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INTERNET RETAILING AWARDS 2014 Doug Glenwright of Tui Travel on why digital store design matters

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We’re asking companies shortlisted in the Internet Retailing Awards 2014 to tell us about themselves. Today Doug Glenwright, general manager for retail transformation at Tui Travel , tells us about the role the digital store plays in the business. Tui is shortlisted for the Internet Retailing In-Store Award for the next-generation stores being pioneered through its Thomson travel business.

Digital store design is fundamental to Thomson – we have invested significantly to modernise package holidays providing differentiated holidays, flying on upgraded planes and improving web sites. At the same time the role of retail is changing with customers using multiple channels.

Thomson shops need to ensure that they are not a negative part of the full customer journey and that they deliver a positive brand experience – so we need stay relevant by delivering highly personalised experiences (not just selling!) and by modernising our service to support an omni-channel distribution strategy.

Historically travel agents have been very sales orientated and the environment has been more office than shop. We have relied on traditional brochures. Taking a brief from customers has been functional and uninspiring as we have done little to bring holidays to life beyond the sales systems.

To address this we are investing significantly in our Holiday Design Store concept. Critical to this is providing our customers with a personalised service experience where we are able to showcase our product range in an engaging and inspiring way with the use of technology. All technology needs to be totally integrated into the experience so it will be useful to both customers and staff. It must be easy to use by everyone and to deliver a delightful experience.

From the moment a customer enters a Holiday Design Store they are in control, not our staff. New technology is used to engage customers with the purpose of understanding their dream holiday – this personalised service focuses on positive validation rather than presumptive selling to achieve a greater level of understanding.

The experience is personalised throughout from interactive technology, to booking experience including the booth projections and even at our foreign exchange bureau by removing the glass partition we have facilitated a more personal interaction. Customers are also encouraged to engage with us via social media at any point.

Staff work in completely different ways to traditional high street shops, using the new technology and facilities to ensure the customer experience is exciting and fun, not just transactional.

The Thomson Holiday Design Store concept sets us apart from other travel agents, but also from other more traditional retailers as we are offering a more playful environment which delivers an engaging and exciting experience. The concept brings together people, design and technology seamlessly to realise our vision.

Internet Retailing: What do you sell, and how do you sell it?

Doug Glenwright, general manager for retail transformation at Tui Travel: Ultimately we sell dreams! It is our job, whether online or through shops to understand what our customers’ dream holiday is and to work with them design a holiday that will best match that. We do not have a product that customers can feel and touch, so it is incredibly important that we get a clear understanding of what our customers want and also that we bring our products to life in an engaging and exciting way by using rich content and imagery.

IR: How long have you been in business, and how has your approach to retail changed or developed over that time?

DG: I have been working in the retail business for Thomson since 2002 and the growth of the internet as a channel has been a fundamental change to how we do business – this has meant retail have needed to focus on what differentiates us. The primary focus here is our people and specifically the service we provide through skill, knowledge and behaviours, but in addition to this we have the opportunity to be a little more theatrical in terms of how we bring our products to life with technology.

IR: Who are your customers, and how has ecommerce enabled you to get to know them better?

DG: We are fortunate that our product is holidays and customers love talking about them – this has enabled us to develop fantastic relationships as customers like to receive emails from us and actively engage with our innovative and personalised app that builds excitement in the countdown to holidays. These facilities are available to customers wherever they choose to transact with us – whether online or Instore so delivering a seamless experience.

IR: What pleases you being shortlisted for the Internet Retailing In-Store Award? What does it recognise about your business that you’re proud of?

DG: What pleases us most about our nomination for the IRIS award is that we are being recognised against other more traditional retailers. In the past, travel retailing has perhaps been considered to be different due to the lack of physical product and it is great to see we can hold our own against some really tough competition.

IR: What’s your plan for the future – and what will you be focusing on doing even better?

DG: One of the great things about our digital Holiday Design Store concept is that we can continue to develop the technology and roll out updates across multiple sites, we are also investing in the roll out of the concept to a significant number of stores by introducing elements of the concept to a number of shops as well as rolling out the full design to other locations. In addition to this we have a strong focus on service by ensuring staff have both the training and technology required to improve our relationships with customers.

The overall winners of the Internet Retailing Awards, including the IRIS Award, will be named at the awards party, to be held at One Mayfair on June 26. Find out more about the shortlist, the event, and getting a ticket on the Internet Retailing Awards website.

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