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Peter Abraham’s view of the Internet Retailing conference, what was yours?

The annual Internet Retailing event was held on the 14th October and over 960 delegates attended.

The day started with a key note from Mark Lewis Online Director of John Lewis who told the opening session that the way we shop is set to change more in the next 5 years than anything we’ve seen so farLooking ahead, he said delivery, data and changing customer behaviour would drive change in the business.

Jerome Cochet vice president sales at Zalando explained how Zalando had moved into 15 new markets quickly and localisation was the key to International success.

The final key note speaker Andy Harding Executive Director, Multi Channel from House of Fraser explained how the department store had rebuilt its online business by putting responsive, mobile design first.

Following the keynotes the conference divided into three separate tracks:

Tide: Trends, analytics, insight, planning, prediction and customer behaviour was covered in this stream, which looked at the movement and ebb and flow of retail complexities and demands.

Time: is the heartbeat of retail with operations, logistics, supply chain, IT and systems being time-based or time-sensitive. From auctions to speed of delivery and seasonal activities, this stream covered retail from real-time to the long-term.

Place: To sell, retailers have to be at the right time, but also in the right place. In the multichannel age the notion of place is challenged and extended as retail can happen anywhere from the high street, to digital in store, on mobile, the tablet shopper at home, cross border.

I had the fortune to attend the “Maximising the customer experience by synchronising digital and physical worlds” by Mike Durbridge - Omnichannel Director B&Q. Mike spoke about creating a consistent experience for customers, whereby the different retail channels – store, online and contact centres are bought together to best serve customers via multiple touch points. Mike’s ambition for B&Q’s omnichannel strategy resides around making home improvement simple and quicker by making B&Q the helpful place for home improvements. All of this is wrapped in a digital framework, and how you bring that to life in a digital store. It’s particularly about how you join it up – most customers will start online, do their research and then go to a physical store to touch, feel and try. Its important B&Q has that consistency of customer journey, making it really simple, quick and helpful at every step of the way. In order to enable this by the end of this year all the B&Q stores will have wifi in them. This will make it so much easier for customers to use all the digital assets B&Q are creating free of charge.

My colleague attended “The store of the future is everywhere” which was very thought provoking. French fashion retailer Comptoir des Cotonniers highlighted how it was possible to make the most of your marketing budget and open 10,000 boutiques overnight.

Francoise Cousin, E-business Projects Manager, Fast Retailing presented their digital launch in 4 steps which built brand awareness, customer engagement, and drove significant traffic online and in-store.

STEP 1: Tease campaign - Advertise about the 10,000 boutique launch and provide details to download the retail app PowaTag

STEP 2: Publish a Press release a week before the launch. Comptoir des Cotonniers got some of the best bloggers and press to engage customers and educate them on how the concept would work

STEP 3: Paris and Provence were littered with 10,000 Comptoir des Cotonniers adverts on billboards, café tables, and bus stop posters for 1 day.  Comptoir des Cotonniers dubbed its new marketing push as “Fast Shopping” using the app to scan barcodes on ads or to listen, Shazam-like, to broadcast ads and allow consumers to buy.

STEP 4: Film people engaging and turn it into marketing content and videos through media channels.

The results speak for themselves:

  • The most powerful ROI was highlighted through the value of the media coverage – equivalent of 2 million Euros
  • Comptoir des Cotonniers increased their eCommerce traffic 6 fold
  • Not to mention the increase in store traffic, which was closely monitored as a result.

In the afternoon I was a panellist in the BT Workshop “Becoming a global digital retailer”.  Kate Holt Group Director of E-Commerce Jigsaw stated that 46% of their customer base purchase online using mobile devices. However as Jigsaw has such a rich heritage on the high street, it is important that a customer’s store experience is underpinned with digital touch points to improve the relationship between staff and customers in store. Kate made a very good point that in this day and age there is no omnichannel, instead there is just one channel – the customer.

I reviewed the greatest enablers to becoming a digital retailer – customers are changing and as retailers it is important we understand what customers are doing.

We need to make better use of:

Data – we should gain as much market insight as possible to make personalisation easier to provide the best possible customer experience we can. There’s lots of talk about Big Data, but we know it’s more about ‘what’ data rather than all data. Aligned to this is the need for more analysts, I made the reference to formula one racing and the number of staff there hunting through the telematics to squeeze every ounce from the car (and the driver), retail needs more analysts and the government could help (this was a discussion point at the end) by including it in the IT curriculum.

Delivery – what platforms are we utilising what content are we sharing are we best engaging with our customers. By delivery we mean all aspects of delivery, from content, through the platform, through selection to physical warehousing and delivery of product. Content strategy is coming to the fore in many other verticals and the association of content and engagement will become more important as brands continue to fight for attention through fragmented media channels. Great content is engaging, Burberry has shown how this can be done in an Omni-channel way, online and in-store.  Maintaining that customer engagement is tough but essential to any retention strategy, keeping them informed and considered.

Capability – this relates to people and the technology available. I think it’s safe to say that technology has matured significantly and most organisations have processes for choosing and maintaining tech or ways of navigating legacy tech.  The majority of effort now sits with staff in the business, what they know, how they apply what they know and what the business actually outputs. Clarity of the business strategy and implementation of ‘core’ KPIs that meet that strategy is fundamental. Sure technology is a key component but we shouldn’t forget that the capabilities of the team are what make the difference. Generalist vs Specialist and where the core functions sit within a team will become the imperative, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose and Dan Pink describes it. Ensure that capability development of staff is a key component of your marketing or L&D budget, we can’t expect staff to learn on the job anymore.

Lastly David Kohn - Snow+Rock, Multichannel Director discussed how he determines marketing budgets based on the fact that 85% of Snow and Rock purchases are made in store and 15% of purchases are made online. Thus each element requires a different marketing objective, as shop sales are more profitable but are also less precise, so it is important for Snow and Rock to divert marketing budgets towards their digital presence because it is easier to measure and prove ROI. Looking forward, retailers will need to become savvier in the way they source and manage their customer’s transactional and behavioural information, to provide the best customer experience possible.

All in all I found the conference useful and always a great way to network with peers to assess the current marketplace and capabilities, I’m looking forward to next years to see how much has changed.

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