At IR Towers we recognise the importance of face-to-face meetings, the experience of ‘being there’ and the ability to focus fully on an idea or issue. While we have a growing range of events and activities, created specifically for retailers from Jumpstarts to webinars, we also appreciate that time is precious. Here are some of the learnings from recent events.
THOUSANDS TURN OUT FOR IRX 2013
Thousands of ecommerce professionals flocked to Birmingham’s NEC in March for Internet Retailing’s fast-growing annual expo, IRX 2013. The editorial team at Internet Retailing were there to chair conference sessions, speak to exhibitors and visitors and report on the latest developments.
More than 150 suppliers staffed a bustling exhibition space where both long-established and innovative new technologies were on show. Alongside the event were 12 hands-on workshops covering subjects from rich media and merchandising platforms through to omnichannel success and email strategies. All were fully booked. Queues formed outside the six conferences that ran over the course of the two days and a wide range of businesses, from search specialists to packaging providers, showcased their innovations in presentations in the Innovation TV Studio.
International and cross border trading were highlighted as key issues by retailers in the ‘13 for 13’ research conducted for the event and there were plenty of retailers willing to share their experiences in the International and Cross Border Conference. Jonny Zhu, of CharmClick, European partners for Chinese search giant Baidu, used the event to announce the partnership between Baidu, CharmClick and Net Media Planet for the UK and Ireland and their aim to ease access for Western retailers to China’s fast growing ecommerce market.
INTERNET RETAILING IN STORE
Internet Retailing in Store (IRIS) was another key theme for the year accorded its own conference stream. Joanna Robb [IRDX IJOR], Head of Multichannel Development and Strategy, B&Q [IRDX RDIY], spoke about the DIY retailer’s Darwin Project through which it is transforming the business through new operational models and systems and changing the way it sells. Benefit will arrive from “range, loyalty of repeat visitors and valid mobile offering and call centre selling,” she said.
At the foundation, said Robb, is how the business manages customer and product data. Building on this is the omnichannel platform through which it will reap rewards from future growth. Splitting the front end into customer and colleague projects means the business can work to a multidevice strategy for customers and extract data from existing desktop systems to tablets and kiosks for use by colleagues in store. Robb told delegates that recent launches include a TradePoint ecommerce offering and pay and collect functionality for its main diy.com site.
Kieran Clinton-Tarestad [IRDX IKCT], Head of eCommerce, Gant UK [IRDX RGAN], raised the issue of brands becoming retailers and retailers becoming brands in a speech that highlighted the challenges that ecommerce is bringing to relationships between manufacturers, retailers, subsidiaries, franchisees, across own store networks and territories. In the future, “brands will take back control of their distribution centrally,” he told delegates, adding that the brand is about to launch a pick up in store service with John Lewis. “Customers don’t see the difference between Gant and Gant sold in John Lewis,” he said.
“Manufacturers are the last people to go direct to consumers,” said David Williams [IRDX IDWI], Head of Online, EMEA, Deckers Outdoor [IRDX RDEO], who also spoke about channel conflict for manufacturers. He advised other brands to revisit their distribution channels and ask what value are others adding to you, what makes your experience unique and significantly to “change your own mindset.”
OPERATING ON THE LOGISTICS
During the past year Asda [IRDX RASD]has rolled out a Click and Collect grocery service to 100 collection points. Saeed Anslow [IRDX ISAA], Development Director (Home Shopping) at Asda, told the IRX Operations and Logistics conference that there are plans for at least 200 points, but “very possibly more, by the end of the year”. They’re not only at Asda stores, he told delegates, but also at three petrol filling points, a business park in Reading and a Park & Ride collection point opened in Nottingham in April. Ordering for same day collection will also be launched later this year.
Some interesting points on the same subject also emerged from the Future of Logistics panel in the same theatre. Useful points included the use of social media for logistics. As well as the Royal Mail’s [IRDX VRYM] Twitter account winning praise, it also emerged that ByBox [IRDX VBYB] successfully crowdsourced locations for its locker bank expansion programme. While Elgin, in Scotland, seemed an unlikely location, it has proved the company’s eighth most popular site, thanks to the popularity of online shopping in an area with something of a dearth of shops.
Louis Agabani [IRDX ILAG], of MyHigh.St [IRDX RMYH], closed his account of the logistical challenges experienced by the marketplace’s 172 retailers with a call to action for SMEs who together form a force to be reckoned with. He told delegates how MyHigh.St is trialling its own costeffective solutions including using a pub as a hub for parcel collections, a butcher’s van to share deliveries in Wells, Somerset, cycle couriers for same-day delivery in Bristol and a trial of ByBox lockers.
THE REVOLUTION WILL BE MOBILIZED
Mobile is forcing a radical revamp of the retail industry producing a “transformation of the industry,” Mike Davies UK Sales Director at PayPal told a packed room for his opening keynote presentation at the SoLoMo conference. The customer now has so much power through online and mobile that retailers face a challenge to try and adapt to a rapidly changing market, Davies warned. “The power is now all in their hands – literally,” he told delegates.
Payments figured highly within the SoLoMo sessions. Coming just a week after Comic Relief – the BBC TV charity telethon – which saw a staggering 58% of donations coming through mobile (via PSMS no less), it is high time that people took mobile payments more seriously.
David Warr, owner and MD of Jersey-based coffee shop chain Cooper & Co, told delegates how the introduction of payments via a voucher on Apple’s Passbook app has led to an increase in sales and loyalty. Warr believes that eventually we will see NFC contactless mobile payments, but his advice to retailers holding back from doing mobile payments while the picture becomes clearer, is to “just go for it”.
Interestingly, this year’s mobile track at IRX was dominated not by the rush to offer transactional mobile apps or m-websites, but more to discuss how to create a holistic retail experience across all channels, with mobile sitting at the centre.
Pizza Hut’s [IRDX RPIZ] IT Director Steve Ash [IRDX ISTA] offered some interesting retailer insight into what this actually means in practice for its delivery and dine in businesses. “Each has three channels,” Ash told delegates. “Store, web and mobile – and that is a lot to keep updating and managing.” Pizza Hut’s answer has been to work with vendor bemoko [IRDX VSDL] to create a single channel that can be intelligently adapted to each channel. So there is one set of data that then gets relevant parts rendered on the PC, mobile, tablet and in store systems.
“Has it worked?” Ash asked rhetorically. “Well, we used to see five to seven per cent sales through mobile and tablet, now its 30% – and this has been an increase in sales, not just a cannibalization of other channels. Mobile does work.”
In all, more than 100 speakers took part in the varied sessions at IRX2013 and our AV team was on hand to record the proceedings. Most of the presentations are now available to view and review on the Internet Retailing Expo site www.internetretailingexpo.com.
Mentioned in this piece…
Head of Multichannel Development and Strategy
Head of eCommerce
Director of Online, EMEA at Deckers Brands
Development Director Home Shopping