Senior retailers from across Europe gathered in Berlin last week for the first InternetRetailing Europe Summit.
The three-day event saw the launch of the IREU Top500, described by editor-in-chief Ian Jindal as the first research and performance-based analysis of European ecommerce and multichannel retail. But at heart this was an opportunity for senior ecommerce professionals from across the European Economic Area and Switzerland to gather and discuss issues that are important in their businesses.
The proceedings were carried out under the Chatham House Rule. Here’s what delegates said on operations and logistics, brand engagement and strategy and innovation.
Operations and logistics
“The delivery experience is a route to market,” said one leading UK retailer that sells in Europe. Enabling convenient delivery with a personalised experience while thinking about how the customer wants it is all part of winning business.
Looking to the future, delegates’ predictions were for smart delivery, personalisation and convenience, and the increased availability of pick-up points. Increasingly, deliveries will be consolidated, and the environment will become a guiding factor. “The influence of Uber will be felt in future custom deliveries: to you, where you are,” said one delegate.
Getting it right is important, said the speaker. “If you mess up delivery, the customer won’t come back.”
Strategy and innovation
A leadership panel focused on how positive attitudes to strategy and innovation could be developed and fostered through the business. One question that was asked was about failing. One speaker said that their business encouraged people in the business to work on anything they liked every now and then, whether that’s redecorating an office – or developing a new app. Encouraging a speak-up culture was important in dealing with failure.
Another speaker talked about expanding around the world, and said it was important to export the central principles of the business, which could then be evolved for different markets. “The world of trade is less about governments negotiating trade agreements, and more about how do we enable individuals to trade across borders on the other side of the world and build businesses.”
The final speaker said that an upcoming change to the business would be challenging, but would lead to “significant benefits” in due course.
One questioner asked about how important it was to localise. “It’s a fragmented world,” said one speaker, “and you need to offer cash on delivery in Italy to win any business.” Payments methods, local courier choices and local teams all need to be adapted.
Rather than choosing a specific assortment for a market, personal feeds and customers’ interests are driving a more personalised choice of goods.
Another speaker said that localising was also important within the UK market. “London behaves differently to the rest of the UK. Digital stores work in London and in city centres but there’s less fast take-up regionally.”
Future trends – and challenges
A questioner asked what challenges faced speakers’ businesses in the future. One speaker replied that evolution wouldn’t be online or offline, it would be omnichannel. That presented them with the challenge of developing interfaces between the two.
The Chinese market would be a challenge for one speaker. How consumers in China, where retail floorspace is a quarter of that in the US, experience brands would mean it had to innovate in future. Meanwhile, the safety of the supply chain would be a key factor in a market that is built on trust.
One speaker closed with a question: “Will we adapt as quickly as the consumer does?” Legacy systems, they said, made it difficult to keep up with changing shopper behaviour.
Content plays an important and growing role in engaging consumers, said the speaker in a session on brand engagement. They said that their technology email was one of their most opened, after those offering discounts. That gave the fashion brand and opportunity engage with its core market of young men in a way that wasn’t about selling. Content can come from a team of journalists and bloggers, or from users themselves.
The home page is not necessarily the most trafficked page: fewer than 50% of visitor sessions to one website discussed in the session now see the home page – one product listing page sees more traffic. That’s down to search and navigation, which drive traffic towards different pages. “Products should reflect the search” said one delegate.
How important is user-generated content in this? “If customers engage, that’s their picture of the brand and that’s good,” said one participant in the debate.
Another said products with reviews were more likely to convert. “Even one-star ratings can be fed back to the business to review the product.”