Executive Perspective

Reinventing Data Management in the Grocery Industry: Insights from Stibo Systems CEO Adrian Carr

Explore how Stibo Systems is transforming grocery retail with innovative data management. CEO Adrian Carr shares their unique approach focusing on data acquisition, management, and sharing, enhancing customer experiences and addressing key industry challenges.
Neha Ghai
October 5, 2023

Adrian Carr


Elevating Grocery Retail with Strategic Data Management

Adrian Carr, CEO of Stibo Systems, sheds light on the ever-evolving landscape of data management in the grocery retail sector. Stibo Systems adopts a distinctive approach, placing paramount importance on three key components: data acquisition, rigorous management, and seamless sharing. This strategic emphasis is intricately crafted to elevate the overall customer experience by strengthening connectivity, optimizing marketing content management, and facilitating the exchange of sustainability data. Stibo Systems flexible solution empowers clients to efficiently tackle the prevalent challenges ingrained in data management, encompassing both data operations and digital experiences for grocers.

The Role of Sustainability and AI in Modern Grocery Shopping

In the "State of Digital Grocery Performance Scorecard" from Grocery Doppio's January 2023 issue, it's revealed that 73% of grocery shoppers express a preference for sustainability-related product information on their digital channels. For grocers, integrating data to attract and retain loyal customers has become a top priority. Moreover, according to our Grocery Doppio report, 82% of grocers believe that adopting AI is essential for future competitiveness. Given these circumstances, grocers are increasingly recognizing the need to embrace data systems that address their challenges related to fragmented data, streamline data operations, and facilitate data-driven decision-making. Stibo Systems, in response to this trend, offers a flexible approach to managing data, where clients prefer to embark on their product data journey within the system and use MDM products or opt for data importation, especially when coexistence with other systems is necessary.

Stibo Systems: Pioneering Data Integration for the Grocery Industry

Stibo Systems' master data management system stands at the forefront of integrating comprehensive data, fostering transparency, and enhancing the grocer's experience. 

In this exclusive interview, Adrian Carr, CEO of Stibo Systems, delves into these critical developments and their implications for the industry providing unique insights across product, marketing, and sustainability domains, equipping grocers with the information they need to make informed decisions.

Grocery Doppio: Tell us about yourself and what inspired the inception of the company.

Carr: I have spent a significant portion of my career in the technology sector, specializing in data platforms. When Stibo Systems approached me, I was intrigued by the company's history, which dates back to 1792. Initially, the company was involved in print, and over the years, it evolved into a tech company. In the 1960s and 70s, we transitioned into catalog work, eventually leading us to manage catalog information on computer systems. This marked the beginning of our product database.

Today, Stibo Systems operates as three distinct companies. One remains a print company, while we, the largest among them, are a prominent tech company. Additionally, we have a sister company based in Denmark that specializes in Master Data Management, particularly in the realm of product data, spanning various sectors such as groceries and fashion.

Our ownership structure is akin to a foundation or trust. This structure reflects our distinct set of objectives, which extend beyond profit maximization. We are deeply committed to being a socially responsible company, making a positive impact on our community, society, and, more recently, the environment. Environmental sustainability is a core value and focus for us.

Grocery Doppio: What is your company's mission, and what does it strive to achieve?

Carr: Our heritage extends far back, but we are a cutting-edge technology company. We specialize in delivering data management products that empower companies to make informed decisions, resulting in remarkable outcomes. This approach not only contributes to our sustainable growth but also supports our profitability, allowing us to reinvest and expand.
Our mission statement encapsulates our business ethos – one with a strong sense of conscientiousness. Our primary focus revolves around doing what's right for our customers, employees, and the environment. Customer satisfaction is at the forefront of our priorities, evident in our high software license renewal rates, a testament to our unwavering commitment to delivering top-notch service.

In recognizing the vital role of talent in a technology company, we place significant emphasis on our employees. Regular surveys gauge their satisfaction, and we take proactive steps based on their feedback to ensure they are not only well compensated but also find fulfillment in their roles.

Furthermore, our position in the market sets us apart, with our headquarters based in Europe. As Europe grapples with demands for sustainable practices, we are actively championing this cause. Our dedication revolves around both minimizing our impact and utilizing our tools to aid customers in sectors like retail, manufacturing, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) by facilitating the tracking and dissemination of data. Our goal is to play a role in the pursuit of a more sustainable world.

Grocery Doppio: What is the architectural framework of Stibo System’s Master Data Management when implemented within a grocer's retail store setting?

Carr: Firstly, our platform offers exceptional flexibility and extensive configuration options, eliminating the need for cumbersome customizations and coding that can make software packages challenging to maintain. We prioritize three key aspects: Acquisition, Management, and Sharing of data, particularly in the context of grocery retail.

