IRC 2013 INTERVIEW The evolution of instore retailing at FatFace
Ahead of the annual Internet Retailing Conference (IRC 2013) we’re running a series of previews of the event, focusing on the highlights of the one-day conference and featuring interviews with speakers. Today we speak to Paul Wright of multichannel fashion retailer FatFace, who will be taking part in a panel discussion on internet retailing in store.Internet Retailing: Tell us about the FatFace experience of in-store retailing so far?Paul Wright, head of ecommerce, FatFace:
Our customers are in a purchase mode when they’re in our store, not a browse-the-website-on-an-iPad mode. They want to get in there and actually have help with their shopping. The biggest thing we’ve done is to improve the service proposition. The biggest examples of that would be if you can’t find your size in the store, you can order it on the till from the warehouse stock, so joining till up with the website. Or ordering online to have it sent to the store. We’ve improved the proposition, with a range of options for all our customers.IR: Tell us about a challenge that you’ve come up against and how it was solved.PW:
There were stacks and stacks of complexities. I suppose the biggest, and I expect most retailers have the same pain, is joining up disparate systems. Last year we rolled out a brand new till system across our store estate, so we took the opportunity to integrate it properly with the website. So far it’s about 30% integrated with the website, to enable things like in-store ordering of web stock. It’s massively difficult to do but actually the rewards from that have been enormous. IR: And can you tell us about an unexpected benefit that emerged from all this?PW:
The biggest benefit from is that we’re seeing growth in customer web orders from store of 142% – it was unexpected to have such growth. We’re really reaping the rewards of going through that pain now. It’s very, very difficult and complex and needs to be done sensitively. It’s not an easy gain but customer behaviour is almost dictating to us what they want and how they want to interact and shop with us. We have to find ways of embracing that.
The other secondary benefit that we’re seeing is just the collection of customer data. If they’re placing the order on the till that’s great, we’ve got customer records for marketing or to begin creating direct relationships that we may not have had before. That in turn provides us with bigger data, how customers are shopping across our channels and enables product allocation to really suit what they’re looking for.IR: How will your customers shop in five years time, and how will that be different from today?PW:
I think customers are still learning today, they’re finding out about these services whether it be click and collect, going into store to order stock that’s not in their size, or if they can find a particular size or colour.
In five years customers will fully have embraced this, the multi-touchpoint will just be expected. Retailers in the next five years just need to keep learning from digital experiences and then seamlessly drop them into the high street to make sure that they can continue to deliver against that customer expectation. The main difference being that customers are learning today and in five years time customers will just expect it, it will just be normal. At the pace at which they are changing, retailers won’t be able to modify and put in haphazard processes bodged together with sticking tape. They’ll just expect this consistent experience.IR: How will the balance between store and online have changed? Will stores be a showroom? PW:
I certainly am not a believer in the high street is dead. I think all the channels will need to work seamlessly well together and complement each other. Online will inform retailers more strategically about the location of their stores, so whereas high street retailers may have had 15 stores across London in the past they may be able to get away with five, more smartly moving products around and allocating products to stores embracing that type of data a bit better.
I think customer behaviour is moving faster than most high street retailers are able to keep up with. Those in the digital profession need to keep taking the new technologies that customers are embracing, whether mobile, click and collect type services, and just need to keep pushing those onto the high street so that that is delivered.IR: Any final thoughts?PW:
One of the biggest learnings we have at Fat Face is just keep it simple, don’t overcomplicate. It’s just retailing at the end of the day, just understanding how customers are shopping across channels. It’s not too much more complicated than that. Keep it simple. Hooking up the IT systems, can be a challenge but it’s all about delivering that simple experience at the end of the day.Paul Wright, head of ecommerce at FatFace, will be among the panelists on the Internet Retailing In Store panel discussion at Internet Retailing Conference 2013. The discussion, in The Customer conference stream takes place at 2.35pm.