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Internet Retailing 2011 Interview: Miriam Lahage of eBay

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In the latest preview of our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2011, Miriam Lahage of eBay, keynote speaker at the event, says that how customers want to shop has changed dramatically – and retailers must adapt.

Retailers need to rethink their idea of what ‘a store’ is, in an era where customers can shop wherever and whenever they want to, says Miriam Lahage, global head of the fashion brand at online marketplace eBay.

Speaking ahead of this year’s Internet Retailing 2011 conference, at which she is a keynote speaker, Lahage said that in order to prosper in the new world of retail it was no longer enough to build a store or a website and assume that customer would come to it. Rather, she said, in an era where the growing use of mobile technology is blurring the line between offline and online shopping, retailers should “think about the store as being wherever the customer is, whenever they want to shop and however they want to shop.”

The knock-on effect, she said, is that “you think about using technology in different ways and imagining what your store is in a different way too.”

Lahage added: “The customer is really driving some of the innovation we’re seeing, and quite frankly it’s our job to make sure we’re keeping up with the customer and what they’re doing.

“There’s just been a fundamental change in the way that customers interact with any brand and the sooner that we recognise that and that the customer has a seat at the table, the better off we’ll all be.”

That keeping up with the customer means recognising the impact of key trends, including mobile, social, local and global commerce, all of which have had their own effect on the way we shop. Mobile, in particular, has grown beyond anything that would have been predicted five years ago, says Lahage. Last year, eBay made sales worth $2bn (£1.3bn) via mobile commerce, but this year that’s predicted to double to $4bn (£2.6bn). “That’s a fundamental change in the way people shop.”

What’s also changed is the nature of the goods that people will use technology to buy. A few years ago, people thought that clothes would never really sell online, that people wanted to touch, feel and try on items before they bought. Now, however, fashion represents the largest category of mobile sales at eBay, where more than 10% of its UK fashion sales are now through mobile devices. “We’re taking it pretty seriously because we’re listening to the customer and watching what they’re doing,” said Lahage, adding: “The mobile paradigm being broken I believe sets the tone for all the different things customers can do via mobile, and that includes the local and social piece as well.”

Indeed, being “channel agnostic” is key in an era when “the technology has finally caught up to where a customer needs to be,” says Lahage. “Quite frankly it isn’t about people loving to shop in one channel or another but having whatever channel makes sense to a customer for wherever they are in their daily lives.”

Miriam Lahage, global head of fashion brand at eBay, is a keynote speaker at our annual conference, Internet Retailing 2011, to be held on October 4 at the Novotel Hammersmith. The keynote session of the conference will be held between 9.30am and 10.50am and also features Mark Hodgkinson, marketing and ecommerce director at HMV and Gavin Sathianathan, head of commerce partnerships at Facebook.

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