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Get to know our speakers

We already know that speakers at IRC 2019 are experts in their field, who have valuable experience and insights to share with their audience. We know that what they have to say will both inspire and make a real practical difference to the day-to-day running of ecommerce and multichannel retailers, as they look to meet customer expectations. That’s a given. But it’s also good to get to know a little bit more about what makes our speakers tick, as individuals. We asked what keeps them awake at night, and for an insight into their hopes and dreams. This is what they said.

What keeps you awake at night?

Very little keeps our top-level retailers from their slumbers at night – with the possible exception of children, football – and occasionally birds.

For Stephen Dowling, vice president digital growth at Adidas, it’s his 16-month old daughter, and “the poor state of my beloved Manchester United” that interrupt his sleep, and for Stephen Honight, ecommerce and performance marketing lead (global) at Pukka Herbs it’s his young kids.

But teenagers are keeping Ashley Hubbard, ecommerce manager at Grenson Shoes, awake. “I have two teenage daughters – one is at university and the other is 14. That will keep anybody up at night!”

Polly McMaster, chief executive and co-founder of The Fold, says that nothing keeps her awake at night. Since she has two small kids and a business, “people need me to have plenty of energy during the day.” That said, “if I get a chance to sleep, I take it!”

Chloë Thomas, founder, eCommerce MasterPlan, says it’s the early morning wake-up calls from the birds using her bird feeder that interrupt her sleep.

But seriously…

It’s excitement that keeps Chris Conway, head of commerce at The Co-operative Group, awake. “It’s mostly excitement at all the change that’s happening in the market at the moment. I’m aware that I need to keep abreast of everything that’s going on, as well as filtering out what is important and what isn’t.”

Lucy Shamdasani, VP, head of engagement technology and analytics at Lego Group, stays on a similar theme. “Moving as fast as we need to in order to keep up with the pace of change in the commerce and data space, identifying those technologies that will be game changers for our organisation – but not trying to do everything,” she says.

For Stuart Heffernan, head of ebusiness at Pernod Ricard UK, it’s important to stay grounded.
“Each day I get asked the same questions by senior leaders outside of commerce that were being asked fo of me 15 years ago when I started,” he says. “And thinking to myself, ‘am I correct? Have the answers have changed?’ The answer is broadly, ‘no they haven’t’.”

Ashley Hubbard of Grenson Shoes says that although he tries not to worry too much – “it’s not life and death and nothing that can’t be resolved” – he also thinks about how the parts of the business’ ecommerce eco system are working together, and where any complications might be.”

Pukka Herbs’ Stephen Honight says correctly estimating the halo effect on sales from performance marketing activities can disturb his sleep.

Hopes and dreams

Senior retailers and brand executives want to keep improving the way the industry works.
“I’d love to build a safe online environment for kids led by Lego, an ecosystem covering all aspects from video to gaming and social,” says Lucy Shamdasani, of Lego.

Miriam Lahage, chief executive of Figleaves, also works as a fellow with, which brings together entrepreneurs and venture capital to build businesses and tech companies that look to solve some of the world’s biggest social problems. “Specifically,” she says, “I work closely with one of the start-ups in the portfolio,, that uses technology to make it safer and easier to speak up at work, with the aim of helping eradicate harassment in the workplace.”

Pernod Ricard’s Heffernan is looking forward to a day at his desk, with no meetings. “Aside from that I’d love to take my entire team on an commerce world tour, viewing how other markets are developing and bringing some of that learning back and changing the case of UK e-tailing in our category.”

The Co-operative Group’s Conway says one thing he’d like to do is launch his own start-up. “I’ve had hundreds of ideas in the past and I’m sure one of them would have paid off! I’ve got lots of experience working with start ups, and I definitely know a lot of very intelligent people who could help me, but time will tell! Failing that, I’d love to sky dive for charity at some point when I’ve got some time!”

In the longer-tern Pukka Herbs’ Honight would love to run his own consultancy. “That would mean working with multiple brands and retailers who I can share my own knowledge and experiences with, while also learning from them and their different ways of working.”

Mike Baxter, who already works as a consultant, at Goal Atlas, where he is a director, wants to see new ways of dealing with customer data. “Hand ownership and control of data to individuals and give them effective ways to share it with retailers (and others) so they can meaningfully influence what gets promoted to them,” he says.

The last word goes to Polly McMaster, chief executive and co-founder of The Fold. “The hardest thing is to stick to your guns and not go crazy. If we can achieve amazing growth with a laser-focused vision hopefully we won’t lose sight of what our customer loves about us.”

Now that you know more about some of the speakers at IRC 2019, come along and meet them for yourselves. These and many more speakers will be contributing to the debate on how ecommerce and multichannel retailers can improve the customer experience and meet customer expectations at the same time.

IRC 2019 takes place on October 10 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. A full-price retailer delegate ticket costs £495, but as an InternetRetailing reader we can offer you 75% off full price tickets if you use discount code IRMSEB100 (for retailers only). Vendors can get up to 20% off full price tickets by using the discount code IRMEBDP100.

Read the first part of this series here:

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