Tesco eyes joined-up approach for customer experience not just marketing with Terrell’s elevation to top marketing role

Tesco’s promotion of group multichannel director Robin Terrell to its top marketer role amid its second management shake-up in six months signals a more joined-up approach not just to marketing but the wider customer experience.

The supermarket has named Terrell its head of customer, a slight tweak on the role his predecessor Jill Easterbrook served as chief customer officer from June. She will now lead the company’s business transformation programme from Janiuary as part of the reshuffle that will also axe the chief creative officer role, held by former chief marketing officer Matt Atkinson.

Like Easterbrook, Terrell does have not have a traditional marketing background, having spent the bulk of his career overseeing multichannel and ecommerce strategies at House of Fraser, John Lewis and Amazon. His expertise suggests Tesco wants a broader outlook on the brand than traditional marketing in itself would provide, carrying on its earlier attempts to mine Easterbrook’s experience of the wider business - clothing business, corporate affairs and group strategy - during her 13-year career.

Tesco will look to tap Terrell’s more expansive view of marketing to help overcome its recent troubles. His rise to the top marketing role comes as the business looks to move on from recent fraud allegations and pursue chief executive and former Unilever marketer Dave Lewis’ plan to kickstart sales.

Despite tougher competition, the retailer has the largest number of convenience stores of the big four supermarkets to propel its turnaround efforts as well as the most lucrative ecommerce offering. Terrell’s multichannel knowledge will quicken Tesco’s ongoing efforts blend both channels together in a way that underlines the service and product availability values it has cited as key to winning back lapsed customers.

Industry experts advise Tesco’s top marketer prioritise connecting all its digital services including its site and Clubcard and then re-pitch them to the customer. The supermarket is already multi-channel and its future success will be determined by becoming customer centric not just culturally but also from a systems, structures and processes perspective.

Scott McLean, chief operating officer of marketing consultants Intelligent Marketing Institute, said: “To deliver value for any business, the modern CMO needs to understand that the role’s remit must straddle creative marketing, technical marketing and commercial marketing. The need to break down customer communications silos, the drive towards customer-centricity and the need to track tangible commercial returns from customer engagement are the key drivers behind this. When you look at someone like Robin Terrell, you can see that his multi-channel experience is needed to complement the sort of creative marketing skillset that already exists within the marketing function.”

Aside from direct sales from its site and Clubcard data, Tesco’s websites could be further monetised by driving advertising spend from third parties such as food and drink manufacturers. It is something Terrell’s former employer Amazon explored with Diageo in 2012 when it allowed fans to purchase items shown in videos directly from a branded Smirnoff hub it set up.

Daniel Lucht, director at analysts Research Farm, said: “The whole advertising and marketing strategy needs to become seamless and multichannel and be able to follow shoppers on every step of their journey in a personalised manner.

“This marketing should be relevant, addressing shoppers starting to research products online on their laptops, then again whilst they're out and about on their smartphones, and finally in store etc. Naturally this presupposes consent and perhaps shoppers actively opting into being tracked in exchange for relevant and meaningful discounts or better service. Tesco with all the institutional memory and experience with club card will know exactly how fast and far they will be able to go to bring shoppers along.”

Retailers are battling legacy systems and strategies in their wider fight back against the disruption caused by discount chains Aldi and Lidl. Tesco’s move toward a non-traditional brand chief is a reflection of these turbulent times and Terrell will need to find a way to return to the intimate relationship between retailer and customer.

Ken Fox, senior researcher at River Research, said: “What is s clear from our conversations with shoppers is that the only way Tesco’s can turn around their fortunes is to win back the hearts and minds of consumers – a position they have evidently lost of late, but one they should have solid ownership of.“

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