To download this Insights Piece as a printable .PDF, click here.
To watch the full Panel Discussion, click here.
To help define the next steps of your data journey, connect with Databricks’ technologists here.


Businesses are placing renewed attention on the value of responsive analytical capabilities. National and global Retailers alike are leaning on data analytics to help drive better decision-making and advance customer outcomes, strengthening their businesses against the current volatile economic landscape. We recently convened a virtual panel to hear how leading national Retailers are approaching data transformation. Moderated by Bede Hackney, Country Manager, Databricks Australia & NZ, our conversation unearthed the unique strategies that Retailers are pursuing to enable responsive, data-informed decision making.


The pandemic restricted the movement of people and forced huge swathes of the economy into retreat. In response, the nation’s Retail community mobilised rapidly, channelling tremendous growth in e-commerce platforms to facilitate safe consumer spending. Looking ahead, our optimism or pessimism on the continued health of our communities, on the trajectory of consumer confidence, and on the strength of our industry is not misinformed, it’s simply not informed.

Volatility inherently corrupts our ability to forecast with any precision. Without historical data to lean on, thought-leaders are taking advantage of new types of dynamic information to shape a contextual perspective. Sole reliance on internal data is slackening as Retailers widen their gaze to accommodate external data sets and incorporate unstructured and semi-structured sources of data. By adopting a more holistic data perspective, one that is informed not just by internal data but by reconciling external sources of data in a unified and intuitive platform, Retailers can enhance their resilience and responsiveness



Retailers are confronting their global supply chain dependencies in response to the pandemic, reassessing the weight of individual component costs in the broader scheme of end-to-end value optimisation. But the process of anticipating and mitigating the factors arresting the movement of goods hinges on sharing data with key players in our supply and distribution networks to achieve greater transparency and responsiveness. Beyond addressing our assumptions on what data is of relevance, we need to consider the varied use cases for data assets we have already collected.

Preceding the pandemic, Retailers had been building their capability to collect data from physical environments with the intent of understanding in-store traffic patterns to optimise product placement layouts and ultimately affect cart size. Now, the same environmental data is being directed towards improving employee and customer health and safety protections by removing bottlenecks and managing in-store movement.



Hindsight is the weapon of emerging businesses – you don’t need to encounter and overcome the trials faced by your established competitors when you have the historical data to circumvent them. New companies pre-emptively adopt a data-first mindset, diffusing the resource-draining data engineering undertaken by traditional players.

JB Hi-Fi faced a number of significant challenges on the road to building an intuitive and responsive data functionality. Data had accrued in siloed systems, while different access methods, formats, and authentication controls meant that anyone attempting to report against the data contended with a spider web of connectivity. The on-premises data warehouse solution was both scale and cost prohibitive, while reporting mechanisms anchored to Excel were flat, non-interactive, and non-dynamic in the content they delivered.

In response, the business created an environment structure modelled on swim lanes of data ingestion, one for each type of collection, with these pipelines parametrised to store definitions about schedules, database tables, and credentials. From there, all data is transformed into Databricks Delta Format, allowing for asset level transactions and increased retrieval time. Microsoft Power BI is augmented with precomputation and business logic implementations within an adjacent Databricks Job to rapidly deliver interactive visualisations and business intelligence reporting capabilities. Together, this environment structure empowers JB HiFi to react rapidly to a changing business landscape.


Dynamic, data-informed decision making is essential for businesses when they encounter volatility. The pandemic has exposed our collective reliance on historical forecasting data, shifting attention towards the value of real-time data to inform rapid responses to changing market forces. Moving forward, Retailers will benefit from looking beyond their own walls to identify and leverage alternative data sources, incorporating structured, semi-structured and unstructured data to reveal broader insights. By adopting a culture of rapid experimentation and focussing on improving outcomes rather than generating insights, Retailers will be able to unlock a new resilience that is embedded with responsiveness.

To learn more about how Databricks can help you realise these capabilities and shape the next steps of your data transformation journey, reach out to a Databricks’ technologists here.


