Oliver Bonas on preparing for GDPR

Essential Retail talks to Camilla Tress, ecommerce strategist at Oliver Bonas, about how GDPR could impact retail in an increasingly data driven age. 

Tress has outlined how Oliver Bonas is implementing AI technology and preparing for GDPR, ahead of her RBTE panel discussion about the tech digital trends for 2018. 

She believes GDPR will cause disruption within the retail industry, but is ultimately a positive development for retailer and customer alike. 

“If GDPR is explained properly to customers then you hope that will provide more trust in what you are doing and it will work in our favour eventually,” says Tress. “There will be a bump in the road. A lot of people are quite scared about losing lots of their database and their potential to market. 

“But ultimately it will mean we have to work harder to make sure we are providing customers with what they really want.”

Oliver Bonas has recently hired its first ever data protection officer to help prepare for the onset of GDPR. Other measures Oliver Bonas has taken include the re-writing of its privacy policy, terms and conditions and cookie policies. 

It has also created a ‘preference centre’ that will allow customers to choose what communications they do and do not receive from the company. 

In addition, Oliver Bonas is asking its third party suppliers to fill in detailed documents to ensure they are following the correct data privacy protocols. 

Despite being an advocate of GDPR, Tress agrees with the argument that it could potentially temporarily stifle innovation. 

“I think people are slightly in the dark and don’t really know how it is going to affect us and there will be people holding back on things, particularly in the areas of marketing, until it is really clear what you can and can’t do,” says Tress.

For instance, Tress believes GDPR could impact the development of advertising retargeting. 

Oliver Bonas has held back from retargeting in recent years because it is not compatible with its brand values. 

“We did do retargeting but then did not like being one of those companies that chased you around the website, we just did not feel it was on brand,” says Tress. 

Instead, Tress if focusing on other machine learning and AI-based technologies to drive sales and improve efficiency. 

Oliver Bonas is using open source software PredictionIO to provide predictive intelligence through machine learning techniques. 

The retailer is using the technology to analyse customer behaviour on its ecommerce site to determine product recommendations and merchandising on its listings page. 

“It works really well and we get good results but apart from anything else it saves a huge amount of resources,” explains Tress. “Stuff that humans would spend hours having to do is done instantly.”

Sales for pages that have been merchandised using PredictionIO are 5% higher than those that have not used the predictive technology. 

Oliver Bonas is also considering the implementation of machine learning and AI for the search results on its website. 

The technology allows retailers to tweak algorithms to ensure new items and products with a higher margin appear near the top of search results. 

Once the algorithmic parameters are set, the technology will evolve search results depending on the customer’s previous browsing history. 

“There is the gimmicky AI but then there is the stuff behind the scenes that which really will help in terms of performance and sales and efficiencies, and that will affect every part of retail – the supply chain, the fulfilment centres, as well as the fun stuff at the front,” concludes Tress.