Andy has led technology and digital capabilities for over 20 years inside some of the world’s most respected and innovative organisations. He has held executive positions within public and private businesses across America, Asia, and Europe, and is always focused on realising value through the appropriate implementation and use of technology. Andy has a proven track record of delivering results from concept to conclusion, with an ability to quickly understand true business requirements, unify teams and drive broad digital transformation agendas. Prior to his current role at Currys, he has been the CIO for technology innovation brand Dyson, FTSE250 listed manufacturer Essentra and global consumer giant Sony.
With lockdowns forcing bricks and mortar retail online, being the Chief Information Officer of the largest tech retailer in the UK has been an incredibly fascinating experience over the last few years. The whole retail sector had to navigate insurmountable challenges and rapidly change its operations to meet the new needs of consumers. As a predominantly in-store retailer, like many of our counterparts, we needed to quickly adapt to stores closing in the lockdowns brought about by the pandemic. The increase in remote working also brought challenges to the sector. We knew we needed to build an effective digital interface for both our colleagues and customers. And we needed to deliver it quickly.
Overnight, every business in the UK that relied on in-store sales prior to the pandemic had to give the same richness of insight, information, and support to their customers digitally. And it was no different at Currys. 70% of our pre-pandemic sales were in-store only – so we knew we needed to improve our online presence at the moment. It was a spur to digital transformation and a huge lesson in leadership at pace for a CIO.
As the pandemic unfolded, there was a daunting challenge for retail to move digital, with a long list of problems to address. Businesses needed to deliver a platform to help customers who still needed essential items, be that food, home-wear, or tech, but couldn’t access this through stores. The retail sector often throws mammoth tasks at the businesses that operate within it. The pandemic maybe being one of the biggest challenges for the sector in modern history. And with any challenge of this size, there usually is an initial lack of belief that what needs to be done can be successfully delivered in such a short time frame.
My experience through this digital transformation taught me that when you have a choice to make and a direction to take, you should listen to the people around you, collaborate with everyone involved, and find answers together. As a team committed to our purpose of helping everyone enjoy amazing technology, we faced many choices – and I always wanted the team to take a breath, listen, team up, and find creative solutions.
Taking this approach after the pandemic helped me and my team immeasurably. We held a week of workshops with a cross-functional group to surface facts, challenge assumptions, and untangle problems. By getting closer to the action and involving the team, we found new and creative ways to make progress. I liked to think of it like a manager moving from the dugout to the field. It’s easy to sit in the stands and shout at the players. It is much harder to get on the pitch and play. By getting closer to the action and thinking about how you bring the team around you together, you often find new and creative ways of making progress – and that is exactly what we did.
All ambitious goals are hard to attain because they push against the status quo or are responses to sudden, stressful threats or changes. In such circumstances, the key to inspiring people is belief. You must explain why people need to head in the direction you want to go. And that’s precisely what we did at Currys.
However, the digital transformation of retail does not stop there. Now we have returned to some sense of normality, the industry has recognised that consumers’ shopping needs have evolved, with a growing demand for an omnichannel experience. Customers want great availability, the best value, and instant access to their new tech. We need to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers by continuing to develop our omnichannel model.
In the technology industry, customers want their tech purchased with a click and delivered the next day, but they also want the option to speak to experts, try tech out, and review it for themselves before making a decision. That’s why retailers need to not only improve their digital interface online but integrate that with their physical estate.
Our ShopLive service, which is coming up to its three-year anniversary, shows exactly how this is the case for us. Customers can video call our expert colleagues in-store, 24/7, to talk about the tech they are after and to get assistance but can do it all from the comfort of their own homes. ShopLive has received amazing feedback from our customers, with over 34,000 calling our experts every week.
Building on this success, we have also launched RepairLive, where our trained repair colleagues assist customers in repairing their tech via video link, eliminating the need to bring it into a store. And it’s working. Over the last year, we fixed 46% of product issues whilst the customer was at home, saving them time and ourselves money, in the form of a more efficient repair process. It’s better for the planet too, eliminating emissions linked to transportation. Both ShopLive and RepairLive are examples of how to improve the customer experience by digitally transforming both your online and in-store presence – a truly omnichannel experience.
In addition to the value of getting hands-on with products and expert advice, consumers also want the purchasing flexibility that they have in-store, online. Something we are seeing more across the retail sector and that is important for customers is the accessibility to credit for those essential purchases. In this new transformed operation, we want to help customers by making our credit and service packages available for online customer purchases too, including options to split the cost of tech with credit deals or select services such as delivery, recycling, or Care & Repair. All of these are adding value to the customer shop, which is what the majority of retailers want for their customers.
Looking into the future, data is going to play a vital part in retail, so businesses can provide even more bespoke experiences for consumers. We’re on a journey to evolve our data and retail media solutions to innovate and provide new opportunities for us and our suppliers to better understand our customers and deliver new experiences for them. This is not only good for customers and the enhanced offers they can access, but it is also good for business.
UK retail has undergone a significant tech transformation since the pandemic began, transitioning to an omnichannel model to meet the evolving needs of customers. By listening, collaborating, and finding creative solutions, we have successfully navigated the challenges and continue to strive towards delivering an outstanding customer experience in the ever-changing tech retail landscape.