The Internet Retailing conference (October 4th, Novotel, Hammersmith) always focusses on the latest on-line developments and this year revealed a growing chasm between the old and the new. What is different this time is that the new “old” is about old-fashioned, nothing to do with number of years trading.
Resting on the old-fashioned cliff-side are some relatively recent retailers, ASOS (founded in 2000), eBay (1995) together with an analog and digital media pioneer, HMV (1899). Staking claim to the new ground are traditional high street names such as Burberry (1856), Thomas Pink (1984), Aurora Fashions (Coast, 1996; Oasis, 1991 & Warehouse, 1976) mixed in with the cream of social networking Facebook (2004) and a revolutionary delivery company, Shutl (2008).
What sets them apart? A true appreciation of their customers’ multichannel lives.
For example, yesterday ex-ASOS visionary Hash Ladha, now 18 months in as multichannel director at Aurora Fashions announced the latest tranche of UK cities to be covered by his fashion industry leading 90 minute delivery service. By February 2012, 90% of the UK can order a dress late afternoon and be wearing it the same evening. Why does this make pure-play retailers like ASOS look old? Because ASOS do not have the nationwide store coverage to support this type of ship from store to home service. Nick Robertson, ASOS CEO, has long muted the possibility of a single ASOS store on Oxford Street, but even that’s a long way from the 50 or so stores required for pan-UK coverage.
The retail equivalent of Apple, Burberry’s recent tie-up with Salesforce.com underlines the absolute need to focus on your customer wherever she happens to be. In the same vein, presenting creative innovation yesterday, Nadine Sharara, e-commerce director at Thomas Pink, underscored the need for absolute quality and consistency of brand regardless of channel. The beautifully British Brideshead revisited theme of this years A/W campaign oozes the kind of high end luxury that thrives in the harshest recession. And the execution from store through to on-line is truly multichannel.
Of the keynotes that kicked off the conference yesterday, eBay sounded tired as it talked up its outlet channels and social media heritage. Conversely, head of Facebook commerce partnerships, Gavin Sathianathan, is effortlessly cool and unceasingly innovative as he describes the stories of the 800 million people that make up the Facebook world and the opportunities for retailers to join them.
So if e-commerce sounded old yesterday, true multichannel retailers are fresher than ever, buoyed by their years of trading and customer focus.
Gerald Maidment, Account Director