Acquisition - As a grocery retailer, acquiring new products is crucial, often sourced from suppliers. However, it's not just the products themselves; it's also the associated data. Our initial focus is simplifying the acquisition of new product data from vendors. This involves seamless connectivity. If vendors have electronic data, we streamline the process by connecting directly.

Management - Once the basic data is onboarded and approved, the next step is managing it effectively. This includes data enrichment to enhance its quality and value. We add additional information that makes the product data more compelling for end consumers. This could involve marketing content, imagery, and other enhancements to prepare the data for customers.

Sharing - The retail landscape is evolving rapidly with the expansion of digital channels and the outsourcing of delivery to third-party companies. Our platform facilitates easy sharing and publishing of product data in various formats. For instance, some of our customers have adopted QR codes at the point of sale in physical retail spaces. Customers can scan these QR codes with their smartphones to access a wealth of information, including bundling details, discounts, upsell opportunities, cross-sell recommendations, and even sustainability information, enabling them to make more informed choices.

In conclusion, one important consideration that consumers often grapple with, and where we offer our assistance, pertains to the type of implementation they prefer. They must decide whether to initiate their product data journey within Stibo Systems, utilizing Stibo Systems MDM products, or to opt for data importation, especially if coexistence with other systems is in play. Certain organizations have established product lifecycle management processes where product data is initially ingested and then seamlessly transmitted to our platform. We accommodate these various traditional implementation options, ensuring a high degree of flexibility to cater to the diverse needs of our customers.

Grocery Doppio: Could you elaborate on the primary pain points commonly encountered by grocers that Stibo System’s Master Data Management is designed to address effectively?

Carr: The grocery industry, much like many others in this era, is undergoing a significant transformation. Retailers often describe this shift as a digital transformation and frequently mention their pursuit of an omnichannel program.

Emerging competitors, such as third-party delivery services and meal kit providers, are entering the scene daily, posing challenges to both grocery revenue and margins. Grocers must not only operate where are several common pain points within this landscape:

Eliminating Silos - The first challenge is breaking down silos and integrating data from various sources to ensure consistency across all channels. Omnichannel demands seamless interchangeability. For example, if a customer purchases something online and later wishes to return or exchange it in a physical store, the transition should be effortless.

Streamlining Data Operations - The second pain point involves streamlining data operations, increasing automation, and incorporating AI and machine learning to enhance data governance. This helps in managing the vast amount of data efficiently.

Speed of Adaptation - The third pain point is the speed of adaptation is paramount in today's rapidly changing business landscape. As an example, consider one grocery retailer that initially contemplated home delivery but didn't proceed. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, they managed to launch a comprehensive home delivery service within just six months. This agility was possible because they had streamlined and well-managed data at their disposal.This case underscores the significance of having a strong foundation in data management.

Enhancing Digital Experience - The fourth challenge relates to providing a compelling digital experience. This includes improving data standards, enhancing imagery, and crafting insightful marketing content to make the digital interface engaging and appealing to consumers. A lackluster digital presence can deter customers from returning to a website.

Master Data Management Stibo Systems

Grocery Doppio: Can Master Data Management (MDM) data be effectively utilized to enhance and support retail media initiatives?

Carr: Consider a grocery company's website equipped with various tools to enhance the online shopping experience. Behind the scenes, our data management system plays a pivotal role. For instance, when a customer interacts with a particular product online, they may have specific requirements or questions. They might want to know if the product contains nuts due to allergy concerns. They might have options to choose from, such as two identical products, and wish to determine which one has a lower carbon footprint. Of course, price comparisons are also part of the process. All this data is seamlessly sourced from our system as the customer navigates the website. However, we're witnessing a notable trend in which the mere provision of basic product information like dimensions and weight is no longer sufficient. Companies are increasingly inclined to present marketing data as well. Let's imagine a scenario involving a breakfast cereal. Perhaps the manufacturer has created an engaging advertisement for this cereal. Now, the customer has the ability to click on that advertisement. Previously, this might have led to standard product details, but now, it can trigger a dynamic experience featuring captivating music, energetic visuals, and an overall exciting presentation of the product. This transformation demonstrates that product data enrichment extends beyond the realm of straightforward information; it empowers marketers and salespeople to deliver more engaging and compelling content to consumers.

Grocery Doppio: How can Stibo Systems' MDM enhance sustainability and supply chain resilience for grocers, and what features address their challenges?

Carr: Many readers may already be aware that by 2025, companies operating in the EU will be required to report on their sustainability efforts and progress. This reporting, akin to financial accounting, will encompass aspects like carbon footprint. European companies, as well as multinationals operating in Europe, are actively working to comply with these regulations. However, when we look at regions like Asia or North America, companies that operate within a single region or country might not have the same level of awareness about impending sustainability reporting requirements, primarily because it isn't yet regulatory there.

