RBTE interview: Domino's UK & Europe CEO David Wild

The European arm of pizza chain Domino's is a retailer operating with momentum.

By following a dedicated digital strategy, the UK division reported a 14.9% year-on-year increase in third-quarter sales last autumn, with £200 million generated in the 13 weeks to 27 September 2015. It has also noted a growing trend towards digital ordering in Ireland, where sales jumped by 14.1% year on year to €13.8 million over the same period.

UK revenue through digital channels such as its desktop website and mobile app was 35% ahead of the third quarter of 2014 and more than 75% of delivered sales in the year to date have been online, with more than half of these placed through the Domino's mobile app. More of the same trends in customer behaviour are expected when the company announces fourth quarter results in the coming weeks.

CEO of the Domino's business in the UK and Europe, David Wild, says the retailer's investment in technology is not going to slow down any time soon, telling Essential Retail that last year the company's spend on tech systems and innovation doubled – and this year will see investment increase by 75%.

"We've learnt that digital is the way customers want to interact with us so we are in the grain of customer trends and preferences - that's important," he commented.

"Our products and service lends itself to that type of relationship with the customer. It is better for the customer to look online and see the full menu, good pictures and what the offers are, rather than look at an old menu that they maybe received through the door who knows when before calling a busy store to place an order."

Wild argues that being in touch with its customer is the genesis of the company strategy, and the immediate focus area for the business is on simplifying the purchase process. Working with Hitachi Consulting, the business is looking to introduce a range of innovative tools to help speed up the way Domino's IT departments in the UK, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany can test and deploy new initiatives and processes.

"Our big focus on the moment is ease of ordering because one of the main things we've learnt is the easier you make it for people to order pizzas the more frequently they will order them," Wild explained.

"We are doing a lot of work to make this process as easy as possible, and that includes things like credit card registration, retaining last order, favourite order – all of these things which will help customers order much more quickly and easily."

Many of the futuristic innovations announced at Domino's in recent years have been driven by the US arm of the business, including voice-activated ordering in a car, tweeting of orders using emojis and ordering through Samsung's smart TVs without customers having to switch off the programme they are viewing.

But the UK and Europe team are driving change at the retailer, too, with the UK team opening up Apple Watch as a way to pay for pizzas by providing a new function in the company's Easy Order app, last month. Despite being the Launchpad for ApplePay in 2014, the US followed the UK's lead and introduced pay-by-Apple-Watch just this week.

Commenting on his head office team, which acts a central hub for a franchise retail model, Wild gave an insight into the importance Domino's European operation attaches to tech and innovation strategy.

"We have had to deal with people coming into the market like JustEat and Deliveroo which have sophisticated technology, so we have significantly invested our investment in development over the course of the last two years building on the sound foundation that I inherited [from his predecessor Lance Batchelor in 2014].

"Nearly a third of the people we employ in the head office are in the tech team. It is part of what we do, and that doesn't include the people who sit in marketing who in the nicest possible way tell the tech team what to do and analyse the effectiveness of what they've done."

This culture and structure is different to a traditional retail business, although it is clear many of the long-established high street players are looking to evolve to become less rigid in the way they operate. Wild, who was CEO of bikes and auto parts retailer Halfords between 2008 and 2012, has noted a distinct difference between his current and past employers.

"One of the things I've observed here is how different it is at a more conventional retail business where you often have a multichannel department – a willing band of evangelists who are trying to grow the online presence," he noted.

"Because online is so fundamental to the whole business here, it's everybody's job to make sure we are doing the right things for our customers in that area."

He added: "When I joined Halfords, online was less than 5% of sales – it was a tiny part of the business. We got it up to about 15% by the time I left, which from 5% is big progress.

"It wasn't the core part of the business in the way that it is here, so that's a huge difference. In Halfords we he had a department that did it; in Domino's it's everyone's job because it's fundamental to the direction of the company."

Many of the themes discussed by Wild, whose career has also seen him hold senior roles at Tesco, Walmart and Premier Foods, will feature in his presentation when he speaks at next month's RBTE, which will run from 9-10 March at London Olympia.

Wild's session will take place at 12:10 on Wednesday 9 March, and will look into various issues surrounding leadership and customer service in a digital retailing landscape.

"I think the great thing about online is you can look to companies such as Amazon, Uber, Asos, Expedia or EasyJet," he added.

"Online is touching so many industries so you can steal ideas and bring them into your business. You can just sit at your desk, see what's going on and reflect what your experiences are as a customer. You have to take a very broad view of what everyone in the online space is doing and then think about how those ideas can be applied to your business."

Wild will be speaking about leadership and customer service in an omnichannel world at RBTE on 9 March at 12:10 in Theatre B. 

Click here to register for your free RBTE ticket.