Coles Group looks to single customer ID across online stores, apps

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Coles Group looks to single customer ID across online stores, apps

Under project led by new platform engineering group.

Coles Group is working to set up a single identity credential that works across its online and app-based stores, giving it a single view of the customer and the ability to personalise the experience.

Platform engineering group manager Assaf Warchitzky told a recent Auth0 webinar that the central customer identity service is one of the first projects for the relatively nascent platform engineering group that he leads.

Set up six months ago, platform engineering is intended to build and stand up platform components that can be used across Coles’ digital properties and brands.

It is backed by a team of about 40 staff and sits within the wider IT team that numbers about 1000 staff.

Warchitzky said Coles had “a number of brands and customer-facing digital channels on different stacks and different technologies”.

Some used technology from on-premises data centres whereas others were in the cloud or were currently being refreshed.

“All of these different customer channels - from the Coles website and Coles mobile app to Coles online, Coles Express and the liquor brands - is a ‘world’ in its own right,” he said.

“What we’re trying to [do now is to] serve everyone from the same platform.”

The variation in technology stacks also meant that experiences across Coles-owned online properties varied.

“It’s not a secret - if you sign up to Coles Online you have one set of credentials, if you go to shop at Liquorland you will have another set, and some of the other channels we have they don’t really offer any personalised experience right now,” Warchitzky said.

Registration or login is often the “front door” to a customer’s digital experience. “Sometimes this is the first experience a customer will see when they’re trying to interact with you,” Warchitzky said.  

“If this is the front door for Coles in the digital channels, we would like to offer the same branded experience, the same interactions and the same behaviours for those digital channels across the different brands. 

“So when someone tries to sign into Liquorland, they should have the same flows, the same feeling, and expect the same user experience when they do that with Coles Online.”

Establishing a single customer identity credential would also make it easier for Coles to better understand how a single customer interacts with the company’s brands.

“It’s not just a single customer identity, it’s really a single customer view,” Warchitzky said. 

“Identity is the start of that journey but on top of that we can start building a lot of these other things that our customers expect and a lot of the personalisation and those added value features that we would like to provide to our customer in the future. 

“But it all starts with understanding who our customer is, and it’s not just their emails and passwords, that’s the starting point. Once we’ve established that, it’s really about what we do with that once they’re in.”

Warchitzky said Coles would buy in the actual underpinning identity technology.

“We don’t want to be in the business of building identity services,” he said.

“We want to provide a great customer and shopping experience for our customers and really play to our strengths and focus on where we can add value for that particular business.”

The exact way the ‘Coles ID’ would work or be displayed to users appears to still be an open question.

“The plan is that in general if it’s a Coles channel that we build and own and operate, then it will use that Coles Group identity, that unified single identity, and this is the plan going forward,” Warchitzky said.

“For Liquorland, we might have the colours and the logos for Liquorland specific but it’s still going to say Coles Group at the bottom.

“We want to offer this cross-cutting capability through the Coles Group.”

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