Clive Humby, inventor of the Tesco Clubcard, on ways to stop feeling so overwhelmed by data, how to convince your CEO of its importance, and why data should look forward and not backwards.
Clive Humby came up with a brilliant idea. What if you combined those old-fashioned Green Shield stamps, where you licked hundreds of stamps into a book to afford, say, a kettle, with a personalised record of what you’d actually bought?
In exchange for giving the supermarket your shopping history, the understanding was that they would give you special offers and discounts.
However, back in the early Nineties, none of the supermarkets really had any idea of what their customers bought.
In 1994 Tesco, which was the second-most popular supermarket after Sainsbury’s, wanted to create a new loyalty card. The Tesco executive in charge of developing the Tesco loyalty card heard computer scientist Clive Humby speaking at an event and approached him afterwards.
Tesco agreed to trial the dunnhumby Clubcard for three months across nine stores that same year, after which the team were asked to present their findings to the Tesco board. A gulp-inducing moment. At the end of the presentation, it was Tesco’s then-chairman Lord MacLaurin who broke the awkward minute-long silence. He said, “What scares me about this is that you know more about my customers after three months than I know after 30 years.”
Today, Clive Humby is a data science entrepreneur and professor of data science at Sheffield University. Information Age sat down with Clive Humby to discuss how to stop feeling overwhelmed by data, how should use data in the right way, and why data needs to sit in the boardroom and not be shunted off to IT or accounts.
‘We have to look at data being a predictive set of