Empowering Retail Excellence: A Conversation with Joanna Ward, Strategic Account Manager EMEA for Retail at Vertiv
Joanna joined Vertiv in 2022 with 30 years’ experience in sales and business development, 16 of which have been spent in the critical power industry. She specializes in developing and managing retail and hospitality customers for EMEA multi-site requirements. Other sector expertise includes Commercial and Industrial, Manufacturing, Government, Utilities and Hospitals.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have more than three decades of diverse experience in sales and business development, with a significant portion of that – 16 years – dedicated to the critical power industry. My focus has always been on building longstanding relationships with my customers and creating tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of various sectors, particularly developing and managing relationships with retail clients to ensure their EMEA multi-site requirements are met seamlessly.
My career journey to date has provided me with an in-depth understanding of the challenges that retailers face such as the current energy transition, where sustainability is rightfully taking the spotlight. Retailers are progressively embracing carbon-zero initiatives, including cutting-edge technologies like battery energy storage systems (BESS) – and it’s exciting to be a part of an organisation like Vertiv, renowned for its expertise in designing, manufacturing, implementing and maintaining visionary solutions to these challenges on a global scale.
Beyond my professional endeavours, I’m actively involved in supporting charitable organisations and fundraising efforts for the local community. Additionally, I’m proud to be a Freemason, contributing to the values and principles upheld by the organisation.
What does your company do?
In today’s dynamic retail world, businesses span multiple locations, including stores, warehouses, offices and data hubs. They must stay ahead in a technology-driven landscape with advancements like online shopping, AI and interactive signs. But the newest concepts – such as smart mirrors and cashier-less stores – would not be possible without the proper continuity and security to continue delivering on the promised customer experience. The customer experience fails if the right infrastructure isn’t there to keep systems running.
And this is where Vertiv truly shines. Vertiv is a global provider of critical infrastructure and continuity solutions, bringing together hardware, software, analytics and ongoing services to enable vital applications to run continuously, perform optimally and grow with business needs.. With a wide portfolio of power, cooling and IT infrastructure solutions that extend from the cloud to the edge of the network, we keep the lights on and operations running for retail businesses across the world.
We specialise in tailoring bespoke solutions to suit the unique demands of evolving retail operations and the increasing digitalisation of the customer experience. Our expertise empowers businesses to deploy the right technology, at the right time, effectively helping to address these challenges. Ultimately, we make retail technology installations faster, more efficient, less complex and less costly.
What’s special about your approach?
What makes us stand out is that we truly provide an end-to-end service. We innovate and design solutions, manufacture them as an OEM, then help customers implement and maintain the equipment throughout its life cycle. This comprehensive approach ensures that we are there every step of the way, from concept to deployment to operation, providing a seamless and reliable experience for our valued clients.
What might retailers in the UK NOT know about your solution/team that will help them?
UK retailers may not be fully aware of the wide array of solutions that Vertiv brings to the table. While many organisations associate us with excellence in data centres, they may not realise the extent of our capabilities in enhancing their in-store operations and beyond. In fact, our extensive portfolio provides a comprehensive suite of options designed to meet the specific needs of retailers, both locally and globally – from IT infrastructure to micro data centres, to energy storage, monitoring and maintenance solutions.
However, our value proposition doesn’t stop at products alone. At Vertiv, we pride ourselves on close collaboration with retailers to craft bespoke strategies that align with their unique requirements. For example, one of our core strategies involves providing the capability for retailers to meticulously create comprehensive data profiles for each customer. This empowers them to gain invaluable insights and make informed, data-driven decisions to propel their businesses forward.
Another element that may not be widely recognised about Vertiv is our extensive expertise in the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a domain we’ve developed through our experience in data centres. This invaluable knowledge strategically places us at the forefront of the imminent retail revolution where AI is poised to thrive and realise its full potential – and our well-established background and experience in data centres and high-density computing uniquely positions us to leverage the capabilities of AI, catalysing innovation and ushering in a new era of opportunity in the sector.
And lastly, because much of our work is ‘behind the scenes’ you might not be aware that we work with leading brands in the retail space, including many household supermarket brands.
Take us through your approach with customers in the retail space
Our approach centres around three critical steps, all aimed at enhancing availability and streamlining infrastructure management for retailers.
Firstly, we emphasise the importance of Preventing IT Failures, a key strategy in safeguarding revenue. Our intelligent remote management solution allows uninterrupted business operations. Key for us is what we call predictive maintenance, which works to enhance the lifespan of your equipment, closely monitor its performance, identify potential issues, and minimise downtime.
