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Jon Rudoe, director of online at Sainsbury’s

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

 For any business, the greatest opportunity is always to understand the customer and their needs and then to be able to act to deliver that for the customer in as economically efficient way as possible. So for us that manifests itself in lots of ways: focus on customer service from our delivery driver colleagues in grocery online, or opening up our click & collect network in non-food, or developing our website. At the moment, this focus is really paying off in the growth that we’re experiencing and also the positive feedback we’re getting from customers.

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

 There are lots of challenges: prioritising the relative opportunities in our business, understanding the complex nature of how customers relate to us in this multi-channel world, finding the right way to solve all the new problems that a multi-channel world throws at us… fortunately, they’re all fun!
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

 You can never spend enough time with colleagues and customers, and every time I spend time with our colleagues who deliver the great service that drives sales I remind myself that I should spend more time doing that.
4. What is the future of the physical store?

 That’s a big question. You’ve got to remember that this will play out very differently in different categories. In some sectors, a very rapid change and disruption has taken place. In others, like food, it has been much slower, and whilst I think there’s a tremendous role for Online to play, food is an experiential purchase. I can see a lot more use of technology in store, either for home ordering or to assist with the in-store shop.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?

Again, that’s a complex one to answer. One of our advantages in our convenience store model is that we bring history and trust with us in to the smaller format, and I think that’s a trend that will continue. You’ve got to remember that the shifts in customer behaviour driven by technology aren’t yet complete, so we may not be able to see the full picture yet.

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

Mobile is important, that’s obvious. It’s always on and always nearby. That will do different things in different categories – music that change has already taken hold, but with food it’s a little different. We already see a lot of customers topping up their Online grocery orders on their phones…

7. What other retail business do you admire?

There are many. I really admire any business with a customer focus that has delivered for that customer, whilst also delivering the economics as well. Many businesses do that on occasion, but where leadership teams have created sustained delivery that’s particularly impressive. I won’t name names, but there are a few large e-commerce pure-players who have grown massively from a standing start and those I think have done a great job.

8. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?

If I hadn’t have been a retailer… I think what I do is quite well-suited to my personality: I love working with lots of people, I like solving problems (both for customers and the numerical puzzles that also exist in our world), and I enjoy the competitive element in a business where you can measure the performance of your team every day or week. Given the people bit, I would love to teach something, and as a hobby I love music, so something in that kind of area.

9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

 In Sainsbury’s we have a value where we ‘cheer on our progress’ – it reminds us to celebrate our improvements, our efforts and the small steps that go in to building something great for the customer. It’s a great reminder not to be too harsh on yourself and the team of which you’re a part when there is always more to get done. Given my personality I would probably give myself quite a low mark because there’s always more you can do when you’re building an Online business for the customer, but that value helps me to taken time and realise how much we’ve achieved and are achieving for our customers.
10. Who would you place in the Top 20 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?

 There are some great people in the multichannel space in the UK. I try to take time to hear other people speak – just the other day I heard Ishan Patel from Aurora speak, and I’ll often read the material that Michael Ross and the guys from eCommera put out. Those are just a couple of folk whose thoughts have stuck in my head recently.