Customer Focus

IRC 2017 INTERVIEW Kieron Smith of Blackwell’s on building loyalty

Ahead of this year’s InternetRetailing Conference (IRC 2017) we’re previewing the event through features and interviews with key speakers. This week we hear from Kieron Smith, digital director at bookseller Blackwell’s.

InternetRetailing: You’re speaking at IRC 2017 on building loyalty and retention through effective consumer analysis. In your experience, do consumers still want to be loyal and if so, what is one thing that they demand from retailers in exchange for that loyalty?

Kieron Smith, digital director at Blackwell’s [IRDX RBLA]: A lot of what we’re doing at Blackwell’s is around the concept of being a 138-year-old start-up (Blackwell’s was founded in 1879) and building towards employee ownership as we return the business to profitability. Bookselling is (fairly obviously) one of the toughest markets online and it’s how we serve our customers better, and differentiate in order to do this. A lot of what is said about big data and CRM sounds great, but what we’ve been focused on is more around developing the relationships we have between our booksellers and customers. That’s about the extension of our supply chain into the shops and giving our staff the tools they need to deliver exceptional service, and the (as yet unfinished) project to bring personality to our digital interactions with customers.

IR: How does consumer analysis help retailers to deliver that?

KS: I think it can be a help and a hindrance, it’s crucial to measure of course, but can be dangerous where the focus is on small incremental growth ahead of real innovation and looking at the bigger opportunities.

IR: What’s the biggest challenge facing traders in the area of consumer loyalty and retention?

KS: Noise. Everyone wants to claim to know what product it is you really want next, everyone knows your name and location and shoe size, and your particular filter bubble. How to get cut through on this is really hard, but crucial. If it only becomes about operational efficiency – collect it in 10s time – then the fun in retail rather dissipates. The serendipity of finding the book you never knew existed for example.

IR: How do you see this area developing over the coming few years?

KS: I suspect we’ll actually see a desire for a return to authenticity and a rejection of some of the purely analytic approaches.

IR: Aside from your own presentation what are you most looking forward to at IRC 2017?
I’d like to hear from other retailers who are innovating in integrated offers that go beyond click and collect.

The InternetRetailing Conference, taking place in London on October 5, is the 12th annual edition of the event and this year focuses on energising retail. It runs alongside sister event the eDelivery Conference, and will be held at the Novotel, Hammersmith, London. One pass gives entry to both events with speakers including Giles Delafeld, global CIO, Clarks; Bill Hopkins, executive director of operations and logistics, Trainline; Philip Driver, head of ecommerce EMEA, Canon Europe; and Regis Koenig, director of customer services, Darty.

For further information on the conferences, and to register for your delegate pass, visit www.internetretailingconference.com.

Mentioned in this piece…

Blackwell’s

Blackwell’s

IRDX: RBLA

Blackwell’s is a British academic book retailer and library supply service originally founded in 1879 by Benjamin Henry Blackwell, after whom the chain is named. Based in Oxford, the original Broad Street branch is now part of a larger chain of 45 shops, as well as an accounts and library supply service. (more…)