M&S is following a tried and tested formula as it looks to unlock the value of its customer data. This week the retailer drafted in former Tesco Clubcard director Danielle Papagapiou as its head of loyalty to work alongside another ex-Clubcard boss Andrew Mann who joined in January as head of insight and customer loyalty.

It feels like a logical, if obvious, tactic from M&S: take the people who ran the most successful loyalty scheme of the past 20 years and get them to sprinkle their magic dust on your own loyalty offer.

It might just work too. M&S has long known that its Sparks loyalty scheme needs significant improvement and while Papagapiou and Mann won’t look to create Clubcard#2 they know as well as anyone what it takes to create a loyalty proposition that maximises customer insights and revenue. 

Let’s not forget too that in its determination to learn from the best, M&S has also employed the services of Clubcard supremos Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby to ramp up its personalisation through their new vehicle Starcount.

With experience spanning both operational and strategic roles, Papagapiou is a strong appointment by M&S. As well as heading up Clubcard she held a variety of insight and online development roles during a 15-year career at Tesco and has most recently been working on building a 360-degree customer view at Vision Express.

The Warwick University graduate, who began her career in consultancy for Capgemini, describes herself as having a “strong blend of analytical rigour and people-orientated skills” as well as a passion for developing talent and promoting access and opportunity.

Mann, meanwhile, spent five years in charge of Clubcard between 2004 and 2009 and has also held senior loyalty and data roles with Sainsbury’s, Asda and the Co-op.

Both Mann and Papagapiou will work under Jeremy Pee, the former Loblaw digital boss who was appointed as M&S’s first ever chief digital and data officer last September.

At last, this has the makings of a dynamic digital team at a retailer that has, up until now, never felt truly committed to the task of transitioning to become a true digital-first business. 

It’s still a huge task to reinvent as orthodox a high street retailer as M&S as a digital leader. But with its partnership with Ocado due to commence in a year’s time and a big push on web optimisation and personalisation underway perhaps now is the time for previously complacent competitors to start taking M&S’s digital ambition seriously.