To download this Insights Piece as a printable .PDF, click here.
To watch the full Panel Discussion, click here.
To learn more about Oracle Customer Experience (CX), click here.


As consumers, we are all enmeshed in the circuitry of modern Retail. We are constantly sending out signals, from dim, pulses of interest in moments of intrigue and discovery through to blindingly clear statements of purchase intent. A misinterpretation of these signals, a single misstep in engagement, will trip a fuse on the path to purchase.

We convened a virtual panel to hear how Mike Ainsworth, General Manager Marketing, Barbeques Galore; Jason Rickard, Digital Customer Experience Manager, Terry White Chemist; and Chris Spence, Country Head, Oracle Marketing Cloud are powering experiences by harnessing consumer insights. Moderated by Paul Waddy, CEO, The Horse, our conversation identified the practical steps businesses can take to create a sharp image of every customer that enters your brand ecosystem. We are sharing some of the summarised insights from this executive conversation with you today.


PAUL {moderator}
To begin, what are your opening impressions on the current state of experiential Retail?

The importance of comprehensive customer-journey mapping, taking into account consumer emotions, trigger points, pain points, and need states cannot be overstated. Only once we understand the path our customers are on, and by extension, the pathways we anticipate delivering in the future, can we being consolidating our approach to connecting and activating data. Data acquisition becomes relatively straightforward when armed with this visibility over the customer’s journey; we apply digital tracking to our properties, ingesting data through subscription forms and booking engines alongside other inputs. The next step is activating that data with content. While data powers our marketing automation, content provides a purpose and drives consumer outcomes by delivering pertinent messages at precise moments of the customer’s journey.

The most important part of customer experience is truly understanding your brand and connecting your purpose and promise through to consumers. For us, customer experience is about delivering sincere moments and honest empathy in all our consumer engagements. Too often, experiential efforts are focussed too low in the funnel; there is extremely fertile soil in the ground above to drive experiences in the consideration and preferences phases of the customer’s journey. Another immense area of opportunity is leveraging online and offline environments harmoniously as part of a broader recognition that success hinges on the sum of all parts. It’s highly counter-intuitive to dwell on the success of individual channels rather than taking a more holistic view on the success of the business that accounts for our ability to deliver truly exceptional customer experiences.

As a Retail community, we have accelerated dramatically these past twelve months to meet rising consumer demands. We have witnessed a shift towards direct-to-consumer business models as brands attempt to drive and shift customer preferences before the search battle plays out on browsers. We are also seeing an increased focus on loyalty, with Retailers securing customer allegiances by driving connected experiences across digital and physical channels. All of these efforts stem from a solid bedrock of data and the recognition that customers are willing to trade information in exchange for considered personalisation. We’ve been working closely with Retailers to look more closely at content consumption, cart abandonment, profile data and ancillary consumer signals to better understand the entire customer lifecycle. From here, Retailers have a solid foundation for building brand affinity and embedding emotions to reduce churn and curate a community of loyal customers.

PAUL {moderator}
Our lived experience of the pandemic has been greater oversight of and restrictions on human movement. Social interactions and commercial transactions have become defined by distance to the extent that we have learned a certain discomfort for proximity. The obvious consequence of these restrictions was a swift shift to digital channels and accelerated growth in the maturity of e-commerce. Beyond that, what are the most salient changes in consumer behaviour that you have observed this year?

One of the most pronounced shifts in consumer behaviour has been the steep demand for low and no-touch fulfilment as an extension of existing click and collect options, and in our particular case, the acceleration of Telehealth services. Speaking more broadly, the resilience of existing supply and fulfilment models has been drawn into consideration as we accelerate towards a contactless Retail environment. The rise in fear-based purchasing and hoarding behaviour was particularly pronounced in Australia on a global scale and affected our ability to provide equitable access to products across our wider network. In response, we adopted a more active role triaging customers to the most appropriate delivery channels, a challenging undertaking given the mechanics underwriting our franchise model.

