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EDITORIAL How will leading retailers reach out to customers in challenging times?

Debenhams incoming chief executive is the first to admit that he joins at a challenging time. His focus, as a turnaround specialist, will be on the brand, differentiated products and on its “broad customer reach”. That implies a focus on how it reaches out to and engages with its customers, across all its sales channels. Certainly, how Debenhams engages with its customers will play a key part in how it boost sales and ultimately profitability. Its previous strategy put mobile at the heart of its business, as a way to bring shoppers into its stores. The focus will surely stay on mobile, since that is the channel through which shoppers are increasingly reaching and buying from retailers, and since Debenhams has already said it will reduce its store numbers. But exactly what part mobile will play will no doubt be part of the rethink.  We’ll be interested to see how the retailer develops and takes on its response to mobile as part of the multichannel equation in its new strategy, one for more challenging times than ever.

Debenhams is far from unique in facing challenging retail times – and looking at how best to reach its customers. Figures from KPMG and REC today show challenging times for retail job hunters with demand for temporary, and more especially permanent, jobs down.

And we also report today how the Twinings brand is looking to use technology to investigate how customer respond to it online, when buying via other retailers’ websites, and, from our European coverage, how Albert Heijn is exploring cross-selling opportunities on, and how Amazon has expanded its anti-counterfeiting programme to the continent. Meanwhile, Domino’s Pizza is facing challenges that start after the online sale – as its franchisees report difficulties in recruiting delivery drivers. 

Our guest comment comes from Andrew White of Contexta360, who considers how retailers can use data to improve customer service across channels – including over the phone.

Image: Fotolia

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