Auchan Group is one of the biggest retailers in France, where it has 134 hypermarkets, over 400 supermarkets, and 108 shopping centres. It also operates in 16 countries around the world.
Like all retailers, Auchan has had to respond to the changes in the industry. Auchan Direct is the online grocery arm of the business, operating both home delivery and click-and-collect under the name Auchan Drive. Auchan Direct’s head of data and growth is Marc Rousseau, and for him the clear differentiator between the online and offline businesses is the amount of data available, and the opportunity that presents for personalisation.
Rousseau was at the Adobe EMEA Summit earlier this year, where CMO.com caught up with him to ask how the business—and his role—is changing.
Marc Rousseau: If you look at the history of hypermarkets, 55 years ago the idea came from the U.S. of putting different kinds of shops together, so that people had everything in one place. The big challenge was about the catchment area. Now it’s very different because we’re online. The catchment area is becoming the whole world, and the game is to attract people from different countries who want to have things delivered. That’s game-changing in terms of our marketing because, in the past, marketing for hypermarkets used to be very local.
It’s also difficult for us because our customers are everyone. Everyone eats, but you can’t deliver one message to one very specific audience. The customers have different needs when they come and shop with us, and we need to have different messages.
CMO.com: So you’re looking at personalisation?
Rousseau: Personalised experience is now very important because it’s what the customer is expecting. At Auchan Direct, we have loyal customers. They come often, they buy the same kind of things all the time, and they won’t understand if we don’t deliver a more personalised experience.
We’ve worked a lot on the concept of customer lifetime value (CLV). In a hypermarket, the customer is not very well known. We have a loyalty programme, but still it’s difficult. On our side, because it’s online and the customer is logged in, it’s very hard to know the customer well and to understand them in terms of lifetime value and how profitable they may be. Also, because we have lots of data on what they buy, we can have different newsletters and triggers that are sent to different people.
CMO.com: What’s your biggest challenge at the moment?
Rousseau: The biggest objective that we have currently is the contact rates. We want everybody in the company focused on how we can decrease the number of times that our customers call our customer care centre because they’ve got a problem. We, as the data team, for example, spend a lot of time digging through our customer care data such as emails, phone calls, and forms. We try to focus on making sure that our experience is perfect, and that’s how we measure success.
CMO.com: What metrics do you use for that?
Rousseau: Every time we do a marketing action, we try to see what we’ve brought to the customer. I want to see a measure behind things like open rate or conversion, which is a measure of how happy we’ve made the customer.
For example, customer lifetime value is a good measure because, if a customer is more profitable, it’s probably because he’s happier. That’s why, for example, when we personalise emails, we try to measure whether it improves the CLV.
One of the big challenges we face is churn because everybody knows that it’s cheaper to keep your customers than trying to create new ones. But churn is very difficult because, at Auchan Direct, there may be several different reasons why the experience has not been perfect. Maybe there are missing products in your order, maybe the delivery man was late, or maybe there were not enough products available on the website. All these things are very different.
One of the big things that we wanted to achieve is, when there’s been a problem, to be able to send a personalised email directly related to the problem. If, for example, the delivery man has been late, we have to communicate about that and explain why—and also personalise our answer with some kind of a reduction or gift, depending on the CLV of the customer. Loyal customers will understand if one time the experience isn’t quite perfect, but they still need an answer or explanation of what went wrong, so that’s something we’ve done, and it’s working well.
CMO.com: What are you doing around mobile?
Rousseau: The mobile strategy is coming from the different needs of the customers. We have customers who go on their computers and do their shopping at a particular time during the week. We want to have a great experience available to them, but now we see more and more different types of customers like we talked about earlier, for example, more urban customers. They don’t plan—they want to be connected, they want to buy a few products, and come back later. For us, mobile is not about developing an app—we have an app—it’s really what is the strategy?
I don’t know yet what we’ll do, but I think we’ll have to develop another product. It won’t be a version of the website that goes into a smaller window. It’s really a different strategy, and that’s going to be very challenging for us because it’s a big investment.