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Internet Retailing 2011 Interview: Mark Hodgkinson, HMV

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In our latest preview of our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2011, we speak to keynote speaker Mark Hodgkinson, soon to take on the role of HMV’s new marketing and ecommerce director, about what he’s learned in more than a decade of working with the internet.

For more than a decade, Mark Hodgkinson has worked for a wide variety of businesses, helping them to innovate in the face of changes wrought by digital. They have included Virgin Money and EMI Music and, most recently, as Asda digital and financial services director he was responsible for Now he’s about to start work at HMV as marketing and ecommerce director.

At first glance these may seem to be very different businesses but, perhaps surprisingly, he says, the issues that have faced him across all of them have been more similar than he might have expected. “It’s been really an education for me as much as anything to see how consistent some of the challenges are across what might on the surface seem quite a diverse range of businesses,” he said. We asked him to share some of the lessons he’s learned.

Dealing with change

Large, well-established businesses have reliable, consistent ways of doing things and this is a key part of their success in traditional environments. But when it comes to running an internet business for those companies, “change needs to be a fundamental part of your business model,” said Hodgkinson. “You can be a hero one day and at zero the next day. You have to be able to deal with change and I guess build change management into everything you do. I think for large businesses that can be more challenging. But in your clicks business you need to be more fleet of foot.”

The customer is number one

Listening to customers is key to the success of an online business. By using analytics to interpret data companies can gain important insights into what their customers want from them. “Set your business up in such a way that you’re both hearing what they’re telling you, and doing something about it very effectively,” said Hodgkinson.

Multichannel it

While customers expect to deal with businesses through a variety of channels, the reality of those business’ operations is often a far cry from true multichannel. Too often the internet business is simply bolted on to the bricks and mortar business. “I think the key to success is that it needs to be a really joined up business,” said Hodgkinson. “That means not only that the processes are joined up but you have consistent incentives across people working in the business.”

Visualise the business

“Part of the danger of an internet business is that you can’t physically see a lot of what you’re doing,” says Hodgkinson. Thus businesses may run a series of different websites that are not linked, or trade through different channels without joining them up. That makes it worth imagining how the business would be if it were a bricks and mortar one. “None of us would build an environment whereby your grocery business was dealt with by one store and right next door your non-food business was dealt with by another store, leaving customers to go in and go out of these stores,” he said. Yet that’s what often happens online.

Use your existing skills

Most businesses have a variety of existing skills within them. Rather than starting from scratch, these existing skills can be leveraged to add value online. Thus new analytical skills can add insights to existing marketing expertise. The design skills of a store manager can be applied to thinking about how things are laid out and positioned online as well as in a store. “It isn’t all about acquiring new skills but about getting your whole business to think about how it becomes a multichannel business rather than a bricks retailer,” said Hodgkinson.

Mark Hodgkinson of HMV is a keynote speaker at our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2011, to be held at the Novotel Hammersmith on October 4. He will be speaking in the keynote session, which runs from 9.30am to 10.50am, alongside Miriam Lahage of eBay and Gavin Sathianathan of Facebook.

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