This year’s BT for Retail Summit was held in the motorsport-themed Whittlebury Hall, just a champagne cork’s pop from Silverstone. As they pulled in from the high speed High Street chase, what did the nearly 200 delegates get out of this two-day technology pit stop?
It wasn’t a rest, that’s for sure. Two days, packed with retail technology presentations, demonstrations, articulations and explanations. And, just as Formula One winners are decided by the tiniest of margins, everyone attending was making full use of every second at the event to try and gain an advantage when they rejoined the race.
The focus was on the practical, the here and now. So we had BT futurologist Nicola Millard describing herself as a ‘now-ologist’ while unveiling the latest customer loyalty research which highlighted the importance of reducing effort for customers. Then John Ryan, stores editor at Retail Week and Drapers, raced through a whistle stop tour of the best in-store theatre around the world, ending with “I have one second left…”
This ‘every second counts’ approach ran through the whole event. Even in between formal sessions – in the Indianapolis, Hockenheim and Hungoraring suites – retailers were rattling through a room full of technology demonstrations. Clienteling? Check. In-store wi-fi? Check. PayPal integration? Check? Cloud-based infrastructure? Check. Go, go, go!!
Every one of the delegates would have come armed with analysis of how the race had been unfolding and where remedial work was needed – they’d also have predictions of the conditions they’d be likely to face and an interest in what the competition was up to.
But what shone through was the collaborative spirit. The tone was set by our new CEO David Grossman, who kicked everything off by lifting the lid on some of the latest innovations he’d seen after a recent trip to Silicon Valley.
It was an event that was geared up for sharing as retailers got together to discuss experiences, solutions, insights and challenges. So Brown Thomas, Notcutts and Thomas Pink shared centre stage in a presentation on customer loyalty; Claire’s, Jigsaw UK and Jigsaw24 shared their web design experiences; PayPal and the Logic Group shared a vision of payments beyond plastic; WH Smith and The Co-operative Food Group explained how Elfs and beetles had helped stock shelves and serve customers; and Crabtree & Evelyn and Fat Face had an open discussion on the future of the store.
All too quickly, the pit stop was over and people rejoined the race – fired up for the next few laps. The brand takes all the glory, of course, but the IT, e-commerce, marketing, CRM and operational teams underpinning it are the ones really driving the business.
We’ll have videos, photos and presentations from the event available shortly. In the meantime, you can see the Fat Face case study video shown during the event.
Posted by Justine Arthur, Head of Communications and Campaigns, BT Expedite & Fresca
Accessories retailer Claire’s uses next generation technology to reach next generation consumers
by David Devany, European eCommerce and Digital Director, Claire’s
We’ve just launched an e-commerce site for the UK and Europe that’s going to help bring us closer to our customers. It’s a real step forward for us, in terms of our online presence, but we think the real benefits will be felt in our stores.
We’re obviously well aware of our target market – and three things stick out about a Claire’s girl.
She’s very sociable – and will connect through a number of social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook. She’s mobile – out and about and as comfortable on a smartphone as any Apple geek. And she’s probably too young to have her own credit card, one of the main reasons we’d shied away from establishing a transactional site before.
So an e-commerce site was never primarily about sales for Claire’s. We’re obviously happy if parents get pestered into buying online from us, but the site is more of a social gathering area and trend influencer than it is strictly business.
That’s not to say we’ve not taken advantage of the very latest technology to help make it easy to buy online. Our new platform supports delivery to over 180 countries and includes the option to buy in £ sterling or Euros. There’s also an intuitive gift finder feature and clever merchandising tools that enable customers to shop by themes, looks or moods.
But the really clever stuff come with the social and mobile aspects. We’ve put Facebook and Twitter front and centre of the site as well as integrating a Spotify plug-in to pump out the latest hits (so I’m told…). And a ton of ‘how to’ video content with style ideas featuring real Claire’s consumers creating the latest hair and fashion look.
That’s because our customers are comfortable in their virtual social circles. Almost 73% of teens are active on social media and two-thirds of 14-23 year olds own a smartphone. So our site is very much an extension of our customers’ lifestyles – an engaging destination to explore the latest trends and share ideas.
The mobile optimised site makes using the features on a smartphone an absolute breeze. We’ve thought long and hard about the needs and motivations of people while out and about and so we’ve made that level of interaction very simple – making it easy to find stores and buy from us.
The off-the-shelf e-commerce platform, FrescaCommerce, from BT Expedite & Fresca makes it possible to easily support free returns and exchanges in store, taking some of the hassle out of online shopping and again driving that all-important footfall. It’s helped create a genuine 360 degree shopping experience for customers – connecting online, mobile and store.
We’re already discussing with the BT team how best to implement new features, such as the virtual piggy bank and e-gift cards. But for now we’re celebrating what we’ve got. We’ve an official VIP launch party next week – when I’ll find myself being entertained by the sounds of Conor Maynard, Delilah, DJ Burn and Bip Ling among others.
Posted by David Devany, European eCommerce and Digital Director, Claire’s