The extreme conditions of the pandemic shuffled consumers back into the home, providing retailers and customers alike with a rare opportunity to reassess their relationship. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been a constant dialogue on translating face-to-face encounters in a digital setting. This conversation is driving towards creating exercises in experience; we are striving to establish an emotional connection between consumers and our brand in a virtual environment, to create vehicles for experiencing products online. Consumers are reaching for connection and brands need to respond by delivering authentic, empathetic experiences.

PAUL {moderator}
Timing is everything. What are some of the key, real-time indicators you rely on to inform decisions around driving content and offers to customers?

In the context of propelling the customer down the path to purchase, we have seen that Retailers who are empowered to respond to cart abandonment triggers in near real time have drastically improved conversion rates. Cart abandonment is undeniably one of the most powerful and accessible customer signals that Retailers can leverage. Given that the average value order on abandoned carts outweighs traditional online orders by approximately 45 percent, there is a real opportunity to reengage customers with a comprehensive omnichannel offering, communicating information on inventory or price fluctuations across relevant channels.

Beyond conversion, the value of real-time communications has been made abundantly clear to us this year in the fulfilment stage of the customer’s journey. Customer experience in fulfilment is directly informed by transparent communication. There are enormous opportunities to secure customer allegiances and improve retention not only be offering diverse fulfilment options, but by providing timely and accurate information on delivery timelines. Real-time visibility over your supply pipeline provides you with indispensable signals and opportunities to communicate with your customers at this stage of their journey with your brand.

It’s important for Retailers to distinguish real-time from relevance, to recognise that immediacy is no guarantee of effectiveness. There are dangers for brands that profile their customers too aggressively. We should aspire to build trust through targeted communications rather than erode it by being overly familiar or intrusive without context. By way of example, our customers are not always in the right mental or emotional state to condense content immediately after making a purchase. But information providing further context around the products they have purchased can be extremely relevant and valuable when timed effectively in the days following purchase.

PAUL {moderator}
What role does experience play in fostering customer loyalty?

Customer experience is everything in loyalty. Consumers have forfeited their data in exchange for rewarding experiences, but a narrow focus on gamifying transactions rarely satisfies these expectations. In many instances, points-based reward tiers represent a shallow, transactional approach with few short term benefits and no long-term value for the customer or business. The notable exception is the Airlines industry, where the audience’s receptiveness to elite status alongside vast redemption potential informs the success of the model. But Retailers should not suffer under the illusion that their audience will respond to the same triggers. We are currently on a journey to better understand what loyalty means to us, to recognise the emotional connection consumers have to our brand and to deliver content and experiences that resonate to retain customers in our ecosystem.

While data delivered experiences are an opportunity to build trust, they are also a highly versatile mechanism from an operational and supply perspective. A scalable, skewed rewards system can be leveraged to clear stock without resorting to discount strategies, and charitable donation options further reflect your brands commitment to reflecting and supporting the values espoused by your customers. Any Retailers that have implemented a points-based loyalty model should reassess how granular and responsive their system is to consumer and business needs alike.


The nation’s Retail community has responded emphatically to challenges flowing from the pandemic. Retailers have evolved at a frenetic pass to improve their responsiveness and engage with customer’s on their terms. The capability to deliver thoughtful, rewarding experiences is firmly rooted in data capability. Consumer expectations for personalisation can only be reached by forming and acting upon a unified view of the customer’s journey.

Oracle continues to work with Retailers to map these journeys and build a deeper understanding of customer lifecycles. It is incumbent on Retailers to consider the steps they must take and the partnerships they can pursuit to deliver truly responsive and rewarding customer experiences in the year ahead.



The COVID-19 pandemic is a paradigm shifting event, a crisis of health and a business revelation. The ongoing pandemic has not so much altered businesses environments as it has uprooted them. The pertinent question for digital leaders in the face of such unprecedented change is not how we restore our pre-pandemic work environment, but how we improve it.

This question is, at its core, one of design; we must identify which business structures are weight-bearing and must be reinforced, which systems can be reengineered, and those processes that can be abandoned. This sweeping recalibration will distinguish the resilient from the vulnerable, the flexible from the rigid, and our future leaders from followers.

