Supermarkets need to use data to make smart decisions. Source: Mydin

Supermarkets need to use data to make smart decisions. Source: Mydin

Analytics is the first step to success for supermarkets says Mydin

SUPERMARKETS are unique establishments in the retail space because of the kind of goods they stock and sell.

It’s their business to make shopping for groceries and home essentials both economical and exciting at the same time.

Given the convenience that new-age e-commerce platforms and online deliveries offer, getting people to step into supermarkets isn’t easy.

This is especially true in Southeast Asia where shoppers, mostly digitally-savvy millennials, flock to malls to spend their time buying into an experience that comforts them, pampers them, and provides them with a space to socialize.

To continue to succeed, supermarkets need to adapt to technology and invest in smart and intelligent solutions to help them understand their customers, find what they like the most, and reel them into stores with campaigns they cannot resist.

Malaysia’s largest chain of supermarkets is run by Mydin, and the company’s constant growth proves that it understands not just its customers but also how to keep up with them using technology.

In an exclusive interview with Tech Wire Asia, Mydin Head of Business Reporting and Analysis Alwan Ahimmat explained a few interesting things about the first steps that supermarkets need to take when it comes to adopting technology and how they need to think about their own digital transformation.

“Supermarkets don’t need more technology, they need to learn to use the technology they already have,” claimed Ahimmat.

What he really means is that organizations behind supermarkets already own a robust database that includes information about customers’ tastes and preferences, the inventory levels of stores at different locations, and information about their own supply chains.

So far, most have used it to generate reports for management teams, on a periodic basis, to help ascertain profitability, performance, and so on.

“But it’s not only about telling the story with data. It’s also about asking the right questions.”

Data helps store managers gain visibility

Mydin’s Head of Business Reporting and Analysis emphasizes that he only has a support function in the organization with store managers primarily making the demand for information and reports about periodic performance.

However, he points out that in his role, he also has the ability to proactively help decision makers gain visibility into the possible performance of different campaigns and make data-driven guesses about how different pricing strategies will play out — and he can do it in real-time.

“If a store manager plans on running a campaign, we can, of course, provide a report at the end to show how it impacted overall profitability.

“What we can also do, is provide decision makers with an analysis of different scenarios based on potential campaigns that he or she is deliberating about.

“At Mydin, most of our senior managers prefer the second route and work very closely with the Reporting and Analysis team to gain visibility and make data-driven decisions.

Having worked in data roles at companies such as Shell, Cummins Filtration, and previously, Ahimmat says what he sees at Mydin is quite natural.

“People outside the industry think that it’s going to be hard to get store managers to ask for data and look for support to improve their decision-making abilities — they think it’s a cultural change that is needed and hard to drive. That’s not true.

“In the competitive supermarket environment, decision makers will leverage whatever is made available to them to make the best and most informed decisions they can.”

Should supermarkets chase emerging technologies?

Although a bit resistant to talking about the use of new and emerging technologies, Ahimmat explains that not all supermarkets need to chase the hottest emerging technology solution in the market.

“Yes, self-checkout and automated checkout solutions will bring value, but it’s not for everyone. In our business, we pride ourselves on the experience our staff provides to customers.

“Mydin’s founder champions the need to offer a familiar smile to everyone that walks into the store. Till we know how to provide the same experience with more in-store automation, I think we’ll wait. We’re trialing these technologies, but mass roll-outs will still be a while.

However, Ahimmat argues that investing in technologies doesn’t deliver long-term, sustained value to the customers — at least not for supermarkets.

“People who come to the supermarket are usually looking for great deals — every day low prices — that’s our committment to our customers. The right data, at the right time (in real time) helps deliver on that promise.”