Three primary reasons are driving this change. First and foremost is the regulatory aspect. Companies, especially those in the developed world, should proactively prepare to meet these upcoming regulations. Europe is leading the way with its 2025 deadline, and it's likely that states in the US, particularly California, will follow suit.

Secondly, brand reputation is increasingly tied to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Reputation can be influenced by various stakeholders, and companies don't want to find themselves lagging behind in this aspect. The impact on the reputation of industries like tobacco and oil due to changing consumer expectations is a stark example.

Lastly, consumer purchase behavior is evolving. Consumers are becoming more purpose-driven in their choices. While price and product attributes were historically key factors, now, consumers are considering whether a product is good for the planet. They are making choices based on trustworthy information regarding packaging, recyclability, carbon footprint, and more.

In essence, we specialize in managing various types of business data, and sustainability data is no exception. Stibo Systems doesn't generate this data; instead, we make it readily available. As the market shifts towards sustainability-conscious consumer choices and regulatory requirements loom, companies across industries, including grocery retail, will need to consider the carbon footprint of their products and supply chains. This data will play a crucial role in decision-making, such as selecting locally grown items with a lower carbon footprint over imported alternatives.

In summary, we focus on consolidating, governing, cleansing, and sharing sustainability data, recognizing the increasing significance of sustainability in today's business landscape.

Grocery Doppio: What challenges arise in implementing your technology in the grocery sector, and how does it integrate with existing technologies used by grocers?

Carr: Firstly, it's essential to note that our technology operates in the cloud, following the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. This means that users don't need to invest in hardware; they can simply activate or deactivate the service as needed. Our solution leverages cutting-edge technology and is incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to enhance its capabilities.

The most significant challenge we often encounter is preparing grocery retailers to elevate their data management operations and data quality to a level suitable for implementing a Master Data Management (MDM) solution. In some cases, the data held by grocers may not be sufficiently comprehensive or well-structured. We assist them in this process by helping them collect more detailed data, particularly from their suppliers. If they've been collecting only basic information like price and product images, we work on enriching that dataset and collaborate with suppliers to obtain additional essential data.

Successful implementation of an MDM solution is always a project. It involves aligning the data with the designated data model, choosing the right technology for the specific challenge, and having the right people execute the implementation. We work with various partners, such as Stibo Systems, who carry the process forward to establish robust data governance practices. The goal of data governance is to ensure that no matter where the data is used, be it on a website or in a store, it remains consistently accurate.

In essence, the primary challenge lies in evolving business processes to align with state-of-the-art technology. While the technology itself is not a hurdle, it's the readiness of people's ambitions and mindsets that determine their ability to embrace these advancements.

Grocery Doppio: Considering the fierce competition in the industry, what is your company’s unique proposition? What makes it stand out from others?

Carr: Our commitment to excellence reflects our focused approach as a company. While we cater to various markets, retail is one of our primary domains, with over 150 retail customers across the globe. In fact, eight out of the top 12 global retailers are among our valued clientele. Our products have evolved to meet the unique needs of this sector. Retail is a vast arena with numerous sub-industries, and we proudly stand as the largest technology company in the Master Data Management (MDM) space serving retailers.

What sets us apart is our ability to tackle complex data issues. We thrive when confronted with intricate problems. Our highly flexible data model accommodates the data requirements of virtually any customer, and this adaptability is something I have personally witnessed throughout my tenure here. But it's not just my word; industry analysts also acknowledge our capabilities. For instance, Forrester considers us a "strong performer" in our sector. We have received top scores in data integration, product completeness (Product 360), and innovation. We enjoy high ratings from other respected analysts like Gartner and Ventana as well. This success doesn't make us complacent; instead, we remain dedicated to improving and refining our solutions by actively listening to our customers and industry experts and closely analyzing insights from respected analysts in our field.

Grocery Doppio: Can you share specific success stories and metrics where Stibo Systems benefited grocers compared to the industry?

Carr: We partnered with a major Midwest-based retailer in the USA, boasting a billion-dollar revenue stream. Their primary challenge revolved around the speedy onboarding of new products. The critical factor here was getting these products onto their website or into their stores promptly. Data played a pivotal role in this process, especially in enriching product data for digital channels. However, this customer was struggling with the pace, and the consequence of not addressing this challenge was the risk of falling behind in the market and missing out on the buzz surrounding new product releases.

Our solution to this predicament involved an innovative onboarding approach, using a technology called syndication, with our product known as PDX. This solution efficiently and electronically gathers product data from vendors and content service providers. Consequently, product data arrives even faster than the actual products, and it's seamlessly uploaded. In addition, we introduced a scalable product master data management solution to ensure the highest quality of product-to-marketing information.

