujitsu’s experience with this kind of volume in the retail space was a key factor.
• Trusted, core capabilities Another important decision-point for Specsavers was Fujitsu’s track record in investing in the development of robust, secure technologies. “Getting those basics right with someone we can really trust enables us to confidently build all of that new exciting stuff on top,” he says.
Big data questions
But getting to the company’s ‘single view of the customer’ goal also involves some rigorous data governance. Pavitt argues that before data is able to generate any kind of reliable business insight it needs to not only be consolidated but also consistent and clean. “Everyone gets excited about the potential of data analytics but at the heart of this huge data revolution is some rather mundane yet very essential to define governance that every organisation has to go through,” he says. “Questions like, ‘If I enter data into this system, will it overwrite the record on every machine?’”
Other issues Specsavers has had to consider involve the global location and movement of data, how it will manage data to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations that comes into force next May, and how it gets consent for the use of customer data. As Pavitt points out, the organization has to get the answers to those questions right first time, not least of all because some of the information it handles is shared with health service providers such as the UK’s National Health Service.
Though still ongoing, the transformation is already showing its potential. “It is going to be exciting to have core infrastructure, new digital services and commonly integrated platforms in place. It’s about making the customer and employee journey fast and accurate; all of the behind-the-scenes work — the ERP, the manufacturing, the applications, the common integrated platforms — will enable that to happen in a much more efficient way,” he says. “It will help our customers manage their eye and hearing health better, which, ultimately, is what it comes down to.”
• Phil Pavitt will be appearing at the keynote sessions of Fujitsu World Tour 2017 in London, 6 July: Register here.