What Data Did for Pets at Home

Who should oversee a company’s data? Rob Kent from Pets at Home argues that data is as important as marketing and finance, so should be a function in its own right. 

Rob Kent is a man on a mission. Passionate about data, or rather the power of data when analysed correctly, he’s been evangelical about how businesses can grow and become more in tune with customer needs, and therefore more profitable, by adopting a data-driven strategy. Even when the concept of purposing data to drive customer experiences was in its infancy, Rob was at the vanguard of experimenting how this could be done by leveraging data and making it work for the business during his time at Carphone Warehouse in 2003. 

Data is the DNA of any business. By harnessing the power of data, you can solve problems and improve processes across the board, and arguably most importantly of all – data informs how your customers behave. This gives you a holistic view, enabling you to deliver what they need and when they need it.

Over the last 18 months, the ability to do this has been crucial to the survival of many organisations. As the CDO at Pets at Home, Rob had to make sure the company adapted quickly at the start of the pandemic given all but essential retail was closed. His priority for the data team was to develop a dashboard of the key metrics that were important to the Group Executive at the start of the pandemic. With a greater proportion of transactions moving online and digital sales going through the roof, it was vital the top 30 people in the company had a dashboard that showed how the company was performing, to aid both speed and insight for critical decision making. This shift was a catalyst in cementing the belief Rob had held for many years – that data shouldn’t sit in the cellar, but across multiple departments including at the top table. 

There are still many organisations that believe data is owned by IT departments, but Rob’s belief is that data and analytics are now a business unit in their own right. 

“If people are genuinely purposeful about doing the right thing and good things with data, it should be 100% of someone’s attention at the top table and you should have a function dedicated to it, so it’s seen as more of a business capability. There’s a different conversation around data if you’re not seen as the nuts and bolts people that make things happen.” 

He believes this all boils down to accountability. Having a CEO who understands and recognises the value of data alongside the CDO can have a huge impact, as is the case at Pets at Home. If someone is accountable for all aspects of having and running a data analytics function, it’s vital that person should have accountability at the executive level. This is especially important from a regulatory, governance, security, and alignment perspective. 

“It’s so important for many reasons – the privacy angle, how you leverage data, doing the right thing by the customer, which is why it should be driven from top table discussions as far as I’m concerned. I talk to a lot of people in teams across organisations, and there are lots of challenges, processes and minefields you have to weave through to try and make the most of the data you have.” 

There are other factors at play as well. Barriers to communication and decision making can arise when those responsible for data are buried away in the company somewhere. One way of dismantling those barriers is by having someone at a senior level who can make a decision on the right thing to do. They’ve been able to remove a lot of these barriers at Pets at Home, so decisions can be made quickly and effectively, as more people within the company are now paying attention to what’s important around data. And that’s become a lot easier by having a voice that’s talking in equal measure to the rest of the executive team. 

By making data-driven decisions at an executive level, the Pets at Home strategy is succeeding in becoming the best pet care business in the world by putting the pet owner at the heart of everything they do. Introducing their VIP (Very Important Pets) loyalty scheme has allowed them to use data to better serve their customers. 

There are four key components to this strategy: 

  1. Connect the data Pets at Home has across the retail, dog groom and vet businesses 
  2. Personalise customer experience and offers 
  3. Give colleagues information to better serve customers at point of sale 
  4. Utilise AI and data across the business to drive strategic decision making and automation 

With responsibility for data being taken at an executive level at Pets at Home, data is shaping the way the company grows its business, while ensuring its output remains customer centric. 

Listen to the third episode of our podcast where Timandra Harkness (Data, Data Everywhere, BBC) is joined by Harry Powell from JLR.