Monthly Archives: March 2015

Internet Retailing Expo

Internet Retailing – From Bricks to Clicks

The Internet Retailing Expo took place at the NEC earlier this week; 2 days packed with insight and content on all aspects of the etail world we now inhabit.

But what does internet retailing actually mean? What was once a completely separate channel, often totally diverse from the main core of the business, is now not only the fastest growing part of any retail business but perhaps the most critical to its future success. Ignore this at your peril was the clear message; don’t be caught in a downward spiral of digital paralysis because your competition is snapping at your heels and the pace of change is relentless.

Digital disruption carries with it a large dose of risk but in order to survive retailers have to embrace the change, ignoring it is not an option. So what were the key themes which emerged?

1. Personalisation

Never has it been more critical to know your customer – intimately. To earn the right to market to them is to win the right to win. That relationship between customer and retailer has never been more dynamic or as volatile as it is today. As consumers, we are more fickle than ever and display ever more promiscuous behaviour. Retailers must be able to stitch together the myriad of touch-points they have with their customers and to be able to not only interpret all the data in a meaningful fashion but be able to be relevant, inspiring and engaging. The single view of the customer remains the holy grail and it is clear that whilst everyone is on the same journey, some are further along that journey than others.

2. Fulfilment

When is there ever an Expo or conference of this nature without click and collect featuring heavily these days? It is only a few years since click and collect became known in the UK but already it is rapidly changing the business model. Where once the supply chain was viewed as a necessary but, let’s face it, dull part of any retail business, consisting of trucks and distribution centres, now it is central and integral to the success of the entire retail business. The supply chain is now in the hands of the consumer and is very visible. Stock inventory, product availability are key and the expectation is of certainty of availability. Always on, always available, anytime, anywhere, anyplace.

3. Customer Experience

“To know the why of your organisation is to enable you to deliver great customer experience” Alison Lancaster advised us during her keynote. And perhaps this is the most dynamic aspect of the most dynamic industry today; how to deliver an inspiring, exciting, engaging, multi-sensory customer experience which will entice your customers to return again and again? This is where clicks meet bricks, this is where the dovetailing and seamless integration of online and offline occurs, this is the new battleground for retailers. ROI now means return on influence. As Selfridges’ Claire Higgins succinctly put it “don’t try and measure the ROI of social, you must simply engage”.

And so we come full circle, in the days when Harry created one of the most iconic department stores in the world, it was critical to know your customer. Today it has never been truer, the secret is to be able to do this at scale.

Andrew Busby is Retail Business Head at Zensar Technologies

Retail Week Live

Retail Week Live

“To know your customer is to know why you are in business”

2 days, over 100 speakers, more than a 1,000 delegates – Retail Week Live was again the highlight in the retail calendar and Zensar was there to witness it all.

Bigger and better than ever, this was a landmark event in retail, never before has the pace of change been so frenetic, never before has the future looked so uncertain. In the words of retail CEO’s the retail climate today is “challenging” and “threatening”. We heard about failing fast, daily release cycles, experimentation, personalisation, working with start-ups; in short this felt like a conference of its time. Very different to previous years, reflecting the huge uncertainty in the industry.

Last year much was discussed about the technology……technology for the sake of it and how it would revolutionise our entire shopping experience. Well, to a large extent that is true and is playing out now but this year it seemed that the focus was more on technology as an enabler. An enabler to driving retail business outcomes; and so the themes revolved more around customer experience, personalisation, being disruptive, being relevant; in short knowing your customer – intimately.

But today many if not most retailers are unable to develop this intimate relationship with their customers; some such as Shop Direct, the winner of the Zensar Retail Technology Initiative Award, are closer than others – 1.2m different homepage personalisations is impressive – but the majority are unable to. Why? In order to become intimate with their customers, a retailer needs to not only know an awful lot about that customer – shopping behaviour, preferences, social influence, where and how they shop, even what mood they are in – but critically, to be able to join up all these different multi-various touchpoints and engagements into one cohesive and coherent dialogue.

Some, especially if not exclusively, such as the newer pure play retailers are better positioned than most due to the fact that they do not have the same legacy complexities and constraints to grapple with. But in the main for most it requires investment in order to liberate the data (by which to be able to make sense of it) the retailer holds and then in turn to convert it into meaningful, relevant customer information across the organisation.

Once this is achieved, personalisation is enabled and ultimately a single view of the customer – the Holy Grail. Only then does the retailer begin to make up ground on the soaring expectations of their customers. Only then can they truly seek to drive loyalty, NPS and conversion rates. 100 years ago a retailer knew their customers intimately because they were on the street corner and their customer base was small and they developed an intimate relationship with that small group of people. The need to do so holds true today as it did then but the challenge now is to do this at scale. As Shop Direct are doing with “experimentation at scale” so others need to follow suit.

Retail is now, more than ever, about the brand. We have an emotional connection with brands; as customers we like to understand and be knowledgeable about brands, about their products. We want to know if they ethically source, how they treat their staff, what part they play in our communities. Nearly half of all store assistants today believe that their customers know more about the product than they do. But we expect retail brands to know about us; our wants, needs, preferences, lifestyles, and yes even what mood we are in.

A personal example of how to get this very wrong which I recently experienced: sadly my mother passed away last year, however this didn’t stop one well known grocer pushing Mother’s Day promotions to me via their app – which is now uninstalled from my phone and I am unlikely to shop at that particular grocer ever again.

Personalisation is all about knowing your customer, intimately, respectfully, subtly. Those who achieve this earn the right, those who don’t will forfeit that right and as in the case above, do so spectacularly.

As the two keynotes from Dixons Carphone CEO Seb James at the opening of the conference and Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe at the close both echoed: “adapt or die”.

Andrew Busby is Retail Business Head at Zensar Technologies

Retail Week Day 1

Retail Week Live Day 1
Day 1 of the greatest retail gathering on the calendar did not disappoint; plenty of insight from the leaders of our industry and thought provoking messages to conjure with.

One thing is clear – none of us really knows what the future holds for retail and more importantly what the connected consumer of the future looks like. This is what makes Retail Week Live so absorbing and fascinating – never has the industry been so dynamic and exciting.

From Seb James to Lord Mandelson to Mike Coupe to Jacqueline Gold, Retail Week served up a veritable cornucopia of distinguished speakers to whet our appetites and fuel our collective thinking. Inspired by all this, what were the main themes emerging from day 1?

We live in an age of the connected consumer but what does this mean? It signals a fundamental shift from traditional thinking and represents, according to Seb James, an asteroid about to hit us. Never before have we been in an age where the power and influence of the consumer has been so great. This is both a threat and an opportunity for retailers. Those who grasp it will reap the rewards whilst those who choose to ignore it will die. It is that simple. This power is challenging the traditional retail business model.

Much is said about digital but few are able to articulate what this means for us as consumers and especially for retail brands. But one thing is clear, a digital future awaits all of us and the opportunity will be how we embrace it in order to better fulfil our lives. Day 1 at the conference demonstrated that retail has a huge part to play in this – just how much only time will tell. If we are to trust retail brands then they must earn the right to connect with us but what they get in return will be invaluable.

Never before has retail been so relevant to all of us; never before has the future been so uncertain.

Andrew Busby is Retail Business Head at Zensar Technologies