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Internet Retailing 2010: Conference round-up

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Hundreds of delegates flocked to our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2010, held this week in Hammersmith London. There they heard from a broad cross-section of speakers at the event, for which more than 1,000 delegates registered, with the latest insights into ecommerce practice.

On Tuesday we brought you highlights of the keynote speakers, and today the spotlight turns to the speakers from the rest of the event.

Nick Lansley of Tesco, who took a look at how the supermarket continually reaches out to new audiences through new channels of shopping, and David Tarbuck, multichannel programme and operations manager at Argos, giving insights into how Argos works with its customers and drives innovation, were among key draws of the event.

Mark Cody, O2 channel business manager, looked at the future of mobile shopping. Now that 20% of the UK population has a smartphone, and 60% of all phones sold in the UK are smartphones, he argued, it’s a good time for others to investigate taking a look at what an app or mobile-optimised website has to offer them. For mobile, he said, gives shoppers the chance to carry on shopping, wherever they are.

Michael Robinson, head of ecommerce at Anthropologie Europe, gave a rundown on how the retailer’s website and catalogue channels had developed since they were both first launched in 1998. Back then the website had a budget of some $3,000 – but today it’s an integral part of the buying process. Anthopologie sofas, it seems, are more likely to be bought online than in store, even though many purchasers will go to the store to look, because it’s easier to get the information together and check measurements from home. One important thing to note, he said, is that shoppers “want us to have what they saw in store – in stock and for the same price.” That was a big challenge because the stores and the website were two different businesses. Today that has changed. Backroom processes including IT have now been brought together as Anthropologie moved from being a cross-channel business to a ‘merged-channels’ one.

Mark Russell, head of ecommerce at Ideal Shopping Direct, told the story of how his company has moved itself out of a purely TV shopping niche into the online space. There are obvious crossover benefits, since video used on television can easily be streamed online, extending the broadcast hours of the shopping channels on some platforms, and the use of video, he said, helps lift sales by as much as 69%. Selling on television, he said, is about personalising products to the lives of the presenters, many of whom are very popular, giving product demonstrations and calling viewers to action, all of which which can translate to online as well. But online also gives more space for features such as longer demonstration videos, and for more stock – including products that might not sell as well on screen, as well as the ability to trial products. “You find things that work for us from a TV perspective and find ways to make it work online,” said Russell.

And analyst Daniel Latev, of Euromonitor, helped his audience sort through some of the growth opportunities available in multichannel. For while worldwide consumer growth fell back between 2007 and 2009, it’s now growing again. Retailers should be aware however, he said, that there’s now a new consumer mindset. That mindset is looking for cheaper brands, is likely to defer major purchases and is moving to new channels of shopping. Manufacturers are now selling direct online – one is example is Proctor & Gamble’s eStore, and that’s a trend that’s likely to continue as multichannel becomes a “must” for retailers. New opportunities lie in the developing world, he said, where in particular vending machines, often overlooked in the West are big business. And those new markets are worth considering, he said for while Western Europe and North America have a large share of an ageing population who may be reluctant to buy online, the same is not true of emerging economies in other parts of the world. At the same time, however, shoppers in developing markets have to work longer to buy the same products, compared to their European and North American counterparts, making the latter markets still important.

Speakers at Internet Retailing 2010 also included Kevin Ertell of ForeSee Results, Craig Sullivan of Belron, Andrew Ground of LOVEFiLM, Mike Brown of Royal Mail, Rob Silsbury and Oliver Elliott of Boden, John Squire, of Coremetrics and Ross Miller of Estee Lauder, Peter Callaway, director of ecommerce at House of Fraser, Mike Wyeth, board security adviser at Shop Direct Group and chairman of the BRC’s fraud and e-crime group, Jimmy Hale, of ATG, Jim McGrath of Elucid, and John Fitchett of Sage Pay. Panellists included Bunty Stokes of vente-privee, Giles Delafeld of Blacks Leisure Group, Sienne Veit of M&S, Alex Meisl of Sponge and Tim Dunn of MIG.

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