Next, we introduce Intelligent Software Support to nurture growth, providing retailers with enhanced operational capabilities.
Lastly, our solutions enable Reduced Deployment Time through tailored, standardised IT solutions designed for retailers. This minimises complexities during setup and administration at the edge of the network.
Furthermore, our quick repair services allow businesses to run smoothly, eliminating the need for unnecessary visits to IT facilities through remote management. This approach not only reduces overhead staffing but also enhances retail efficiency. Our unified view of all IT facilities streamlines administrative tasks, and our one-stop solutions from a single vendor significantly simplify retail operations.
How does a product/service implementation look like and how do you measure success?
When implementing our products and services, we prioritise simplicity and effectiveness. Our approach revolves around providing a single point of contact backed by a team of experts with specialised knowledge in various aspects of the retail sector, ensuring a seamless and efficient process.
In terms of measuring success, we employ a comprehensive set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These encompass factors such as product lead time, service quality, Net Promoter Scores (NPS), and feedback collected through surveys. Additionally, we regularly conduct Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) to evaluate progress and pinpoint areas for improvement.
Ultimately, we operate in close partnership with our customers to help them achieve their specific goals. One great example of this approach is our partnership with a prominent Germany-based supermarket chain operating more than 11,000 stores worldwide. This partnership aimed to maintain precise inventory management, a challenge exacerbated by the global pandemic. Vertiv took on the task of safeguarding system availability, leveraging our longstanding partnership with the retailer – and, over three years, we successfully deployed approximately 18,000 new racks. These racks were customised with Vertiv solutions, addressing space constraints and temperature control issues.
Benefits included improved cooling, time savings during deployment and enhanced energy efficiency. This initiative aligns seamlessly with the retailer’s broader digital transformation efforts, designed to enhance customer service and expand market share. Vertiv’s comprehensive solutions played a pivotal role in this transformation, allowing the supermarket chain to fulfil its promise of offering affordable quality to customers while navigating the complexities of modern retail.
What challenges and opportunities do you see in UK retail for the rest of 2023 and into 2024?
Looking ahead to the end of 2023, and into 2024, UK retailers are poised to face both challenges and opportunities in the rapidly evolving landscape.
One prominent area of focus is investing in their digital infrastructure, as the retail industry continues its digital transformation journey. This entails adopting advanced technologies to enhance customer experiences and operational efficiency. Another key trend is the pursuit of improved AI capabilities. Retailers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to gain insights into consumer behaviour, streamline operations, and personalise marketing efforts.
However, with these opportunities come challenges too. Ensuring power availability remains reliable is paramount, particularly as retailers become more dependent on digital systems. Security concerns surrounding the processing and storage of data on-site also loom large, necessitating robust measures to mitigate potential risks. And of course, it’s crucial that IT equipment is always up and running. Customers are ever-more demanding, customer churn is higher than ever – as are expectations – and so uninterrupted service is a must.
Furthermore, the conversation around energy consumption and efficiency continues to dominate the industry. Addressing this concern is crucial, and while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, steps can be taken to manage energy consumption effectively. Many retail companies are now exploring initiatives such as battery energy storage, electric vehicle (EV) or photovoltaic (PV) charger solutions to reduce energy consumption, achieve sustainability goals, and optimise profits.
How will you address these challenges and turn them into successes?
At Vertiv, we approach these challenges as opportunities for innovation and improvement. Our commitment to addressing the evolving needs of UK retailers involves a multi-faceted strategy. First and foremost, we understand the critical importance of investment in digital infrastructure. To meet this need, we continuously enhance our suite of solutions, ensuring they align with the latest technological advancements. We also work closely with retailers to design and implement robust IT infrastructure capable of supporting their digital transformation efforts.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
The horizon for Vertiv is filled with opportunities to make a significant impact on the retail industry. As a company, we are dedicated to expanding our footprint as a complete solutions provider, offering a comprehensive range of services to meet the diverse needs of retailers. Our vision extends beyond the UK market, as we continue to develop our retail expertise globally.
We are also excited about the potential for growth and innovation in the retail sector. Our team of experts is continuously working on cutting-edge solutions that will help shape the future of retail operations. We are committed to staying at the forefront of technological advancements, ensuring that our offerings remain relevant and effective in an ever-changing industry landscape.
Company name and location:
Vertiv EMEA Headquarters, Fraser Rd, Priory Business Park, Bedford, MK44 3BF, United Kingdom – +44 023 8061 0311
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