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Q&A: Tom Summerfield, Retail Director, Peak

Peak helps retailers leverage the power of their data and place artificial intelligence at the centre of all commercial decision making. Tom Summerfield is their Retail… View Article

INTERVIEWS

Q&A: Tom Summerfield, Retail Director, Peak

Peak helps retailers leverage the power of their data and place artificial intelligence at the centre of all commercial decision making. Tom Summerfield is their Retail Director.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’ve been working in brand and retail for the last ten years, with commercial digital transformation and ‘owning’ the customer at the centre of the work. I’ve always had an interest in retail which led me to setting up my own clothing label for a few years, before working as the Head of Commerce at footwear and streetwear retailer Footasylum. It was during my time at Footasylum that I began to see the power of AI from working with Peak as a customer, so making the transition to be Peak’s Retail Director last year was an easy decision.

What does your company do? / What is your USP?

Peak helps retailers leverage the power of their data and place artificial intelligence at the centre of all commercial decision making. We do this with Decision Intelligence, a brand new category of AI technology, helping our customers to unlock the value of their data and use AI to make great decisions, all the time.

What’s special about the platform and your approach?

Decision Intelligence is the practice of using AI to make great commercial decisions. It unlocks the power of a retail business’ most valuable asset – its data –  by helping teams make decisions over complex information faster, more consistently and more accurately than ever before. Our system, CODI, combines multiple sources of data from across a retail business, enriches this data with AI and then puts this new, predictive data to use – to generate sales, predict demand and manage supply chains.

What advantage does it add?

Decision Intelligence represents the end of guesswork for retailers, helping them to improve their decision making across different business functions. We offer different applications of Decision Intelligence that target different aspects of the retail value chain, from sales and marketing, through to merchandising, through to supply chain and logistics.

For example, an AI-powered view of data can enable retailers to acquire more customers with more effective campaigns and ads, and also increase customer loyalty and lifetime value via personalised communications and recommendations. Meanwhile, from a merchandising point of view, it also enables smarter buying and rebuying, ensuring retailers have the right products to meet demand, avoid stock-outs and reduce over-stocking. Plus, it allows retailers to optimise allocation and replenishment, all the time, and maximise sell-through while achieving the highest possible margin.

The most innovative retailers are using CODI across their entire businesses, so that sales and marketing, planning and supply chain operate in sync, with Decision Intelligence powering smarter, faster decisions over complex data across the entire value chain.

How does a product/service implementation actually look like and how do you measure success?

Working with Peak not only gives you access to our first-of-its-kind system, but also the team of data scientists, engineers and retail industry experts who built it. We partner with our customers, working together to first identify where Decision Intelligence can add value, and building a business case that is achievable and commercially viable.

Our focus is on delivering Decision Intelligence solutions for our customers with an incredibly quick time to value. Retail, by its nature, is fast paced, and we pride ourselves on being agile enough to deliver quick results for our customers in weeks or months, not years like some traditional IT transformation projects. Plus, our commercial model and subscription service approach is simple and transparent, with an emphasis on ensuring a tangible return on investment for each solution.

How are retailers using your systems to gain competitive advantage and what does best practice look like? Can you share a case study with us?

We’ve achieved some transformational results for our customers in a short space of time, across the retail value chain. These include a 28% uplift in email revenue, a doubling of return on advertising spend, a 12% reduction in inventory holdings and a 5% reduction in supply chain costs.

One of our most recent case studies is with CMOStores.com – a group of six e-commerce superstores that provide tools and construction materials to both trade and casual DIYers. Our implementation of AI-driven onsite recommendations has allowed CMOStores.com to provide customers with a significantly improved product experience, making it easier and more straightforward for shoppers to find and purchase the items they need. In turn, customers are able to increase the efficiency and speed of whatever building or DIY project they’re working on.

Thanks to CODI, CMOStores.com achieved a rapid time-to-value amidst COVID-19 and, in fact, saw its market share increase during the summer as more homeowners shifted to online purchasing, and demand for construction products rose thanks to a nationwide trend for DIY projects during lockdown.

Recommended product purchases doubled, and over a fifth of all transactions on the sites have involved an interaction with CODI, proving that customers are using and benefiting from Decision Intelligence. CMOStores.com’s overall website sessions increased by 11.2% compared to its previous non-AI approach, with total revenues rising by 5%. Peak’s Decision Intelligence-powered recommendations were clicked on by 60% more customers, and had a 25% higher click-to-transaction rate.

Are there other companies you partner with?

We’re proud to be working with a wide range of businesses from across sectors including retail, consumer goods, manufacturing and construction. Some of our customers include AO, ASOS, boohoo, Footasylum, KFC, PepsiCo, PrettyLittleThing and Superdry.

From a partnerships perspective, our system is built on best-in-class Amazon Web Services (AWS) technology, and we’re proud to hold both Retail Competency and Machine Learning Competency statuses as an AWS Advanced Technology partner. We were also named a Gartner Cool Vendor for AI in Retail in 2020!

What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for 2021?

After a turbulent year for retailers, many businesses just about got through it, but their demand forecasting is in complete disarray. We see inventory optimisation as something of a silver bullet for retailers this year – so much so, in fact, that we’ve been referring to 2021 as ‘the Year of Demand.’

With the return of more steady footfall to consider plus the continued rise of e-commerce, this year retailers need to be joining up as many data points as possible across channels to make smarter predictions and better decisions around areas like stock, allocation and replenishment. This may well be the year that flexibility and agility become more than just buzz words, but mission-critical objectives that retailers need to be succeeding in.

The difference maker will be a retailer’s ability to connect these demand levers with other parts of the business – such as marketing and supply chain, for example. This connected commerce vision, where each function of a retail business talks to each other, will help smooth out any disconnect between the sales channels and the supply chain, powering a slick operation with accurate demand forecasting at its core. Plus, don’t underestimate the importance of any cross-team cultural silos and barriers being broken down as a result of these data points being shared.

How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?

We’re now starting to see more and more retailers embracing the benefits of placing AI at the heart of their business. Once a nice-to-have, the impact of the pandemic means that there’s now a real need for businesses to connect their marketing channels with their merchandising and supply chain teams with data.

The end results of this connected commerce vision can be incredibly powerful. Imagine if your website recommendation engine automatically knew if you had a challenge in the supply chain and reacted accordingly. Or if you could ensure that the right stock is available at the right time for the right customer, supported by intelligent, personalized marketing – aimed at guiding consumers to the products that need shifting in the supply chain.

This year is all about ensuring that customers are provided with the convenience they expect; the 2020 e-commerce boom means that consumer convenience should now be the number one priority for all retailers. The highly competitive nature of the industry now means that brands can’t afford to have stockouts or miss sales opportunities; it’s imperative that retailers are optimising stock levels across channels and locations to deliver the convenience the modern day shopper now demands, both in store and online. The Year of Demand will see retailers really turning and facing how AI can give them the competitive edge they need to push forward.

What is on the horizon for you as a company?

Earlier this year we announced our Series B funding round, so there’s a real desire amongst the team to capitalise on the growing trend and appetite for AI and Decision Intelligence by accelerating our growth even further. There are over 180 of us working at Peak now, and we have an ambitious hiring plan in place as we continue to scale.

As well as this, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was our intention to open up operations in the United States, so we’ll press on with this as soon as it’s practical to do so. And, of course, we’re all really excited about the future of work and getting back into the office to see each other in person more often!

To find out how Peak can help your retail operation, click here.

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