When the first Coles store opened in Collingwood, Australia, over 100 years ago, nothing in the store cost over two shillings. It was a hit. Fast forward to 2019 and Coles is still a leading retailer – only now it has 40,000 products, 115,000 team members, 2,450 stores and $39 billion in revenue. What hasn’t changed is Coles’ customer focus.
Back in 1928, founder GJ Coles noted, “The customers themselves really decide what goods we shall stock in our stores.” They still do – only now retail is large and complex, and customer expectations are so diverse it takes a guy with an MA in mathematics from Cambridge University to help figure it out.
Roger Sniezek – the guy with the math MA – is chief information and digital officer and one of the leaders of the massive transformation now being accelerated across Coles and fueled in part by a strategic partnership between the retailer and Microsoft.
“We got to the point where we decided that we needed to partner with someone for cloud and AI (artificial intelligence),” says Sniezek. “And to achieve what we wanted to do, we needed to leverage their global expertise, and work with a partner who truly wanted to make us successful. And that’s the reason we chose Microsoft.”