NextDC and Connect Media recently invited CIOs from all sectors of the national economy to interface digitally and discuss this reinvention of the workplace. From compressing transformation timelines to advancing communication and security infrastructure, we unpacked the decisions digital leaders are making to lead business transformation and secure advantage amidst uncertainty.


The sheer pace of the pandemic forced nations and businesses to respond with reciprocal intensity. From international border closures to remote work transitions that, from an aerial perspective, more closely resembled office evacuations, governments and businesses made decisions of severe consequence at unprecedented pace.

These were not acts of transformative ambition, but acts of survival: processes, layers and timelines were reduced by the logic of necessity. The pandemic cut through cultural aversion to transformation on a revolutionary scale and reaffirmed our will to change. And change we did.

The rapid uptake of remote work practices is a shining example of the capacity for business leaders to communicate and act resolutely. But now, the context that enabled this bold decision-making is changing. While the pandemic continues to define our social and business environment, we are adjusting to its presence. Flexibility may well be the new normal, but normality exists to stifle urgency.

In a mass transition instigated by deep crisis, it is vital that momentum for profound organisational change is preserved and we do not revert to pre-pandemic levels of complacency. Business leaders must inject their organisations with a different sense of urgency.

The challenge for business leaders is to dissect the consequences of our instinctive leap to remote work practices, protecting and amplifying new sources of value while mitigating new structural and personal vulnerabilities.


Businesses are learning to communicate in an operating environment defined by distance. We are all learning how to live in isolation, or at least, how to interact in a world where the human touch has been muted. Whether as a commercial necessity, or an act of collective empathy, businesses have amplified the importance of employee wellbeing.

Communication strategies and the channels our voices and faces travel on have developed to facilitate closer, more authentic connections. Executive leadership have become more visible and accessible, inspiring confidence, reigniting motivations, and connecting separated employees to a shared ambition. As a broader consequence, the spaces separating professional and personal life are shrinking, a collapsing of realms that is at once both an affront to privacy as well as an opportunity to amplify real identities and expressions in the workplace.

Increasingly, employees are being empowered with the tools and trusted with the autonomy to deliver business outcomes – outputs, not inputs, are being assigned value. These are paradigmatic shifts that signifying that technology itself is not the answer – it is the enabler, granting employees the options to be flexible, resilient, and empowered.


As the context for work evolves, the parameters for secure work have fundamentally shifted to create new vulnerabilities. We are witnessing a fundamental, digital expansion beyond fixed perimeter defences – an expansion that is particularly fraught because of the very pace at which it is unfurling.

Rapid change breeds exceptional risk, and as a company’s digital footprint expands to lay tracks in new territory, the unmapped attack surface available to cyber actors grows in unison.

Attack vectors are being remapped to directly target home environments, and there is a distinct danger that employees are becoming apathetic towards, or at the least unsure of, expectations around data handling and remote information exchange in this new context. Businesses cannot afford to remain vulnerable to dangers borne from the pressures of expediency.

Responding to these risks requires a whole of organisation approach; a cyber-security lens must be applied to every aspect of the enterprise; risk assessments must be embedded in all cadences of activity; and a deep interrogation of existing infrastructure must take place.


The rapid transition to distributed workforces has reignited debate on the core capabilities and limitations of the nation’s infrastructure. The Coalition Government has announced a further $4.5 billion investment in the nation’s broadband infrastructure.

It is hard to deny that the NBN has performed admirably during the lockdown. And while using the pandemic as a retrospective justification for the decision to expediate the rollout of the NBN is rhetoric befitting scrutiny, it is clear that improving our nation’s infrastructure will further empower businesses to operate remotely and improve our digital competitiveness as a nation.

The impacts of the pandemic on our environment are not transient – already our CBDs have been challenged by a growing movement towards decentralisation. Australia’s vast ecosystem of corporate and market partners must continuously ask how they can both leverage and advance the fundamental architecture underpinning the way we work.


The pandemic has forced us to remould social and professional patterns. While change has been mandated by forces larger than any single corporation, it is our individual, digital leaders who remain largely accountable for the experience and precise direction of that change.

