A retailer’s marketing department arranges promotional shoots, designs window displays and produces creative brand-focussed literature. So aren’t they a team of creative, flowery types who really don’t understand computers, applications and service levels?
Surely IT should leave them to get on with their creative thoughts, as they don’t play a true operational role in the business. After all, IT reports to finance, a natural home for it; they use systems, they understand how computers work and they work with budgets and expected returns.
Well that may have been the case at one time, but the Omni-channel journey is changing things.
Firstly, IT has become a service. Put simply, it’s a means to an end, one that is gauged by what value it brings and how it can support changing business processes to drive competitiveness. It’s increasingly the domain of consultants, not highly technical people.
Secondly, in the Omni-channel world retailers are realising that having different channel directors who report separately to the board is never going to deliver the experience demanded by today’s customers. Doing it that way creates division, with channels fighting for stock and recognition for sales, staff competing with each other for commission – and the consumer simply wanting to buy their goods and be treated the same way, whenever and wherever they shop.
Which brings us back to marketing. In today’s brand-focussed world, success is driven by content, by impression, by brand values, by customer experience and consistency – all disciplines driven by the marketing community. The customer journey across all channels has to provide consistent views of product, price, stock and orders, functionality that can only be driven by a professional approach to IT.
It’s clear that the role of the marketing director is to own the customer journey and provide the consistency that this dictates. In doing so, it’s also clear that IT delivers this and marketing is its natural home!
While the main event took place at Stratford, Her Majesty’s Government was hard at work at Lancaster House selling the UK to the world during The British Business Embassy’s Global Investment Conference – 17 days of conferences to encourage overseas investment.
Day 10 was the Global Business Summit for Retail, Food & Drink. Individual sessions were high quality but the subject matter so wide-ranging that even if you had the forensic skills of TV broadcaster and journalist and facilitator for the day, Michael Buerk, you’d find it hard to keep focus.
I spoke in the afternoon session devoted to omni-channel retail. It was an honour to be among such a top quality set of speakers, including Nick Robertson, founder of ASOS and Sebastian James, Group CEO at Dixons Retail plc. The UK leads the world in home-shopping and, via ASOS and others, is exporting this success to the world.
Perplexingly, the audience probably contained a few too many dairy farmers and artisanal cheese producers to make best use of the content. The milk lobby had turned out in force to lobby Kraft’s CEO who had anchored an earlier session alongside a Coca-Cola exec who answered every question while holding a can of Coke high in the air like an Olympic torch.
Politicians topped and tailed the day, referenced the obligatory announcements of new investment but didn’t appear to be in the sessions to listen to the content or take questions. Still, you can’t fail to be impressed by Vince Cable at kick-off, Caroline Spelman at lunchtime and David Cameron, accompanied cocktails of finest English champagne, once the sun had passed the yardarm.
Joking apart, Sebastian James’ presentation is this week’s must-watch video. Challenged hard by the pure-plays, James gave a cogent and credible explanation of the tangible consumer value generated by multichannel retailers. (The answer: £15 on a £500 TV, since you ask.) Dixons is better at selling the latest products and its suppliers are rewarding it for this. You can watch his speech here.
While everyone is very excited about the growth in online shopping and the speakers congratulated each other on Britain’s leadership in the area, only Michael Buerk picked up the key political consequence. Three million people are employed in our nation’s shops. What is going to happen to them? It was 4.30 by this point and the politicians weren’t in the room…
You can watch my presentation below or to watch the full set from the day from other speakers including ASOS, British Retail Consortium, Dixons Retail and PayPal, visit the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) YouTube channel.
In the first of a series of interviews with leading retailers, we caught up with Will Dymott, head of e-commerce at Lyle & Scott, a men’s fashion brand with over 135 years of heritage and still at the forefront of fashion.
What was your first ever e-commerce/digital job?
Marketing manager at Boden quite a long time ago! Before then I worked in direct marketing.
Describe a typical day in the life of Will?
I don’t really have a typical day, because my job is so varied, I could be doing anything from negotiating delivery rates, talking to a customer or planning the marketing strategy. It’s what makes working for a smaller company so much fun.
What are you currently working on?
Other than budgets… Our German & Swedish websites due to launch soon.
What is your business philosophy?
Never ignore your gut. If you have a niggling feeling in the back of your mind, listen to it!
Who in the e-commerce/digital world do you most admire and why?
Johnnie Boden, for building a multi-million pound business while remaining a thoroughly decent guy.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Understand your weaknesses and trust your team.
What keeps you awake at night?
What are your aims and goals for the next 12 months?
As ever, global jumper domination
And just for fun… if you could choose to have lunch with anyone who would it be and why?
P. G. Wodehouse, because I’m sure it would be fun.
Download the BT Expedite Lyle & Scott social media case study [pdf]
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