Rob C.
Lead Customer Analyst
Job Function Analytics

About Rob

Key Experiences

From computer animation to leading Food analytics
I have always had a passion for computing and programming. My first serious interest in pursuing a career in this industry came from when my school banned any form of computer game (as expected!), to bypass the rule in place I used to create small games on Macromedia Flash that would then be passed around amongst the students.

To understand whether this would be the right career path for me I undertook an internship at a Flash animation and gaming firm prior to starting A-Levels, I soon realised this was not the right path. Whilst I enjoyed the coding aspect, I didn’t enjoy being behind a desk with little communication with people.

To keep my options open I studied Mathematics (instead of Computing) at University and my first job was within Market Research doing both Qualitative and Quantitative analysis. This time I loved the people aspect as I was talking to respondents, clients and agencies to help answer a business’s problem, but there wasn't too much coding other than a bit of SPSS syntax.

That's when I moved to M&S. I joined the Customer Insight Team as a Customer Analyst and from the start I was analysing the vast array of data that we have, as well as engaging various stakeholders around the business - it's the perfect mix of technical and commercial skills. Over the last 5 years I have worked my way up and I am currently Lead Customer Analyst for Foods.

Current Position

I manage all analytical requests for the Food business
My team and I are responsible for ensuring the Food business (particularly the leadership team) is equipped with the relevant information about how customers are interacting with M&S. The work can vary daily as the retail industry can move fast, personally I find this very motivating as no day is ever the same and rarely can a problem be answered in the same way. Me and my team can get a lot of requests on a weekly basis so we need to prioritise the workload based upon the projects that will make the biggest impact in delivering growth.

At M&S we have a vast amount of data and a world class infrastructure which allows us to delve deep in the data extremely quickly, on a very granular level, to explore what drives customer behaviour. One day we could be understanding performance with the M&S customer in one specific Food category, the next we could be helping input into M&S’ overall 3-year strategy.

Main Motivations

Everyday is a different challenge
Retail, and particularly Food, can be a very fast paced industry. We can help influence change quickly by analysing how customers interact with M&S. Topics can vary from pricing, promotions, ranging, all the way down to individual stores, departments or customer segments. This means that everyday can offer a different challenge. There have been situations where we have had to quickly come up with a completely new robust methodology to be able to answer a specific problem, it can be very satisfying when you get to an answer in a unique way.

Once we have got to an answer our job doesn't stop there. I find the best way to present data is by telling a story and that's exactly what we try to do as a team, but always making sure we end on an actionable conclusion. We then help the business evaluate any changes implemented on the back of the work produced.

Top Advice

Always keep learning
If you stand still in this industry you can get left behind, this applies to both retail as well as data analytics. Because technology is moving so quickly it means there is always going to be a faster, more efficient way to answer a question just around the corner. I always try to keep on top of what's going on by reading books, white papers and attending conferences. Don't just stick to the retail industry either, there is a lot of good methodologies being developed in finance, insurance and even pharmaceuticals that can be applied to the retail industry. Always make sure you're keeping up with the latest coding techniques too. Python and R are becoming more common place in big industry.

My final piece of advice would be to never be scared to try something new, you don't know what you might develop.

Marks & Spencer

Marks and Spencer is a major British multinational retailer headquartered in the City of Westminster, London. It specialises in the selling of clothing, home products and luxury food products. M&S was founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer in Leeds.