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Harrods: ‘Data is magical – but needs a creative response’

Achieving digital transformation in a business relies on combining analytics and creativity, David Boyle, customer insights director at Harrods, told the Drapers Digital Festival today.

Boyle told the conference that understanding the true role of digital within a business should revolve around enhancing the customer experience.

“One of the most critical roles of digital is to enhance the customer experience,” he explained. “Helping people understand the range of products in the store. Helping them to discover and plan their journeys. Help them to navigate the space and plan their journeys, and find out the stories behind the product.” 

To achieve this, data and analytics should act as a guidebook or map – rather than a prescription.

“Analysis is like drawing maps,” said Boyle. “In drawing these maps we make mistakes: thinking the data we produce can be accurate and fairly represent the customers, for example. That is not possible – it has to be a summarised version.”

He noted that creativity is key to making successful use of data insights: “Reports don’t tell us what we should be doing differently. Insights don’t emerge without human creativity. Maps can help you choose you path but don’t tell you which path to take. Data should help business to decide on their path – but not prescribe it.”

As an example, he highlighted Harrods’ data that showed some brand-loyal customers were not visiting the store’s perfume room. In response, Harrods is looking at whether to alter marketing, communications, product or brands in the space to draw more attention to perfumes for those target customers – attracting them to that part of the store. The business is working now on a creative response to an opportunity flagged by data analysis.

“Data is magical,” he added. “But it’s only part of the answer and requires creativity to respond.”

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