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IR 2012 SHOW REPORT Simpler, faster, cheaper: the message from the keynote session

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Simpler, faster and cheaper: that’s the key to multichannel retail, a packed audience at Internet Retailing 2012 heard today.

Brandishing two sets of tennis balls, Andrew Harrison, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse told his audience of retailers and industry professionals that he’d bought one from Amazon in 27 seconds for £8, and the other from a leading sports shop, where the transaction took 13 minutes and cost £11.99.

“Customers want things simpler, faster and cheaper,” he said. “If you can crack those three things, you will have a winning business model.”

That means making sure that retailers are selling in the way that customers want to buy – through any channel at any time. But in order to achieve true multichannel retailing, said Harrison, keynote speaker at the seventh annual Internet Retailing conference, retail leaders needed to take on responsibility for it at board level.

That meant, he said, “making sure you have online first as a real philosophy in the business.”

Harrison said many chief executives did not understand multichannel – but that needed to change, not only because it was the way that customers shopped but also because it was where retail businesses were now spending their money. “There needs to be a real dawn of enlightenment that this isn’t about how you do multichannel,” he said. “It has to be about the way you run your business. It has to be something that starts at the board.”

Carphone Warehouse’s own journey to building the business around its customers meant tackling the challenge of allowing customers to buy within 30 seconds, said Harrison. Its response was the newly-launched mobile checkout. Shoppers who have downloaded the Carphone Warehouse mobile checkout can buy an item from a store simply by scanning a QR code or entering a numerical code.

Harrison was one of three keynote speaker at today’s IR2012. All addressed the conference theme of the Mantle of Leadership.

Fellow keynote speaker Alison Lancaster, of marketing director of and chief marketing officer of, said that leadership in the new world of data-driven multichannel retail would require “strong and collegiate leadership” for a big and agile change management programme. She said the Kiddicare team had recently tackled the challenge of becoming a true multichannel retailer, with the addition of new stores to what had previously been an 85% online business. “Only by being one team and working together with a remarkable vision have we been able to deliver Kiddicare stores within six months.”

Earlier Jonathan Wall, group ecommerce director of Shop Direct Group, told the audience that belief was a key attribute of successful ecommerce and multichannel leaders. But also keenly important was understanding of statistics and data. “We have to show as a leader that we understand data from the bottom up,” he said.

He said that Shop Direct Group had set a mantra to motivate itself in taking its previously catalogue-based business online. 70 20 10 illustrated the fact that the business taking 70% of its business online by 2010. But now, he said, the business needed a new mantra. That, he said, had been done. 50 20 15 illustrates the fact that it expects to do half its business over mobile by 2015.

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