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EDITORIAL M&S on data, Asda on accessibility, Tesco on strikes; plus the shift online

Over 65s are helping drive ecommerce growth – so how can you tap into them?

The way that shoppers buy has changed in recent years, and November’s retail sales figures from the BRC and KPMG show how significant that shift has been in a month of peak trading. Shoppers spent more in-store and less online than they did last year – but that last year was highly unusual, with all non-essential retail stores in a Covid-19 lockdown. It’s the longer-term trend that seems more significant here, with more purchases taking place online and fewer in stores than in November 2019.

That’s set to extend well into the future, according to the latest forecast from Edge by Ascential, which predicts that 38% of UK retail sales will be online by 2026 – having shifted online much faster during pandemic lockdowns. 

Marks & Spencer is working with that shift to digital by using data to understand how shoppers buy – and to plan accordingly. The retailer says that data is at the heart of its ongoing transformation plans, and it has launched what it says is the world’s first academy for data and AI in retail to train up the expertise that it says will enable it to unlock potential millions in value for the retailer. 

Asda is using mobile technology for a more immediate result: making its stores more accessible for blind and partially sighted customers. It’s testing a GoodMaps technology in a smartphone app that will enable shoppers to get routes from where they are to a stated area or even product within its Stevenage supermarket. 

And Hotter Shoes says services including its mobile app and foot measuring technology have all helped to lift sales over the Black Friday period, when UK manufacturing gave it added resilience despite wider supply chain problems. 

All are examples of how retailers are using digital and data to make their businesses more effective, delivering better service to customers while cutting costs. 

Tesco, meanwhile, is facing potential strike action in the run up to Christmas as warehouse and HGV drivers have voted to protest against a 4% pay offer they say does not reflect rising inflation and the cost of living. The supermarket says it will be able to still deliver Christmas for customers, thanks to its contingency plans. 

In today’s guest comment Steve Ritter of Mitek argues that retailers must now prioritise security and convenience as retail spending grows in the wake of Covid-19 lockdowns.

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