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CIO50 2021 #24: Michelle Anderson, The Warehouse Group

  • Name Michelle Anderson
  • Title Chief Digital Officer
  • Company The Warehouse Group
  • Commenced role April 2018
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 200 staff
  • In August 2020, The Warehouse Group (TWG) Support Office moved from a traditional hierarchical structure to an agile way of working to increase speed to market, collaboration, innovation and productivity, enabling it to deliver on its vision to build New Zealand’s most sustainable, convenient and customer-first company.

    With the impacts of COVID-19, the Group saw accelerated growth across digital channels and now more than ever, a need to move at pace to meet customer expectations.

    The agile structure focuses on ‘tribes’ that are centred around the customer journeys and missions e.g. ‘Customer Engagement’, and ‘Make it Easy to Feel at Home’. Within each ‘tribe’ are ‘squads’ that are made up of ‘chapters’, and within these chapters are a range of traditional skillsets. As CDO, Michelle Anderson co-sponsors the Marketing, Digital and eCommerce chapter — practitioners with eCommerce, marketing, tech, digital media, personalisation and data skills. She is also co-sponsor of the Platform, Productivity and Development, Home and Customer Fulfilment tribes.

    From an IT perspective, disciplines such as devops, that were traditionally a back-office function, are now embedded in squads across the tribes. Anderson believes this helps avoid “that classic breakdown between ‘here’s what I want to build and here’s what came out the other side’ outcome”. Cross functional squads are working together, building MVPs, testing, and learning with all the different skillsets contributing.

    Agile assist with tech overhaul

    Anderson believes this new way of working has greatly assisted with the retailer’s technology overhaul. Each team has clear accountabilities, can collaborate quickly and effectively to deliver on customer expectations and business priorities. Teams are empowered, have autonomy, can deliver faster, and productivity is improving. “It’s not the slow, traditional development life cycle that takes a year or more to get a solution out,” she says.

    One of the biggest digital initiatives delivered this year was The Warehouse website and mobile app in March 2021. Powered by Salesforce Commerce Cloud, the mobile first, AI-enabled eCommerce platform provides tight interactions with the Group’s customer ecosystem across marketing, fulfilment and customer service and was developed using a “build once, deploy many” approach. Noel Leeming will be the second brand to migrate in October this year — an illustration of how agile has helped improved speed to market. Anderson’s ongoing role as the sponsor is to be actively involved in promoting and advocating for the programme supporting the team, providing guidance and removing roadblocks to ensure the successful deployment.

    Since the launch of the new website and app the business has seen a 6.2% increase in online conversion, with mobile web conversion growth up 48%.  The app ended the financial year rated among the top 10 shopping apps (based on iOS and Google Play app store rankings in New Zealand). It continues to gain customer momentum with The Warehouse app now accounting for 34.1% of total online sales.

    The Customer Fulfilment squads have improved the Click and Collect experience, with one hour Click and Collect in Noel Leeming now making up 61.8% of Noel Leeming online sales. Under Anderson’s Sponsorship Leadership, the team also launched same day Click and Collect in The Warehouse in time for Christmas 2020.  Click and Collect sales for the Group increased 21.1%, representing 40.4% of total online sales. The experience was further improved for both customers and store teams with the launch of new customer QR code functionality to speed up collections, and a pick-up and location management app for the Fulfilment Centre teams.

    Test and Learn mindset

    Anderson is constantly scanning markets overseas to find out what the new trends are in retail technology, and how they can be adapted to the New Zealand market. She says adopting a ‘test and learn’ mindset means they can keep up with—and in some cases get ahead of—initiatives that leading international retailers and online competitors are undertaking.

    “Retail is an exciting industry to be in because it’s changing so much and moving so fast, and technology is playing a big role in that across both physical and digital channels,” says Anderson.

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