Shell's Daniel Jeavons: 'Data will drive future of retail sector'

Shell's Daniel Jeavons: 'Data will drive future of retail sector'

Daniel Jeavons, General Manager of Data Science, Shell, chats to RTIH about his company’s recently launched UK loyalty programme, Shell Go+.

RTIH: Tell us about Shell Go+.

DJ: Shell Go+ is the new, digital-first, rewards programme from Shell UK, replacing our previous Shell Drivers Club rewards scheme, and is the first of its kind to be released by a forecourt retailer as it doesn’t use a points-based system.

Shell Go+ provides customers with a much more personalised offer than was previously available through Shell Drivers Club. Users simply download the Shell app onto their smartphone and scan the digital Shell Go+ card contained within the app to collect visits and start generating savings and rewards.

Rather than accrue points per pound spent, the app focuses on frequency of visits and this data is then used to offer customers instant, personalised rewards based on the things they buy most – from money off fuel vouchers to surprise treats sent straight to their phones! As well as accessing their loyalty card via the app, customers can also choose their rewards and manage their account directly from their smartphone.

The biggest change is that members are now rewarded for visits to Shell for any purchase, not just on the amount of fuel they buy. Our customers visit Shell for a variety of reasons: to fill up their tank, to pick up a hot drink and snack, or to buy their dinner. Each week we attract around five million customers to our sites, with one in every three transactions being a non-fuels purchase. Shell Go+ is designed to cater to this breadth of customers and to provide them with personalised rewards.

RTIH: What has been customers’ early reactions to the new programme?

DJ: In 2018, we held focus groups to evaluate the attitudes towards the pilot programme before launching it. Compared to the Shell Drivers Club scheme it replaces, Shell Go+ was said to be easier to grasp, more convenient to use (on the app), and more rewarding and engaging. The app itself was preferred to the old plastic card due to the simplicity of design and navigation and the quality of the content.

"People are tired of having wallets full of loyalty cards and getting endless emails from companies looking to sell them things they don’t want. We need to be helping people reduce the noise in their lives which is why a data-driven mobile first approach is key"

RTIH: Could you tell us about the technology behind the Shell GO+ reward mechanism?

DJ: The technology that sits behind the reward mechanism uses generalised information regarding Shell customer behaviour and seeks to use machine learning to automatically identify customer preferences and reward them as generously as affordably possible.

The solution uses a combination of algorithms (propensity, recency, frequency, margin scoring, generosity, and churn analysis) to incentivise customers to choose Shell across our full range of products and services,truly understand customer preferences, attitudes and needs and then develop products and services to match.

But this isn’t just about attracting new customers through product development and marketing. The focus of the technology is all about trying to give customers the best possible digital experience. Using the power of data-driven insight to improve and personalise customers’ interactions with brand is one of the keys to stay relevant in today’s fast changing world.

RTIH: How will the new programme help Shell tap into customer preferences, shopping patterns and reward redemptions?

DJ: The app learns from customer interactions. It uses ‘randomness’ to refine the customer offering, surprising and hopefully delighting the customer, but also using these unusual offers to learn about the customer’s preferences. The result is a more accurate image of individual customer preferences – and how to best reward them with targeted, real-time offers and rewards.

If someone regularly stops for a morning coffee at one of our sites, for example, they will receive a reward to match their purchasing behaviour. Meanwhile, if another customer stops by that same site just as regularly and uses our car products, they can expect to receive offers on lubricants.

We also try to learn what else customers are interested in. The algorithm may identify that coffee drinkers in a particular location also are showing a strong interest in Jamie Oliver’s new range of sandwiches. The algorithm will then automatically test whether this propensity is valid. If customers respond negatively to an offer, the algorithm learns from that too. The idea is that the offers we give you are the most appealing to you, and this gets refined over time. 

RTIH: What are your views on the power of data for retailers in 2019 and beyond?

Data will drive the future of the retail industry – it’s already doing so. The online experience has already been transformed with retailers like Amazon and eBay using sophisticated machine learning approaches to enhance the shopper experience through tech such as recommendation engines and bots for many years. What we see now is that the technology is sophisticated enough to make the transition to physical retail. We expect to see an even greater merging of online and offline solutions to provide customers with a fully integrated seamless experience.  

We expect giant strides over the next few years in terms of the level of personalisation that can be achieved through loyalty schemes in physical retail. We see this happening all around us – more and more retailers are now rolling out digital versions of their loyalty schemes, providing them with access to greater volumes of customer data and insight than ever before – data with the potential to reveal the most intricate behaviours and preferences of their customers. This has huge value for customers as it helps retailers better meet their needs, but also for retailers in stocking the right products and services.

That said, consumers are also becoming wiser regarding the value of their data and are more selective of which loyalty schemes, if any, they sign up to. Gaining a customer’s trust is crucial and ease of opt out is essential. That said, customers can also expect more and more significant rewards from retailers that they entrust their data to.

It makes for an exciting but challenging time ahead. To be a successful retailer of the future, you have to get to know your customers and ensure the value exchange is as equal as possible so that customers allow access to their data in exchange for having  a personalised experience, receiving the products they want and rewards that are truly tailored. We think these will be the loyalty schemes and retailers that succeed

RTIH: How are loyalty programmes evolving in these omnichannel times?

DJ: Our mantra over the past few years has been mobile first. With customer expectations around convenience, service and personalisation evolving all the time, any retailer looking to grow revenues and maintain a competitive edge needs to get serious about using data in their decision making.

People are tired of having wallets full of loyalty cards and getting endless emails from companies looking to sell them things they don’t want. We need to be helping people reduce the noise in their lives which is why a data-driven mobile first approach is key.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in retailer loyalty schemes, something upon which Shell is placing a heavy focus. But it goes beyond mobile – we need to build intelligence into channels so customers get communications and offers sent to them at the time they want to hear about it. This means intelligent and personalised real-time rewards and communications – something we are working towards in a number of the markets we operate in, with the customer being in control of what they receive.

This isn’t easy to achieve, and it comes back to hyper-personalisation based on machine learning, but we also need to be careful – this is about convenience, not manipulation. We need to retain absolute integrity in the way we use customer data.

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