Kesko dared, will S-group follow suit?


This fall Finland’s number two retailer Kesko began targeting their direct marketing based on their customers’ purchase history. Doesn’t sound too special, but that’s what it is. They became actually the first brick-and-mortar retailer to do it in this country.

Finnish retailers have been gathering their customers’ purchase data for years. However, from the customer’s point of view, this data has largely been left unused. From here onwards, the customer will hopefully see well executed personalized offers on products they like. In addition, there should be an improvement in customer experience, resulting from improved insight from analyzing the purchase data.

Kesko has thus embarked on a journey paved by Tesco in Britain some 20 years ago. Making use of customer analytics catapulted Tesco to the market leader position in Britain, made it the second largest retailer in the world, and helped it create a sizable ebusiness. According to former CEO Terry Leahy, productivity of Tesco’s marketing improved by 1000% because “offers could be tailored to what people actually wanted to buy”. Simple and smart.

The story of Tesco’s loyalty program can be read in this book that has already become a classic of sorts among marketers interested in customer insight. One of the key messages of the book is that in addition to marketing, actually everything that the company does is guided by the insight they get from customer data.

Finnish retail has finally entered the 1-to-1 marketing era. Kesko dared take the risk and face the criticism of those consumers who have privacy concerns about customer analytics. This sort of hesitation is probably hard to understand in many parts of the world but in this country it’s been the reality so far.

So, will Finns abandon shopping at Kesko stores as a protest? Of course not.

It’ll be interesting to see the response from S-group – the number one retailer – who’s expected to nominate its new CEO tomorrow. One of his key tasks will be to embrace ecommerce, something that Finnish retailers have so far left mostly to foreign competition. And this is starting to hurt.

Hence, this time the logical step for S-group would be to follow on Kesko’s footsteps, as it’s hard to imagine ecommerce without personalized marketing.

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