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Dunnhumby exec details growth plan

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Posted at 8:30 AM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-22 09:08:04-05

CINCINNATI - The region gained some jobs but lost a North American headquarters last week when Dunnhumby announced it would leave its Downtown Cincinnati office for a new location at Rookwood Exchange.

“We haven’t really agreed on having a headquarters,” said Andy Hill, the Chicago-based managing director for Dunnhumby North America. “We have a slightly different approach now to how we run this, a more de-centralized approach.”

Andy Hill

Dunnhumby is the London-based data-mining firm that grew rapidly in Cincinnati when it partnered with the Kroger Co. to develop customer loyalty programs for the nation’s largest grocery chain. Kroger bought most of the North American headquarters in April and hired about 500 of its employees. Last week, Dunnhumby received tax credits to relocate about 70 jobs to a 16,000-square-foot office overlooking I-71.

Hill said the local office will continue to grow but not as a headquarters operation. The Boston office now has about the same number of employees as Cincinnati, which promised to create 25 new jobs as part of an agreement to receive $270,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits from the state of Ohio.

“It’s actually quite liberating for people,” Hill said of the new headquarters approach. “People can have a great career, work closely with clients and live near where their families are without having to uproot everybody to go live in Cincinnati just because that’s where the headquarters were.”

Hill expects Dunnhumby to reach up to 500 employees in North America in the next three to four years, based on a growth strategy focused on four main areas:

  • Grocery retail, which includes Raley’s on the West Coast and Metro supermarkets in Canada, plus consumer-product companies that sell to such retailers.
  • Fashion and apparel retailers, including Cincinnati-based Macy’s Inc., which was a client before Kroger bought Dunnhumby assets to form its 84.51° division at Fifth and Race streets, Downtown.
  • Specialty retail, a category that includes office furniture stores and sellers of nutritional supplies.
  •  Health care, which includes hospitals and insurance companies interested in helping their clients use data to power healthier lifestyles.

Hill said the company recently landed new clients in health care and specialty retail but declined to name them.

“The health industry is going through a huge transformation and the term that’s being used to describe that transition is the 'retailization' of health care,” Hill said. That means “looking at patients like customers (to ensure they) get the right treatment at the right time and are seen by the right people throughout the whole experience.”

Dunnhumby has been trying to develop new health care products for more than a year. As WCPO previously reported, one of its executives told an Oracle technology conference in San Francisco in September 2014 that it was “spending a lot of energy” on “health and wellness” services.

At the time, the company said it was limiting its use of data to the information compiled around purchasing habits. But now, Hill said the company is “interested in getting as much data as possible” from consumers, including dietary habits and exercise records from wearable devices. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Dunnhumby will ask customers to “opt in,” or grant permission to use the data, and won’t sell the information to third parties.

“The conversations we’ve had so far with hospitals, retailers and also insurance guys is that there are people really interested in helping make better decisions with diet,” Hill said. “They’re interested in helping make better decisions that impact preventable diseases, and any help they can get, which they don’t get today from other sources, they would really love.”