The UK’s biggest multichannel and fulfilment event returns to Birmingham in April. Emma Herrod looks ahead to where the multichannel industry meets.
THE INTERNETRETAILING Expo (IRX), co-located with eDelivery Expo (EDX), Europe’s only dedicated multichannel retail and delivery event, returns to Birmingham’s NEC for a 7th year on 5 and 6 April. The free-to-attend conferences and exhibition attracted more than 5,000 visitors last year and 2017’s event promises as many opportunities to discuss the latest key ecommerce, mobile, marketplaces and fulfilment trends.
More than 90 key influencers and members of the IRUK Top500, the 500 most significant retailers in the UK and Europe are taking to the stages during the two days of conference. From digital payments to customer experience and cross-border expansion to mobile growth, the Expos will focus on the industry’s most pressing issues and concerns and how overcoming these will be essential to driving multichannel retail performance and excellence.
Trailblazers from brands such as Sainsbury’s [IRDX RSBR], LEGO [IRDX RLEG], Harrods [IRDX RHAR], John Lewis [IRDX RJLW], M&S [IRDX RMAS], Alibaba Group [IRDX RALI], Ocado [IRDX ROCA] , Schuh [IRDX RSCH], Vodafone [IRDX RVOD], Specsavers [IRDX RSPS], Volkswagen, GAME [IRDX RGME] and Made.com will preside over the 8 free-to-attend conference tracks. There, they will analyse what 2017 will bring for ecommerce and multichannel, particularly in the wake of Brexit and the resulting shift in the commercial and political landscape, and share their own experience and best practices to capitalise on change and opportunity.
Growing a business across international borders and the use of digital in store to enhance the customer experience while also optimising store operations and omnichannel effectiveness have all been high on retailers’ agendas in recent years. Every aspect brings with it an opportunity to innovate, to test and discover what works for each retailer’s own customers. Lululemon Athletica, for example, has grown to be one of the five largest shopping centre retailers in the US by sales per square foot in less than 20 years. The company is innovating around digital in store in areas such as changing rooms and how it showcases product functionality through the use of video footage throughout its stores. Lululemon’s Vice President – Digital Product and Guest Experience, Alan Wizemann, will provide the opening plenary address on 5 April sharing with delegates how the sportswear brand is using digital to drive global growth and customer satisfaction.
As Lululemon shows, digital is being seen increasingly in stores, and not just in the concept stores and flagships of previous years’ column inches. Rollouts in 2016 included iPads across the entire store estates enabling staff to help shoppers find and order the right product – whether that’s a size that’s not in stock or something that was advertised after last night’s Coronation Street. QR-coded swing tags, linking products in store to shopper reviews and product videos just by being scanned by the shopper’s own phone, have also been seen across a store estate in 2016.
These are just two of the ways in which digital is enhancing the customer experience in store and bringing the off and online channels closer together. There is no one path to digital integration and omnichannel success though. While RFID tags to track merchandise around a store may be the answer for one retailer, they may wipe out another’s margins.
A whole day will be devoted to the journey ‘From Clicks to Bricks’ with delegates able to hear about the experiences of other retailers, the ground-breaking technologies and strategies that are driving the deepening integration of online and offline and how they can get smarter about the way to help shoppers feel connected in multiple retail spaces and online places. Delegates will hear from leading retailers who are successfully delivering a seamless online to physical store shopping experience, boosting sales, enhancing customer experience and really making the digitally-enabled store work hard as part of an integrated whole. Speakers in this conference include John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Maplin, Made.com and Google.
Aside from the Brexit question overhanging all retailers in the UK, planning, establishing and growing retail operations in multiple countries brings with it significant challenges. Just 60% of the top retailers in the UK ship internationally, so many are yet to seize the opportunity of cross-border trade and opening up new markets. For many, our closest neighbour Ireland offers a taste of cross-border trade while for others, the US or Germany beckon with their mature ecommerce markets. The drop in the value of the pound after the Brexit referendum led to a spike in sales from overseas shoppers to UK ecommerce sites showing there is still a large appetite for British goods.
Along with the presentation from Lululemon, luxury brand Mytheresa.com and the ecommerce specialist for trading in China from the Department for International Trade will share insights into the global growth of ecommerce. Topics covered will range from market and model selection through to effective partnerships, localisation and branding challenges. Other speakers will share how they are evaluating the risk of entering new territories and re-evaluating and exploring different growth areas in the aftermath of Brexit.
Mobile – and its anticipated growth to two thirds of all online sales by 2020 – will be discussed in the Mobile conference as retailers explore how they are aiming to get a big chunk of the £43bn expected to be spent on mobile devices in the UK alone.
