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Leadership Spotlight: Jonathan Haywood

Updated: Jun 14

Our latest Leadership Spotlight features Jonathan Haywood!

Jonathan’s lengthy experience in the digital industry has seen him work with major organisations across the UK. Jonathan began his career in the automotive industry as an Analyst for RAC. He also held positions as a Strategic Analyst and Resource Modelling & Planning Manager.

Remaining in the automotive industry, Jonathan also worked with Porsche Cars GB Ltd as a Customer Insight Manager.

Moving away from the automotive sector, Jonathan spent 11 years at Holland & Barrett; where he led the digital team as well as Loyalty, CRM and customer transformation.

In our Q&A with Jonathan, he reflects on his career journey to date and how his foundation in data and analytics played a “key role” in developing customer strategies. He also shares his thoughts on the misconception that “digital transformation is the silver bullet for an organisation's every problem”, and why ‘purpose’ and ‘vision’ are key traits of a successful team, and did you know Jonathan's in a band?!

Read our Q&A with Jonathan below.

Why did you join the Digital Leaders Club? 

Jack and I got chatting about potential new job opportunities. I saw it as a good chance to connect with a wider group of digital leaders and listen to and learn about what's happening in the industry.

What's your career journey been like to date? 

Since leaving H&B at the end of March, I've been reflecting on this a little bit. My career foundation has been in data, analytics, and insight. Whether in the automotive industry (where I started my career) or retail. That played a key role in developing customer strategies and finally into digital. The common thread throughout my career has been a focus on the customer, informed by data, which lends itself well for digital roles.

You had a long tenure at Holland & Barrett - what was your experience like leading the digital initiatives for such a well-known retailer? 

11 years at H&B and 6 different jobs. It was a bit of a whirlwind having worked through the sale of the business, resetting with new owners, and seeing variations of new strategies, visions, and Execs. The good news is, that settled down in the last 3 years where I was leading the digital team alongside Loyalty/CRM and customer transformation.

During those 3 years, a lot of my energy was spent ensuring that our over-arching customer strategy translated into digital transformation that our Tech, Product and Business teams were all clear, aligned, and excited about. Trying to focus on those elements of the role, while being pulled back into 'operating' and hitting the sales targets is fairly common for digital leaders, and that was certainly the case at H&B.


What do you love about working in digital? 

I get excited about digital innovation and I've a real passion for improving customer experiences and propositions. When those 2 things come together, is when the magic happens for me.

What are the common challenges you see in digital leadership?

I've seen a common misconception that 'digital transformation' is the silver bullet for an organisation's every problem. There's a lot of pressure on digital leaders to continually deliver the next major innovation whilst managing large chunks of the marketing plan and operating a large chunk of the sales (or all of it if you're pureplay). My major gripe is that this expectation is often not grounded in any consumer insight or consumer need. In essence, digital transformation, for digital transformation's sake.

Have you had any interesting moments in your career so far? 

Working in the automotive industry has its perks. German hospitality is incredible and you don't often get the chance to drive cars at 165mph.

Have you had challenges in your career to date; and how did you overcome them? 

Last Black Friday we had a setup error on an affiliate discount code. It went viral and between midnight and 3:00am (the time we diagnosed and stopped the error), we'd had a whole Black Friday's worth of orders placed for free. We spent the rest of the day identifying the orders, chasing the orders around the courier network, and stopping any more from getting picked/packed. Very little harm was done in the end, due to the quick action and collaboration of all the teams, but it had the potential of wiping a fair amount of our annual profit. I went a bit more grey overnight.

In your view, what's the most important trait of a successful team?

A purpose and vision that everyone believes in, and an understanding of each person's role in making it happen. Coupled with a culture of honesty, empathy, vulnerability, and trust.

Tell us about your best success story

I'm really proud of turning round the digital performance back to double-digit YoY growth in '23/'24, launching a free click & collect same-day proposition (now a quarter of our digital orders), re-platforming and transforming our CRM strategy and creating the new loyalty proposition, set to launch nationally early 2025.

What’s it been like transitioning to a hybrid setup over the past few years? Do you ever see the way we work going back to ‘normal’? 

Hybrid working has really helped H&B acquire a wider talent pool, particularly within Digital, Product, and Tech. Hybrid is the new normal, but there's nothing better than meeting face to face, particularly for ideation sessions and really getting to know your colleagues. The best teams know each other, connect on more than just a formal 'work' level and can empathise and be honest with each other. I don't think you can build that culture purely through video calls. It's just about getting the balance right so that you can have a diverse, inclusive workforce, that can be committed to the job/team whilst maintaining all the things life has to throw at you. 

Which trend(s) do you predict will dominate 2024? 

Not exactly new, but I think social commerce will continue to grow and expand. H&B had some great early success using TikTok shop, we were probably a little ahead of the curve. I'd also put this into a broader camp of 'offsite buying', to include things like purchasing via WhatsApp and other comms channels. I can't see consumer interest waning here, but I can see regulators getting more involved, which may impact how brands operate in these channels.

How would your colleagues describe you? 

Straight talking but with a high moral compass (not my words).

What are your hobbies away from work?

Sport and music. I'll watch any sport. Love rugby and I'm into ultra running. I play drums in theatres, dep for bands and I'm in a trad jazz band.

What's your plan for the future? 

Having recently left H&B, I'm taking a brief hiatus over the first half of the Summer whilst looking into my next opportunity. I might be a little different to many people in the digital leader's club, in that I'm looking for a role focused on Digital/Customer Experience or Proposition Strategies, with less of the sales/commercial responsibility for my next outing.

What would you be doing (for a career) if you weren’t doing this? 

Professional drummer, 100%...I'm just waiting for the phone call!

Connect with Jonathan on LinkedIn.


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