We get some great insight into multichannel retail this week, as our interviewee is Will Townsend, senior product manager at Sainsbury’s Argos, focusing on in-store digital channels.

Will was part of the team which won the ‘Tech team of the year’ at the Retail Week Tech awards in 2018. Good creds indeed.

(Remember, if you’re looking for a new role, have a look at Econsultancy Jobs. Or, if you’re looking for more retailer stories about multichannel customer experience, head down to the Festival of Marketing 2018, Oct 10-11, London)

Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?

Will Townsend: I’m a senior product manager for the Sainsbury’s Argos in-store digital channels. As such, I am accountable for the customer experiences on all in-store digital customer devices. For example, industry data and our internal insight indicated customers would value being able to pay using Contactless, Apple Pay or Google Pay. Working across many teams I scoped how the experience would look and feel, and the development effort required.

I’ve also recently finished working on the roll-out of our new kiosk service in both our UK and Republic of Ireland stores. The kiosk solution has been so successful we are now adapting the software to be used for store colleague devices as well. I ran the kiosk replacement from inception to end-to-end solution, and was accountable for all aspects, from hardware selection, customer experience and telemetry to our ePOS diagnostics app. We will continue working with stakeholders to define the next iterations of future features.

E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

WT: I sit within the Argos digital division which is home to many teams; digital trading, design, user experience, among others. I report in to the digital product development stream.

E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

WT: Every product manager is different – some will be highly technical, others will have a great eye for design and user experience but ultimately every product manager needs to be great at communication: whether with business stakeholders, the development team or the wider product management team. You need to be comfortable setting and owning the vision for your product area, collaborating with your counterparts in UX/CX to bring this to life and breaking it down for the development teams to make it happen!

will townsend sainsbury's argos
Will Townsend, senior product manager, Sainsbury’s Argos

E: Tell us about a typical working day…

WT: Days are very varied, particularly working on the in-store area, which is at the cross-section of digital experiences and physical hardware. A typical day will usually start with a short 15 minute catch up with the development team to update on yesterday’s progress, today’s priorities and any blockers. After this, I could be meeting a supplier regarding the in-store tablets or Mastercard for payment processing experiences.

As a product manager, you need to be able to keep the development team going, whilst having an eye on what’s next, and as such, most days you’ll be working with the UX, design and other product areas to flesh out new features. This frequently includes gearing up a customer research lab session, providing us with direct insight from customers before we either code or launch a new feature. This allows us to build in feedback early in the product lifecycle.

Currently I am working with the operations and store format teams to look at how the evolution of our new kiosks will impact our future physical store design.

E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?

WT: It’s probably the same answer to both questions. I mentioned how varied a product manager job can be and personally I love how it exposes you to new situations, new people and teams and keeps you learning. At the same time, it does mean you can’t always spend as long as you’d like on each task of the day. But combine both and it means your days are always interesting.

E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

WT: It entirely depends on the business need or customer pain point I’m trying to solve. Before anything progresses to the development teams, product managers evaluate what ultimately needs to be improved for colleagues or customers. The impact of this experience, whether new or improved, should be measurable using business metric performance, analytics or customer satisfaction measures such as CSAT or NPS.

E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

WT: We rely heavily on analytics tools at Argos, so I usually have Adobe Analytics open on my browser. We use JIRA for managing development workflow within the in-store team and highlighting cross team dependencies.

I don’t think I’ll be alone in the product manager community in saying one of my favourite tools is the trusty sticky note. They’re great for visualising story maps, showing stakeholders the impact of re-prioritising features and they encourage everyone to get involved in workshops. To date, I haven’t found a digital solution that’s as effective for these tasks.

E: How did you land in this role, and where might you go from here?

WT: I’ve always been interested in finance, business and technology (I’m fun at parties…), but not enough to specialise solely in any of one them. I started my career on the Tesco digital graduate scheme, which was rotational, meaning I could experience a number of different business functions. It quickly became apparent product management provided exposure to business financial performance, strategy and a direct link to technology and development teams. I decided to specialise in product management for these reasons and intend to stay here! Soon, I’ll be expanding my knowledge of in-store payments at Argos and taking on accountability for ecommerce payments online and in stores.

E: Which retailers do you admire for their innovation?

WT: I’ve recently become a home owner and over the past year I’ve found myself shopping at Screwfix on multiple occasions. I’ve purchased in-store, via website and iOS app. If you prepay online, they have a fast checkout lane in-store and I’ve noticed some of their stores now have digital catalogues. As a newcomer to shopping for DIY, it couldn’t have been any easier and it’s not what I expected from that industry!

E: Do you have advice for anybody who wants to work in your field?

WT: If you’re looking to go into product management, and can’t find the role for you, try broadening your search to include analytics, or digital and online trading. A lot of the skillsets and exposure you’ll gain are very similar and will stand you in good stead for future interviews.

Product management can mean having some busy days and it can be hard to juggle at times, but make sure you don’t regularly stay late to try and get it all done. There’s always something else you can do, but spending time with friends and family, or even alone time is so important and you’ll come in the next day feeling far more productive.

Econsultancy runs project management and customer experience training.