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Paula Nickolds, who joined UK retailer John Lewis Partnership (JLP) as a graduate trainee in 1994, took over the reins as CEO in January 2017. JLP has weathered the structural and competitive disruption that plagues the retail industry, but despite its success, under Nickolds there are no signs of complacency.

JLP's CEO looks to the past to inspire a customer-adaptive future

In an interview with The Times published March 31, 2017, Nickolds explained that she sought inspiration from the firm's archives spanning its 153-year history. Whenever the environment became disruptive, JLP always sought to get closer to its customers, to understand what drove their desires and needs and to use those insights to increase its relevance to them. This deep empathy for the customer has always sparked innovation and renewal, and Nickolds aims to continue in that tradition.

Seismic disruption of industry practices is happening more frequently than ever, which means that to survive and thrive, firms must adapt continuously or risk becoming irrelevant to customers. Nickolds acknowledges that fact. She has turned her attention to reinventing the store experience, not necessarily by revamping the store layout, but by repurposing the store; ensuring that all services, existing and new, holistically deliver what customers expect; and continuing to raise the bar on customer experience. This is a continuation of the firm's omnichannel strategy to unify all channels and ensure that the experience persists as customers move from online to the store.

What JLP is doing is creating a coherent, enterprise-wide capability, with the customer as the focal point of everything it does. Innovation and the customer experience are not seen as separate internal projects, but are fully converged. Innovation begets the customer experience, which begets further innovation, all fueled by insight into what matters most to the customer. It is JLP's timeless, customer-focused values that underpin the decision-making and strategies of the business.

How very customer adaptive.


Further reading

The Customer-Adaptive Enterprise, IT0020-000234 (December 2016)

Denon & Marantz (D+M): Generating Growth the Customer-Adaptive Way, IT0020-000231 (December 2016)

Omnichannel Management, IT0020-000240 (March 2017)

The Customer-Adaptive Imperative, IT0020-000091 (March 2015)


Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, Customer Engagement Practice

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