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

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