Working out what a long-term omnichannel strategy should look like for Gail’s was a gamechanger for the neighbourhood bakery, its head of ecommerce Rosie Hill told delegates at Hostech.

The business, which sets its store by its craft bakery principles, had previously held the view that a lot of tech and digital capabilities “weren’t very Gail’s, and weren’t the kind of things your charming local baker would do”.

But the business has undergone a “fairly seismic shift” over the past 18 months, launching its home delivery offering and click and collect, teaming up with aggregators for its delivery business, and relaunching its catering service and loyalty scheme.

During the same period it “completely revolutionised” the way it carries out its internal communications, and has a new app to support it, with the final piece of its digital puzzle coming in April this year, she said.

“We talk a lot about craft principles. The ethos of a craft baker is to do everything to a high standard, pay attention to the details, respect the ingredients and share widely – it’s an ethos we think it worth living by and it’s the ethos we’ve tried to apply to all of our digital transformation,” Hill explained.

What the business has come to realised through its “quiet revolution” is that the magic of Gail’s isn’t just that craft of its products, but the fact it can do craft at scale.

For Hill, the ability for the business to map out its own omnichannel strategy was really significant for the business, and Gail’s ensures that every decision it makes is aligned with the wider plan.

For Gail’s, being omnichannel means the ability for its customers to able to move seamlessly between any part of the Gail’s universe and to do so without their being any value trade off.

For this it needed to work out what was the unique value that any given channel has for its customers and work out how it could dial up the positives and reduce the negatives.

Hill admitted that for the first three or four months of their digital journey they were in decision deadlock, with everyone having different views on things, so it set about creating a digital roadmap and a special Digital Board – a small team that included Hill, Gail’s MD, CFO and occasionally a representative from Bain Capital – which invested in the business in autumn 2021.

The Board was a key component in ensuring the progress of the roadmap, with the team meeting every two to four weeks and with the format of the meetings either discussion, decisions or updates. “It kept everyone focused,” she said.

While its digital journey is still ongoing, Gail’s is now of the view that there is a place for digital in its business – “and it’s always in the service of our products”.