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Every week we’re highlighting the shortlisted retailers in the 2014 Internet Retailing Awards. Today we focus on the IRIS Award.

The IRIS Award recognises those retailers who are the forefront in the fast-developing trend to take the range and depth of ecommerce technologies into the store. Our distinguished panel of judges has narrowed down a field of seven nominated retailers to reach a final shortlist of five.

They are: Argos , B&Q , Burberry , House of Fraser and Thomson (TUI) .

This award, in the world of Internet Retailing editor-in-chief Ian Jindal, recognises the “renaissance of the store and in-store experience as a vital component of multichannel retail.”

He added: “IRIS (Internet Retailing In-Store) is a new segment within Internet Retailing to consider the people, process and technology implications of the digitally-enabled store fully of digitally savvy and connected customers engaging with digitally-empowered staff selling digitally-enhanced products and services.

“This award will recognise retailers who have moved beyond digital displays and point digital offerings to create an immersive, connected and compelling realisation of this next iteration of retail.”

Argos was shortlisted for the awards in recognition of its new digital store concept, which reimagined the high street shop in the light of ecommerce. The company’s first London-based digital stores experiment with a reality in 90% of its shoppers come into the store at some point during a transaction, whether or not they bought online. The new store gives it the ability to showcase digital to its not-yet-digital customers while also showing those who buy from eBay, which is using Argos stores for Click and Collect services, how stores can be a modern hub for the multichannel way we shop today.

B&Q wins through to the shortlist after a year in which it has successfully leveraged digital assets to offer in-store service. Customers are brought into B&Q’s pilot Manifesto stores when they order online for in-store pickup. Once there, shop assistants can use iPads to show and sell the online range of products, with recommendations based on a customer’s past purchase history, linked through the B&Q loyalty card. Shoppers can also use in-store kiosks to access and email themselves how-to guides for DIY projects, or to order goods to be brought from the store room.

Burberry won its shortlist place for blending the digital into the in-store experience with the aid of well-trained staff. Online is growing fast, but store footfall is soft as shoppers change the way they buy from Burberry. But that doesn’t mean lower sales; on the contrary, Burberry retail sales are growing by 17% a year, with conversion up both online and instore, thanks to its ability to adapt the way it sells to the way its shoppers want to buy.

House of Fraser took the notion of internet retailing in-store to its furthest extreme when it launched were effectively internet retailing only shops. Those shops have proved a success and the department store has gone on to take its learnings into its other branches. In its Edinburgh store, for example, one of the five floors has been given over to online, as a hybrid online and personal shopping model extends the range offered elsewhere in the shop. Elsewhere, Order In Store terminals increase the yield of underperforming floor space by increasing the range. The model is working: buy and collect sales are up by 80% while sales density is up by 115%, and multichannel customers have also risen by 18%.

Finally, Thomson (TUI) has won its place after making its stores an inspiration for shoppers who buy online from the company almost as much as instore. Some 40% of Thomson’s holidays are now bought online, and in its next-generation stores, in Bluewater and Bristol, the retailer aims to help those who want to use digital technology as well as those who want personal service. The emphasis is in inspiration: large digital screens at the doorway showcase holiday experiences that draw in shoppers, while interactive maps are the most used feature in the new-look shops. It’s all helping to use the real world to sell holidays in a sector that has seen online take a large share of sales.

The eventual winner of the award will be named at the Internet Retailing Awards 2014, to be held at One Mayfair on June 26. The winner will be the retailer that seamlessly incorporates digital technology into the store, linking the customer’s online and offline experiences. But they’ll also be the retailer that most successfully empowers their staff to use technology in-store to its best effect, creating a service that is both usable and elegant.

A reminder too that voting is open for the overall Internet Retailing Award 2014, sponsored by Venda. This is our readers’ award, in which a winner is chosen by you from the full awards shortlist. Vote and your name will go into the draw for a free ticket to the awards party.

Join the conversation and tell us who you want to win the Internet Retailing Award by tweeting us your vote to @etail with #theawards.

Get tickets for you/your team/your clients/your friends here:

We’ll be exploring the other awards categories in the weeks to come.

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