In all, 8 key themes of online and multichannel retailing in 2017 will be highlighted in the conferences at IRX and EDX. These are:
- From Bricks to Clicks
- Going Global
- Mobile First
- The Final Mile
- Marketplaces Revolution
- Customer Obsession
- The Product and Beyond
- Operational Excellence
Attendees to IRX and EDX will also be able to participate in 20 workshops for hands-on, practical training and address their own personal ecommerce doubts and questions in exclusive one-on-one 30 minute clinics, delivered by leading companies and retailers in the industry.
In addition, the show will have special networking events and dedicated spaces where leading retailers, entrepreneurs and suppliers will gather, connect and conduct meetings in a professional but relaxed atmosphere. Two of them are the Top500 Lounge, and the IMRG Lounge, where the UK’s online retail association will be sharing their insights and statistics on the UK market and the performance of the multichannel industry.
For visitors particularly interested in the last mile of multichannel retail, the eDelivery Expo (EDX), will have its own dedicated conference tracks – The Final Mile on day one and Operational Excellence on day two. These will look in depth at the delivery and distribution side of internet retailing and, ultimately, how to fulfil the future of the retail nation.
Ecommerce is expected to produce over 1.5bn parcels in the UK alone so the Final Mile conference will showcase an exciting mix of suppliers, education and best practice advice designed to make final mile deliveries go the distance, whether that’s delivery to the customer’s home, to a third party pick up point or to a retailer’s own collection point in store.
Presentations will cover strategies and technologies designed to drive increased flexibility, convenience and cost-effectiveness, understanding what customers actually want and what tools and strategies to use to manage expectations to ensure cost-effectiveness and drive profitability.
The final mile is undergoing major change as carriers and retailers alike innovate to ensure that the customer promise is delivered, efficiently and in a way that not only gives the expected customer experience, but is sustainable as a business cost. Get the final mile wrong, and business is measurably lost, but get it right and win the competitive edge.
Putting the customer at the heart of the delivery and operational side of the business is new to many supply chain teams. What were once back-end operations are now coming front of house with teams having to better understand the customer and workings of other departments. Aligning operations with better customer experiences is the title of the closing keynote in the Operational Excellence conference. James Matthews, Managing Director – General Merchandise, Ocado, will share how the era of the customer-facing supply chain is benefiting customers and retailers and how logistical challenges can be converted into commercial opportunities.
Also speaking in the EDX conferences are Dino Rocos, Member of the board of John Lewis. He’ll be giving a Festive Post-Mortem and talking about the lessons moving forward in 2017 and beyond. Delegates will also hear from Harrods, The Smugg, Sainsbury’s, Feelunique and Asda – which in 2015 opened up its own logistics operation to other retailers as it started using its store estate as pick up and drop off points.
In the exhibition area, service and solution providers will also showcase the latest technology in packaging, parcels, stock management, warehousing, logistics end-to-end, and many more areas to help retailers improve their operations performance.
Ahead of the show, Sam North, Portfolio Director, said: “IRX and EDX are established as the must-attend event in the multichannel calendar. Not only because they bring together the most ambitious retailers and the leading suppliers, but because they provide a platform for attendees and multichannel retail innovators to connect, interact, experience and learn, all under one roof. We’re looking forward to hosting record numbers of visitors this year, all wanting to learn how best to sell online.
Ecommerce is one of the few industries which has seen sustained growth in double-digits in 2016 and that acceleration in online sales is expected to continue in 2017. For the industry to continue progressing, innovation, collaboration and knowledge sharing is key, and this is the success behind our Expos.”
TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
A key aspect of this year’s IRX and EDX event is the focus on interactiveness and immersion. The show will unveil exclusive demos of cutting-edge technology showcased by 300 leading solution providers such as Ingenico ePayments, Monetate, Klarna and SLI Systems. As well as the announcements and chance to get hands-on with technology on the exhibitors’ stands, delegates at IRX 2017 will be able to get up-to-date with the latest technology at a series of open theatres.
These provide a platform for technology companies to explain their products to retailers, brands and other multichannel and ecommerce professionals attending the event. Visitors to the Digital Payments Theatre, for example, will be able to see some of the solutions that they can use to improve their checkout experience. It comes at a time when removing friction from the payment process is recognised as an important way to improve conversions whether on mobile, desktop or across channels.
New markets, too, demand new digital payment approaches. Retailers must offer the relevant currencies and payment methods in order to win business from international shoppers who expect to pay using familiar methods. Payment technology suppliers will take the floor for 20 minute sessions, explaining how their solution works, and to which clients it’s most likely to be relevant. Retailers will also have opportunities to ask and answer questions with the technology provider direct.
In the Omnichannel Experience Theatre, there’ll be a focus on technologies that support retailers and brands as they tackle the challenges of presenting customers with a joined-up experience that stays relevant and consistent even as shoppers move between channels. Technology suppliers, leaders in the field, will explain how their solutions can help retailers to do just that, and how they can use them in the most effective ways.
Both the Digital Payments Theatre and the Omnichannel Experience Theatre will run throughout the two days of IRX and EDX 2017.