Interview: Pandora’s David Walmsley – the digital pioneer making multichannel magic happen

Cult jewellery brand Pandora may be known for its many physical stores – it has more than 2,500 worldwide – but it has a thriving omnichannel business.

To build on this the jeweller is embarking on an ambitious digital transformation programme – and the man leading the charge is one of UK retail’s most well-known multichannel leaders: David Walmsley.

Walmsley’s CV is a roll call of the biggest retailers on the UK high street, including M&S, John Lewis, Currys and House of Fraser.

At Pandora, he is overhauling its omnichannel business, which will see it combine its many stores with cutting-edge technology, which the chief digital and technology officer says is “where the magic happens”.

The opportunity for Pandora is immense.

The charm bracelet specialist is one of the world’s biggest jewellers by pieces sold, with 80% of women across the globe familiar with the brand and 30% owning a piece of its jewellery, according to the firm.

Last year, Pandora’s sales rose by 7% to £3.2 billion, with ecommerce representing 21% of total revenue.

By enhancing its digital operations and overhauling its omnichannel approach, the business can scale even further.

A big step for Pandora was made in December when it partnered with software firm SAP to implement cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution ‘Rise with SAP’.

The decision to integrate a new ERP system will help fuel Pandora’s growth ambitions and alleviate challenges associated with running multiple older ERPs across operations, David Walmsley says.

“Implementing a transformative platform will help streamline and automate processes, and overall make the Pandora machine much more robust and dynamic,” he explains.

“It also gives our teams the chance to work with leading cloud-based solutions and help them further develop their professional capabilities.”

The new technology will enable Pandora to digitise its operations, particularly across finance, inventory and end-to-end business processes.

The partnership is a long-term investment for the company that will be the foundation for its future growth.

When fully implemented by 2026, SAP will enable Pandora to offer its customers a true omnichannel experience, with “seamless transactions and interactions online and in-stores,” says Walmsley.

For example, customers will be able to see shop inventory in real time so they avoid making trips to store when the item they want is not in stock.

The right product in the right place

Boosting efficiency in Pandora’s supply chain is also a priority for Walmsley

“As a company we want to be as lean as possible, and this requires the entire supply chain to function efficiently,” he says.

“Getting the right product into the right place, in the right store or warehouse at the right time drives our commercial performance.

“This is why our digital back end is important and this is where the ERP platform plays a big role.”

Indeed, Pandora’s expansive store portfolio is an integral part of its identity and it is crucial that customers can shop products seamlessly – both online and in-store.

“While the physical store experience remains essential in an industry that is all about experiencing the product, consumer demand for digital shopping has accelerated significantly during the pandemic, and so has consumers’ expectations to omnichannel services,” Walmsley explains.

“We want to be where the consumer is, whether this is in store or online. This is why an investment in our omnichannel capabilities is crucial to us and is a big part of our growth strategy.”

In recent years, Pandora has also made other omnichannel investments, including migrating its largest market – the US – to a new ecommerce platform optimised for mobile usage, with remaining markets scheduled to move in 2023.

The brand has also improved its click-and-collect service, delivering to customers in as little as two hours.

For Walmsley, combining store and technology is “where the magic happens”, as he believes that a strong omnichannel strategy not only creates convenience for customers, but “builds brand ambassadors”.

Despite having a career that has spanned many retail giants, Walmsley says Pandora’s approach to digital innovation is unique.

“We are the world’s largest jewellery brand by volume but in many ways, we are still quite a small big business.

“This helps with rapid decision-making, focusing our digital transformation around the real moments that matter for our customers,” he says.

Pandora also makes its own products, which opens huge opportunities for wider digitisation.

“We are highly vertically integrated, and so, for us, the digital transformation agenda runs across a complete value chain,” he explains.

This gives Pandora the opportunity to take more “holistic approaches” to topics such as integration, data interchange and fluidity.

Rather than starting from scratch, Pandora is using digital innovation to enhance the most successful aspects of its business.

The tangible experience and ritual of going into a Pandora store to select a piece of jewellery lies at the heart of the brand.

Through its long-term partnership with SAP, Pandora is not only improving its ecommerce sites, but making its much-loved stores run as seamlessly as possible.



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