Shell blends data to personalise fuel

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Shell blends data to personalise fuel
Credit: Shell UK

Battles with adding value to a commodity sale.

Shell is hoping to use customer and machine data to tailor the formulation of its products in the hope it will set the company apart from its energy rivals.

Downstream VP and CIO, Craig Walker, told Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference last week that he wanted to convert Shell’s products into “services” that would encourage a deeper relationship with customers.

However, the nature of Shell’s products makes that kind of value-add difficult.

“I have a fairly uninteresting product: in fact I burn it - we put it in things and it gets consumed,” Walker said.

“I can’t put sensors in it, so I look to Salesforce to help me get other data and use that data [to] understand what my customers, suppliers and salespeople want, and then learn how I give you a much more value-added experience when you buy from me.

“Who do you buy from? You buy from someone who gives you something more complete. In fact you’re interested in hyper personalisation, and how do I do that?

“With the Salesforce platform, I can … understand you, I can give options.”

Shell is using Einstein, Salesforce’s AI augmentation software, to gain a better understanding of the individual needs of customers.

In the downstream world, Shell’s customers span B2B businesses as well as retail sites. Downstream also encompasses refineries and petrochemical plants, as well as energy transportation.

Walker said Shell wanted to be able to personalise products down to individual formulations, which it would create using a mix of customer and machine-based data.

“Let’s say you run a piece of rotating equipment and you use some of my lubricants,” Walker said.

“I get data streaming back from that [machine], and I use Einstein to understand that data.

“I can come to you before you know it and say ‘I think you’ve got a bit of an issue’.

“But instead of trying to sell you a different lubricant, why don’t I personalise one just for the way you ... operate that piece of equipment?

“That becomes a service. That means you are far more interested to come back because you get more value-add from me.”

Walker said Shell’s use of Salesforce was grounded in the amount of value-add it could provide to the company.

That applies not only to what the company’s investment in Salesforce could accomplish, but also to the way IT interacts with the business.

“I’m trying to create an IT department that’s faster, more agile, and more commercially minded,” Walker said.

“We have to understand how we generate value, how we put dollars on the bottom line.”

He said he wanted to move away from writing functional specifications and towards getting things into the hands of business users more quickly, where it can be evolved with feedback.

“That’s a very powerful proposition,” he said.

Ry Crozier attended Dreamforce 17 in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.

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