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INTERNET RETAILING AWARDS Interview with Eric Abensur of Venda

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Ahead of the Internet Retailing Awards, we’ve grabbed five minutes with the sponsors of our awards to ask them both about their latest thinking on UK online and multichannel retailing in general and about the Internet Retailing Awards 2013 in particular.

Today we’re talking to Eric Abensur, chief executive of Venda and title sponsor of 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?

Eric Abensur, CEO, Venda: It acknowledges the natural evolution of the retail industry and highlights the age of the ‘connected consumer’, an individual that expects an easy, integrated and interactive experience – regardless of how they choose to shop.

While the retailers that have been shortlisted within this category clearly deliver an exceptional online and digital service to consumers, the mix of pure players vs traditional high-street retailers nominated within the list show that we should be moving away from labels such as multichannel or ‘online’ in a retail context.

Multichannel has arrived – it is here, it is now and as the shortlist demonstrates – it is working. These retailers have been nominated because they have a single view of their customers, they know what their customers want and they know how to deliver it. Not all retailers in the UK have reached the same level of integration across channels, but this is definitely the direction that the industry is and should be moving.

It must be said that Britain leads, and not just in Europe, in terms of innovative commerce. The UK retail industry must be proud of this.

IR: Why was it important to Venda to support these awards, and in particular the Internet Retailing Award, which is voted for by readers?

EA: Internet Retailing is a hugely respected retail title, covering the latest news, trends and innovation coming out of the industry and as such, attracts a knowledgeable audience that we are enthusiastic about connecting with. We think it makes sense to form a partnership with such a well-established publication and these industry recognised awards, given Venda’s status as the pioneer in ecommerce SAAS solutions and leading provider of convergent commerce within the UK. We’re proud of this association and look forward to future partnership opportunities.

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?

EA: In the past year, we’ve seen big household high-street names fold into administration, revealing full extent of their struggle to compete with online-only competitors. Despite efforts, these players failed to effectively adapt to the digital shift within the retail space, or to harness the technology available to them to integrate their in-store and online offerings.

Any brands hoping for a retail renaissance need to think about how to capture sales and ensure that consumers don’t visit your store and leave without a purchase, particularly on the high-street. This can be achieved by simply thinking about smart devices can be incorporated in-store as an accompaniment to the high street shopping experience. Mobile and tablet devices provide a lot of information that is incredibly valuable to a consumer, but viewing a product in the flesh is an entirely different experience. But why can’t these two experiences be combined to form one fluid, and revolutionary one? The answer to this question holds the key to the revitalisation and modernisation of the traditional retail store and could save their existence.

IR: What are you most looking forward to about the Internet Retailing Awards evening?

EA: Well, other than the free champagne, we’re looking forward to having the opportunity to gather in a room filled with many of our friends and colleagues, who we respect and admire. It gives us a chance to share ideas and compare our findings, so that we can learn from one another. It’s also a good chance to connect and re-connect with the industries finest contributors and celebrate the success and innovation coming out of the retail space. It’s difficult not to relish an experience like that.

IR:As a professional, who are you thinking of voting for in the Internet Retailing Award 2013 (the top retailer as voted for by readers of Internet Retailing)?

EA: With so much online innovation within the retail space, some companies have been forced to adapt to save their businesses. Last year, Domino’s online sales accounted for 56% of overall sales, a figure that rose from 44.3% in 2011. These figures cement the fact that as a brand and a business, its company has been able to adapt and thrive in the midst of the ecommerce boom. With such a fast and dependable online service, it’s no surprise that it has proved a success and its achievement is not to be ignored.

Another company that we admire for its sheer resilience is Dixons, who has survived on the high-street where others have folded. It has managed to use the tablet and smartphone boom to its advantage – emerging as an online and high-street tech specialist and consumer champion. We, of course, would also like to praise Tesco too, a Venda client and having established itself as one of the online supermarket leaders for its outstanding click & collect and home delivery services. But we suppose that would be cheating. Actually I would like to nominate all Venda clients. Their growth for the last 12 months on the platform has been phenomenal in the most challenging environment.

IR: What’s your prediction for how industry will have changed by the time of next year’s awards?

EA: In the next twelve months I can see a fast growing number of “connected” stores appearing in our high-street: free Wi-Fi available in stores, kiosks, sales assisted devices, smartphone scanning. In five years, all bricks and mortar retailers must be in a position where a shopper can enter into the store, be recognised and welcomed by his (or her) name and offered the right product, at the right price.

The Internet Retailing Awards will be held at SushiSamba, 664ft up at London’s Heron Tower on Wednesday June 26. For more information, click here, and to find out about tickets to the event click here.

There’s still time to vote in the Internet Retailing Award 2013, which is voted for by Internet Retailing readers. To cast your vote, click here.

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