Enabling remote workforces, not only on a digital and structural level, but on a human level, is a severe but surmountable challenge that can only be accomplished by dual-wielding technical knowledge and emotional intelligence.

Our digital leaders must work to actively resolve security vulnerabilities, adopting a framework that is directly suited to remote work. They must ensure that digital infrastructure is scalable, flexible, and highly responsive, enabling the business to operate with confidence and lead through a climate defined by uncertainty. And they must communicate tirelessly and openly throughout this entire transformative process.

Only with continuous dialogue, collaboration, and the support of trusted partners will businesses be able to lead through this crisis.


Healthcare is facing a technological reckoning. Clinicians rely on the seamless flow of information for optimal patient outcomes, and leaders can no longer deny or resist the climbing expectations of consumers – transformation is needed.

As proof that executives are responding to this mandate for technological renewal, Connect Media and PHILIPS hosted CEOs, CIOs and Chief Medical Officers from across the public and private divide to interrogate the viability of EMR in Victoria. From overcoming change resistance and rewriting entrenched cultural practices, to countering reputational and security threats, the successful implementation of EMR is a formidable task. But the benefits are palpable – and may soon become irresistible.


Epidemic structural and cultural issues are shackling the potential of General Counsel and commercial firms alike. Institutionalised time-based billing methods are a source of shared frustration, and there is much to be said for how generational change and emerging technologies might affect this highly-strung ecosystem.

Unfortunately, too much of this conversation is being held in whispered tones, which does little to generate impetus for change. Connect Media and VARIO FROM PINSENT MASONS decided to gather leading General Counsel from all sectors of the national economy to spark a constructive and candid dialogue in the hope of creating this change momentum.

Over twenty executives converged for a transparent look at how these different cultural forces and corporate structures interplay, and to consider what must be done to forge a bright new future for the profession as a whole.


For years, marketers preached that the customer was king. In reality, customer-centred design submitted to distribution; mechanical limits on production and delivery set firm parameters on what the customer could purchase and possess. But that is all changing, rapidly. Now, living in a world of once-unimaginable connectivity and personalisation, customers are dictating the pace, variety, and quality of service. What once seemed an empty prophecy is being fulfilled – the customer is now king.

Retailers appreciate this shift in power and are now moving to remodel themselves around the customer. For some, this change is a shift in focus, a subtle reorientation. But for most, delivering on the customers’ expectations has required seismic restructuring and the establishment of core, data-driven capabilities. There is now a clear mandate for a new breed of marketing professional who acts creatively atop a platform of actionable data intelligence.

Connect Media along with Zendesk gathered a diverse group of leading retail executives to discuss this ongoing empowerment of the customer. Here is what they had to say.


We are mining the intricacies of our lives in greater depth than ever before. Digital touchpoints are exploding across the consumer landscape; soon, nearly every aspect of our lives will be governed by a digital interface. We are constantly projecting a complex and interwoven series of signals that, when correctly connected, map out our lives with frightening specificity. Only artificial intelligence is capable of deciphering this new, digital cartography.

As consumers, we have come to predict and expect the level of hyper-personal, finely-curated content that artificial intelligence delivers. Brands must create in-store experiences that reflect and augment our movements online. And as the traditional boundaries of retail evaporate, brands must know when to engage, intrude and escalate, and when to show restraint. In the eyes of consumers, each platform, and every device, is simply one way of seeing a familiar face; no thought is given to enterprise structures and systems. All that matters is a seamless and consistent experience.

The bar for retailers is therefore set at a considerable height, and the path to reaching and exceeding the competitive benchmark for seamless, hyper-personalised, omnichannel retail is littered with pitfalls. Artificial intelligence, effectively implemented, becomes an indispensable ally in this pursuit; and, in the hands of the competition, a formidable foe.

Lucidworks and Connect Media gathered leading digital and marketing minds from some of the nation’s preeminent retailers for a candid discussion on how businesses are responding to soaring consumer demands. Our conversation unearthed shared frustrations as well as numerous opportunities – this is what they had to say.