Amazon [IRDX RAMZ] is wanting consumers to press a button on the washing machine to order more washing powder. The launch of these Dash Buttons in the UK herald the next stage of one-click ordering. I wonder though whether they are also a stage towards the coffee machine automatically placing an order for my favourite brand when supplies run low or the ability to order by voice with Amazon listening for opportunities to take an order or propose a purchase. The launch of its Echo speakers into the UK already show how voice can be used to control the smart home – and they will place an order with Amazon too.
While Amazon pioneers new ways of selling us everything, other retailers are still grappling with connecting their stores, online and mobile operations. From how the organisational structure and working practices alter to recognising customers across different devices, omnichannel throws up many challenges. And there’s not a one size fits all solution. For every company that says it’s on an omnichannel journey, there is a different transformation plan and many of those are rolling plans as customer expectations continue to shift and technological advancements open up new opportunities.
Mothercare [IRDX RMOC] , for example, has six pillars to its transformation plan which, the company hopes, will see it turnaround its financial position too. Gary Kibble, Global Brand and Marketing Director, Mothercare, appears on the cover of this issue of InternetRetailing and spoke to me in depth about the company’s new ecommerce site, omnichannel store refurbishment programme and ambition to become the leading global retailer for parents and young children.
Mothercare’s old site was losing the retailer sales with half of its customers dropping out between adding items to their basket and ultimate conversion. The new site includes responsive design, simplified checkout, natural search, improved navigation, performance and speed – all things that are necessary for it to engage with its young, digitally-savvy customer base.
As consumers have become increasingly connected, expecting retailers to give them the full digital experience in store – something which Mothercare is moving towards with the use of Zappar codes on swing tags to link customers with rich content and product reviews – so shop assistants have been kitted out with tablets and apps to provide a greater level of digital service. Mothercare has rolled out iPads to store staff, so too has Boots, while at Halfords staff can use tablets and smart watches when a customer comes in to collect their order.
“Such mobilisation projects are few and far between though,” says Paul Skeldon in his feature on mobile and omnichannel later in this issue. “What mobile tech can offer should go way further for retailers and should be part of the everyday,” he says.
According to Eva Pascoe, founder of world’s first internet café, Cyberia, and now at The Retail Practice, an analyst firm hired by big brands to deep dive into the future: “Mobile is the answer to retail’s prayers in terms of customer engagement and loyalty, and helps retailers achieve what I call the “minimum viable utopia” for shoppers. With innovations such as Apple Pay, what happens on an EPOS can happen on a mobile device. Every employee is a cashier and every point in the shop is a money taking point. This solves the biggest customer satisfaction issue, long queues. This is a fundamental change in our retail behaviour of the past 100 years.”.
There are pitfalls for retailers though. Paul Skeldon investigates these, alongside examining some very good reasons why many retailers aren’t looking to mobilise their staff any time soon.
From mobilising staff in store to voice-controlled ordering in your own home, omnichannel continues to evolve rapidly and who knows where the future will take it. As Ian Jindal, InternetRetailing’s Editor-in-chief, says in his editorial comment, “I am old enough to believe that Star Trek showed us the future”. Maybe voice will be it.
The future of retail – through mobile, international and marketplaces – will be examined and debated at this year’s InternetRetailing Conference. Returning for an 11th year to the Novotel, in Hammersmith, London, the 2016 event takes the theme of New Horizons.
Speakers hail from retailers and service providers as diverse as Home Retail Group, Urban Outfitters, Lego, Woolovers and Vente-Privée, as well as AirBnB. A full listing of the topics and speakers, along with a preview of the event, can be seen later in this issue as well as online at www.internetretailingconference.com.
“Ecommerce professionals, for over a decade at the vanguard of innovation and radical change, are themselves now having to adapt and change as ecommerce is no longer a channel but an equal partner with stores,” says Ian Jindal. “For 2016 we’re looking to new horizons that the modern digitally-enabled retailer can scan as we seek to satisfy the demands of the connected, savvy customer.”
The team at InternetRetailing will be at the one-day Conference on 12 October, as well as at the eDelivery Conference which is taking place on the previous day. We’re looking forward to seeing you there. Join us at the IR Conference on 12 October, as well as at the eDelivery Conference which is taking place on the previous day. We looking forward to seeing you there.