Ahead of the Internet Retailing Awards 2013, we’ve caught up with sponsors of our awards to ask them about their latest thinking on UK online and multichannel retailing in general and about the Internet Retailing Awards 2013 in particular.
Today we talk to Alistair Jenkins, director of e2x, system integrators and consultants in ecommerce and enterprise software architecture solutions and development. e2x are an Oracle Gold Partner and are jointly with Oracle sponsoring the bar at the awards.
Internet Retailing: What does the shortlist for the Internet Retailing Awards 2013 say to you about the development of online and multichannel retailing in the UK today?
Alistair Jenkins, director, e2x: I think all of the UK retailers nominated are getting past the fact that it’s a web shop and see that it’s just another channel. As they move towards understanding the customer, multichannel is being based around the web. I think that’s fantastic for the consumer because it means they will get what they expect – for a company that they’re transacting with to have a single view of them, irrespective of what channel they come in on, whether through a call centre, mobile or a kiosk or anything else. That’s the shift that is occurring, and it’s one that’s particularly led by UK retailers.
IR: Why was it important to Oracle and e2x to support these awards?
AJ: We believe that if the technology vendors can’t support what are effectively our customers in recognition of their work and vision, then we shouldn’t be in the business. We believe that recognition is not just about using such and such a technology but about really helping UK Ltd. These businesses that are looking beyond the borders and are successful in overseas markets are helping technology vendors and systems integrators as well. When you have people like Burberry being seen in China as an aspirational brand, then part of that comes with the technology that’s supporting them, so we all gain.
IR: What makes an award-winning retailer?
AJ: It’s really going that extra mile. It’s relatively straightforward for retailers to pay lip service to concepts such as the single view of the customers but there’s very few that get everywhere to do that. In my opinion, Burberry in their current pilots that they’re running in their flagship stores are going that extra mile and starting to really show consumers how they are recognised and valued by that vendor. I think that is what’s going to make successful ecommerce in the years to come.
IR: Which other retailers stand out – and which might you consider voting for in the Internet Retailing Awards 2013, which recognises the top retailer as voted for by readers of Internet Retailing?
AJ: I’ve mentioned Burberry, but John Lewis is another one. I’ve been a customer of John Lewis for 40 years and they’ve always been very, very careful in how they’ve approached the web. They’ve got a relatively simple website but it’s one that absolutely works from the consumer point of view. They don’t manipulate things. If you look in their hot-selling items over Christmas this year, one of them was bags for vacuum cleaners. That’s absolutely right because they sell a lot of them. Many marketers would manipulate that data by ignoring low-value items and only ranking high-value items. But I think it’s that honesty and transparency that people like about John Lewis. They don’t try and present things in ways that obscure some of the facts in the business, and I think that’s one of the reasons they tend to be trusted.
Asos is another brand. I’m not a customer but I have a professional admiration for how they’ve done a great job of taking a relatively simple concept – what I’d call the Dickie Dirt concept. Dickie Dirt was a market trader in the East End of London 40 or 50 years ago who used to pile it high and sell it low. Asos has taken a concept like that and they sell to – when it’s gone it’s gone. But while it’s there it tends to be available, easily ordered, you always know when your order will be delivered. They’ve done a fantastic job in meeting the expectations of their customer demographic. That particular demographic is one that expects everything immediately. If they see it today they want it on their doorstep tomorrow morning. I don’t know how that will move on when Amazon raise the bar to same-day deliveries but when logistics companies put the process in place to support same-day delivery I’m sure that sort of thing will happen through Asos. Those are the three that have stood out this year for me.
IR: What’s your hot tip for the year ahead, whether a new technology, an upcoming retailer or advice on a way of thinking about multichannel retailing?
AJ: All the technologies that are being implemented now have been part of the road map for 14-15 years. It’s just there is a time in terms of technology and business process that’s needed to take advantage of them. I haven’t seen any new range of visions coming forward. But what I am starting to see are a lot of new services, where people can start to think about what their favourites are across brands and then look at some form of big capability to buy. That’s not a new idea but moving that into retail so that retailers could effectively be the bidders is fairly new.
IR: What are you most looking forward to about the Internet Retailing Awards Evening?
AJ: I’m hoping to see the competitive retailers recognise each other’s contributions because I think that’s how we can continue to have a strong and technically and process-sound retail space in the UK, which we can hold up to the world. It’s about recognising that award winners are doing something that potentially you could as a retailer, and about becoming aspirational. Some of the smaller brands may be aspiring to become as good as the larger and richer ones, while some of the richer brands are seeing some of the innovation that smaller brands have to do because they don’t have the cash to throw at things. I would certainly hope to see some of that happening.
IR: What’s your prediction for how industry will have changed by the time of next year’s awards?
AJ: I think that there will be fewer or smaller physical stores, with more and more delivery of the product from central stores as retailers start to put the convenience together.
The other thing, in the opposite direction, is that I think store-based implementations of ecommerce will also occur. If you can make it work what you’re really potentially doing is creating a shopping mall, if you like, within a store where you can do all your shopping and just pick it up at one point. Again, it’s all down to the convenience of the customer and I think those are some of the differentiators that may come to the fore in the next year.
The Internet Retailing Awards will be held on June 26 at SushiSamba, 664ft up at London’s Heron Tower. Find out more about the Internet Retailing Awards by clicking here.
Remember that as a reader of Internet Retailing you have the opportunity to vote for the winner of the Internet Retailing Award 2013. Find out more about the retailers in the shortlist and how to vote for them by clicking here.