Asda’s former top marketer on why in-housing is inevitable for digital transformation

Andy Murray

Asda’s outgoing chief customer officer Andy Murray says that in-housing certain elements of marketing and media mix is an inevitable step in digital transformation after reflecting on the retailer’s journey over the past three years.

Murray, who announced his departure from Asda earlier this month after four years leading its marketing, joined the company as it was on the cusp of change. It was writhing from several quarters of sales decline and was urgently in need of improving its offering to customers.

Recalling the beginning of its overhaul back in 2017 as part of The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, the marketer said it was simply about trying to get closer to the customer and better manage its hundreds of thousands of store staff.

“One of the challenges you run into is technology resources to create change is very limited,” he says. “And getting the customer initiatives prioritised into the tech teams against other business building opportunities around things driving efficiencies takes a lot of work and commitment from the leadership team to do that.”

Sneak peek into The Digital Transformation Festival: Asda from The Drum on Vimeo.

But he did get that senior commitment, and slowly it has been able to introduce new initiatives into its operations. For example, a recent update to its click and collect service allows shoppers to alert store staff when they are 10 minutes away from picking up an order, bringing wait time for shopping down to just two minutes. It might sound simple, says Murray, but takes a lot of time to roll out these kind of projects in an organisation as complex as Asda.

And while the retailer is once again facing a challenging sales environment, its improvements to store environments, e-commerce operations and use of technology have all been singled out within earnings updates among investors.

Murray says one key change has been to its marketing team, which has had to adapt and restructure amid this digital transformation.

“It started with our insights team and looking at what kind of roles we needed to have in-house and what we wanted to build our IP around. We brought in the data-scientists, the people that build algorithms, versus outsourcing it to third parties. That was a big shift for us to really know how to build the tools and do different things with that data,” he said.

“It has created a subject matter expert culture inside of marketing. We have a number of specialists in the media team which is much stronger than where it was [four years ago].”

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