Sainsbury’s CDO discusses app consolidation and smarter shopping

It’s been over three years since Sainsbury’s added Argos and Habitat to its estate, making it one of the largest retailers in the UK. Since then, the digital team has been busy detangling itself from legacy systems, while ensuring it keeps up with consumer’s digital shopping ambitions.

Speaking at the Tech. Festival event in London this week, chief digital officer at Sainsbury’s, Clodagh Moriarty, shared her displeasure of having to contend with “dreaded” legacy systems, explaining how the retailer has taken the last 2-3 years to invest in base architecture to enable it to produce a number of innovative products including its 60-minute delivery service Chop Chop and the mobile-pay-and-go app Smartshop.

“But equally we’re decoupling from those big monolithic beasts – we’ve completed migration to the cloud and improved connectivity to our stores. We’ve taken these systems and broken them down into modules.”

However, she pointed out that it is pointless to have these innovative tools if they can’t connect with each other, and she noted how her team has been mindful of creating too many individual consumer-facing applications, which risk becoming tiresome for mobile shoppers.

“There’s a massive risk in catering to this on-demand and digital consumer,” she explained. “And we see it in our business – at one point everyone seemed to think an app was needed. It was a bit like whack-a-mole, every time we turned around a new app had sprung up.”

Moriarty said the retailer has now bought all of its digital products and corresponding P&Ls into one place in order to focus on the right development strategy.

“We’ve started with food – bringing all the customer needs into one place.”

"At one point everyone seemed to think an app was needed. It was a bit like whack-a-mole, every time we turned around a new app had sprung up"Clodagh Moriarty, CDO, Sainsbury’s

The team began with a trial of an app to consolidate grocery, Smartshop and Chop Chop home delivery, testing it on a small number of customers. She said customers love the control and convenience, while 11% started using Smartshop after exposure through the app – which is significant when you consider Smartshop customers spend 18% more than regular shoppers.  

Customers trialling this one-stop-shop app also cried out for digital Nectar points, which incidentally Sainsbury’s has now launched across its entire estate, powered by Eagle Eye’s digital wallet technology. By using the enhanced mobile app and website, customers can now access new offers on a weekly basis, while also receiving bonus Nectar points on products they buy regularly.

The retailer also reported that 82% of customers expected to have a single account, so it recently released an identity platform and already on-boarded 10 million customers. Meanwhile, efforts to consolidate its brands continue with the digital team working on unifying catalogues and categories in order to build a single basket for Sainsbury’s shoppers.  

“All of this helps to deliver for the now and helps to fuel for future growth, as we bought Argos, Tu, Habitat, and Sainsbury’s together,” she said. “It’s an interesting time where we converge and where we keep the proposition unique, recognising the different customer requirements and experience.”

Sainsbury’s hopes to shortly launch personalised in-store offers and update the Smartshop app to be able to direct customers to products on the shelf while informing them of live stock levels. It seems Moriarty and her team certainly aren’t about to take the foot off the gas anytime soon.

“In the next 6-12 months, we’re bringing together a lot of the work we’ve been building in the last 2-5 years, so we can be there for our customers wherever, whenever and however they want,” she concluded. “We can now anticipate and rapidly respond to where our customers, knowingly or not, expect us to be.”