Our annual client conference is a great way to gauge the mood of retailers and find out what they really think about what’s happening in the sector. This year’s event was no different. We’d set out to discuss themes around bringing web and store closer together and we were delighted by how receptive retailers are to this idea. And the great thing is that they’re all doing it, or planning to do it, in their own ways.
Geoff Barraclough, BT Expedite’s director, strategy, marketing & propositions, opened the conference by declaring that: “Retail is not dead. But it’s changing. Fast.”
And how! A few years ago everyone seemed fairly sure that physical stores were on the way out. We then had a period of trying to replicate the store online. But now we’re bringing the best of the online experience in-store and it’s giving bricks and mortar retailing a whole new lease of life. So, for example, we’ve got the phenomenon of ‘showrooming’, where customers visit stores while shopping around on their mobiles.
The buzzword of the conference was omni-channel – which describes a seamless experience where you essentially make everything available everywhere and manage it all from one stock pool. Of course, like e-, multi- and cross-channel the name may have changed by the time you read this…
Mobile technology is the driving force behind all of this. As people become more and more comfortable browsing and buying on their phones, retailers will have to respond. Most retailers are already looking at how best to tackle this, which meant the conference briefings on mobile payments were standing room only.
We heard from PayPal about its in-store payment initiative and learned how Aurora Fashions’ hugely successful in-store iPad project got up and running – and discovered that one of the biggest challenges was how they should be held: satchel, neckband or wristband!
Best of all, nothing at the conference was sugar-coated. David Kohn, of Snow+Rock said: “You sometimes come to company events and hear a party political broadcast. But here, you get the real story – warts and all.”
Nadine Sharara, head of e-commerce at Thomas Pink summed it up: “It’s really good to mingle with other customers that are doing different things with the same technology and share ideas.”
We work in an intensely competitive sector which changes at an insane pace. That’s why we love it. And it’s why having the chance to get together, share problems openly, discuss solutions frankly and have a beer together at the end of it all is so important.
For a flavour of this year’s client conference, check out our conference page, with tons of videos, retailer comments and photos from the event.
By Justine Arthur, head of communications & campaigns, BT Expedite