Movers & Shakers Q&A – Edwina Dunn, CEO of Starcount

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Edwina Dunn, CEO, Starcount

  1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

When we started work in the industry we used customer transaction data to understand what customers did – what they bought (classic recency, frequency and value analysis). This still dominates the whole industry and continues to consume millions of pounds in investment. But unless you transact with your customers often, what you did is NOT very predictive of what you will do. The challenge now is to understand what customers and consumers WILL DO. For this, companies need to use the increasingly valuable and increasingly available third-party data e.g. social, mobile and banking data. Companies will need to learn to apply data from outside the organisation to help their businesses identify future threats, trends and channels – the disruptors. Getting to grips with that is our space and skill-set. Bring it on.

  1. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

It is so easy for businesses to think they’ve got what it takes. They have data scientists, they have data, they have technology, and they know the buzz words. But the biggest and most important miss – have you got what it takes to turn insight into action within your business and know how to build it into your Operating Model and Systems, and win hearts and minds? This is where most companies ‘know’ but don’t ‘action or change’ because it’s just too difficult. They just carry on with the same model. Knowing how to use Insight to Inform and Change Actions is critical, so too is measuring the impact of this around incremental sales or reduced losses. This is our sweet spot.

  1. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

It’s much easier to start a new business than transform an existing one. It’s much easier to build on success and grow slowly than go fast and big right from the start, especially if you’re building an untested product/platform. You need all the experience and expertise you’ve accumulated. And you still make mistakes. The best R&D comes from rich and deep client relationships – they teach you the reality and not the theory of what companies and leaders really want. So, that’s where I’d start – where we are now!

  1. With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control your growing digital landscape?

No idea what this means.  Digital is just about more channels and everything moving faster so that personalisation is even more important – being timely and relevant. People are still sending everything to everyone (just like 1950’s advertising) because it’s cheaper and easier to do so. That’s why Sales & Promotions have become so prolific. It’s the easiest way for companies to create Trade Drivers without real personalisation or customisation. But, eventually, this endless discounting kills the brand and all margins within the business.

  1. What will the high street look like in a decade?

The role of stores is more likely to align with big customer experience (creating a theatre of aspiration and emotional engagement – Test, Try, and Feel) and online. It will be much more about the efficient supply chain – a fast transaction and delivery process.

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

So we are told. But the operators and the app creators do not have a great view of what consumers like, want and use (well only in theory). The reality is a very fragmented and only a partial picture – based on historic transactions. The real question is who will own enough of the data (and permissions) to create relevant and timely offers and recommendations.

  1. What retail businesses do you admire?

Amazon of course – who doesn’t? And they are soooo data-rich. But like in our early Tesco days, what do you do if you’re not the biggest and most dominant i.e. Walmart? How do you win against them? You have to be smarter and more agile otherwise you will be consumed and your market share stolen.

  1. If you hadn’t been a retailer/service-provider-to-retail what would you have liked to do?

Anything with data. It’s so much fun because you can know, present, and test the facts, you can provide evidence to create and inform powerful strategies that are better than any theoretical consulting model or strategy. It’s transformative in any business and still so under-used.

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

9 points. I think I’d be silly if I didn’t recognise that I’ve had awesome moments in my career and an incredible journey building a business from scratch to a global lead, right through to a successful sale.  But, I could equally say 5 points because I still have so much to do in my new world and I never, ever take success for granted.

  1. Who would you place in the Top 25 Movers & Shakers in Retail?

Well the disruptors are shaking the tree but the established retailers with property portfolios are trying to re-think the role of the store versus the role of online. It’s a big change and one that has to be stage-managed carefully. Which are the ones doing this well?  The jury is still out but I believe I’m working with some of them.

This is one in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with individuals that are featured in the annual ‘Retail Insider Movers & Shakers in Retail Top 100’ report.