The impact of these changes was profound. It led to more efficient onboarding, resulting in an impressive 80% reduction in staff time spent on tasks like sifting through and rekeying data. These freed-up resources could then be redirected to higher-value areas of the business, which, in turn, boosted margins. Efficient onboarding also meant an expanded online assortment and a quicker time to market for new products, allowing for higher initial pricing. In fact, we achieved a significant improvement, cutting the time to market in half.

Beyond these primary benefits, our customers also experienced a 30% reduction in communication costs for marketing, significant expansions in online catalogs (one of our clients saw their online catalog grow by a factor of 14), leading to a remarkable 4x increase in ecommerce revenue. Furthermore, one notable US retailer managed to reduce a staggering 600,000 duplicate customer records, a significant feat in the realm of customer master data management, which is crucial for understanding and effectively engaging with your customer base.

Grocery Doppio: How do you see the grocery industry evolving with tech and AI replacing legacy systems, and Stibo Systems' role in this change over the next 5 years?

Carr: Let's delve into some emerging trends that are shaping the grocery retail landscape. The boundaries in grocery retail are becoming increasingly blurred, influenced by the growing impact of Amazon, other marketplaces, third-party delivery platforms, and the expanding options for on-demand meal delivery. In response to these dynamics, we are focused on three major trends.

Firstly, there's the concept of ubiquitous data, where information is accessible and applicable across various touchpoints. The foundation of this trend is the accuracy and governance of data. Transparency is crucial—users should be able to access and trust the data. Secondly, we're dedicated to enhancing customer experiences. In today's digital age, consumers have little patience for subpar websites or experiences. The bar for customer expectations keeps rising, and we aim to meet and exceed those expectations.
Lastly, and in line with our ongoing conversation about sustainability data, we're committed to executing sustainability programs. We believe in expanding the scope of product data beyond mere recipe and pricing information to include sustainability considerations. This transformation is essential as grocery retailers not only need to adopt ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) strategies but also use data consistently and under strict governance for reporting purposes.

To dive deeper into these trends:

Ubiquitous Data - Consumers now expect access to data on grocery products, including details like recipes, product origin, and sustainability, whether they are at home, at work, or shopping in-store. Our end-to-end solution, which includes "data as a service," allows grocers to provide the data consumers demand. For instance, customers can scan a QR code to access information about recipes they can make with purchased ingredients.

Enhanced Experiences - We operate not only in grocery but also in luxury fashion, where consumers demand top-tier service. Our technology empowers grocers to deliver high-level customer experiences. By leveraging our technology for managing product, customer, and supplier data, grocers can create personalized, localized merchandising, ensure regulatory compliance, and more. This agility is crucial in meeting evolving consumer expectations.

Sustainability Initiatives - In the realm of sustainability, grocery retailers are not only crafting ESG strategies but also ensuring the consistent and highly governed use of data. This includes data traceability for audit purposes, an area where we lead and continually adapt to meet evolving needs.

A Little About Yourself 

Grocery Doppio: Tell us about your creative side when you're not developing solutions.

Carr: I am happily married with four children, two of whom are now self-sufficient with their own jobs, while the other two, who are still little ones, demand a lot of my time and attention. Besides my family, one of my great passions is my Ducati motorbike, which I adore, perhaps second only to my wife. Whenever I have the opportunity, I relish taking my bike out for a ride, as you can probably tell from some of the scuffs and marks. Additionally, I have a deep appreciation for rock music and its energy. In my youth, I was a punk with the shaved head and all the accompanying style choices, and that love for rock music has stayed with me into adulthood. So, you could say that these interests and hobbies keep me quite engaged and motivated.

Grocery Doppio: Please tell us an impactful piece of advice you followed during the challenging days that helped you continue your journey and would inspire new entrepreneurs.

Carr: One significant piece of advice I'd like to emphasize, and it may seem quite straightforward, is to have a plan. This concept extends beyond just entrepreneurship; it applies to life in general. While you may have a career plan, life often throws various curveballs your way, such as starting a family, which might temporarily slow down your career progression. However, the key is to have a plan to begin with. This plan serves as a foundation, something you can adjust only if you encounter a superior plan along the way. The crucial second part of this advice is to actively work towards making your plan a reality. Don't just create a plan and tuck it away, hoping that someday you'll find success. Instead, define what success means to you, map out the steps to achieve it, and begin taking action. Identify who you need to connect with, what relationships and networks you should build, and start working on it now. In essence, it's about having a plan and actively working to bring it to fruition. That's what I'd recommend to young entrepreneurs embarking on their entrepreneurial journey.