Norfolk Network stories

David Bailey – the pursuit of quality

Rachel Buck
Digital Marketing Consultant

Many Norfolk Network members found they could relate to David’s non-linear career path. He told of a meandering journey, beginning at age 13 with a new computer, and including The Gap, Apple, tech start-ups and launching his current business Aitrak.

Quality as a theme was not immediately obvious to David. It was in looking back that he discovered it had become his “North Star”. To answer the question ‘What is quality?’ he began by defining what it is not.

We all know what quality is, even if we can’t define it.

Quality isn’t tangible but we know it’s there.

It’s not the same as perfection, and it’s not the same as luxury, or premium.

Quality is saying a thousand No’s for every Yes

‘Quality’ at Gap meant focusing on the in-store customer experience. David began working at the clothing company on 2 week interim role. This led to running 200 of its stores in Europe as Financial Controller. “Back in 1999 it was hard to return something in-store that had been bought online. Gap decided to fix this and made the customer experience a priority,” he explained.

The in-store experience is also what Apple has become known for. When David joined the company, Apple had one of its iconic stores. “Although this is what Apple is known for, it’s not how they grew their business,” he explained.

David developed Apple’s shop-in-shop programme in Asia, Europe and then globally. The goal of the programme was to have other retailers deliver the Apple experience in their stores. This was counter to how computers were being sold at the time. When David visited Beijing in 2007, he discovered computers switched off and wrapped in cellophane. “We came in with a new concept where you could use the computers in-store,” he said.

David’s summary of his time with Apple was “a thousand No’s for every Yes”. “That’s the definition of Apple’s success,” he said. “That’s the definition of quality. It’s all that refining, and refining, taking the extra time, going the second and third mile. So, when delivering a product or service to someone, the care and attention shows.”

The tool I’d love to have had

After leaving Apple – and taking time off to tour South America – David arrived in Norfolk where he became involved in start-ups. The first was Wordeo, a video messaging app that illustrated words with videos from Getty Images. Next, he went to Aether, a pre-Alexa smart speaker that learnt what music you liked. After Aether he became VP of Marketing at SmartThings, the IoT arm of Samsung.

David is now drawing on those early retail and start up experiences to grow Aitrak. He described the business as helping retailers to “see what their customers are seeing”. The system seeks to maximise ‘share of attention’. In busy shopping centres, on the high street on in a store, adverts and products are competing for attention.

Aitrak uses machine learning and eye tracking data to predict how well a product, bill board or advert will perform in the real world. Traditional eye tracking studies can take weeks and a lot of money to generate results. Aitrak is 97% accurate and can generate results in minutes.

David explained how Aitrak can test the effectiveness of product placement, compare different creative approaches, or to test a creative against the competition. “This is the tool I’d loved to have had in my previous jobs at Apple and SmartThings,” he said.

“To me quality comes from craftsmanship. It’s care, it's attention"

What is quality?

“To me quality comes from craftsmanship. It’s care, it’s attention,” David concluded. “One hundred years ago you would know the person you are buying the product from, whatever that is. Now it’s all anonymous. Because you are unlikely to ever meet the person buying the product people don’t care so much. That’s not quality or caring”.

In closing, David reflected on a career path that hasn’t always been obvious. Like trekking in North America, the path ahead sometimes appeared to go in the wrong direction. At other times he has had to look behind him in order to move forward.