Close this search box.

IRC 2016 INTERVIEW Mike Durbridge of B&Q on bringing together online and physical stores

This is an archived article - we have removed images and other assets but have left the text unchanged for your reference

We’re exploring this year’s InternetRetailing Conference (IRC 2016) through a series of previews and interviews. Today we hear from Mike Durbridge, director of omnichannel at B&Q.

IR: Tell us a little bit about B&Q’s strategy with regard to digital technologies.

Mike Durbridge, director of omnichannel at B&Q:: It’s about consolidation and the power of one. Rather than having lots of different front-end experiences, we’re looking at a single front-end experience that’s fed from a single CMS (content management system). Historically we’d have had a website, a separate contact centre to manage customer enquiries and orders, and we’d have had another system to manage the store, where they are placing orders for the customers. My view is that we should have a single system – and that’s where we’re moving to. Effectively the website becomes that single system.

We’re putting the website as our customer management system into the contact centre, with some slightly different functionality. The website will be used to place customer orders in the store as well. In the old world I’d have to train people to use the systems. If I need to train people to use our website then I’ve got a bigger problem.

It’s really important for us to have that consistency of experience. From our customers and colleagues we are feeling and seeing exactly the same thing. That’s really important when the majority of our colleagues will first have done research online. It’s important for us to have that consistency and connected journey when they are interacting with a customer or a colleague.

Also important for us is to have one back end system rather than lots of repositories of customer data, and of product content and other attributes, we have one source of data that feeds everything, from our shelf edge labels in the store, to the till descriptions that we use in the retail checkout and the printed output that goes into leaflets or press ads, it feeds our digital marketing output that feeds our programmatic display and so on. It’s about moving everything to single source, which gives that really important consistency for our colleagues and our customers on every touchpoint across the journey.

IR: Are there any parts of this that you are particularly pleased with – and why?

MD: I think probably the one I’d single out is the store and the contact centres systems being exactly the same as the website. Not having to train peoplein stores and contact centres on how to use the system is really important. It removes any fear or not being sure how to do that. It’s a website. You will know how to use this because you are a customer too. That’s the thing I’m probably most pleased with because it really does simplify a lot of our business as well, which makes it easier for both our customers and colleagues.

IR: What one or two challenges have you come up against in bringing the store and online together, creating more continuity between channels? And how have you dealt with them – with what results?

MD: Probably the biggest challenge is about culture. Technology and the systems and software and solutions are relatively easy. It’s rational, it’s controllable, you can decide what happens, when it happens. Some things go not according to plan but you of course correct and control that. When you’re talking about the majority of experiences that our customers will ahve will be with both people and technology, the people aspect of it is about emotions, about behaviours. You can’t control those. you need to really change your mindset and give people reasons to believe, make it simple for them, and help them to be more effective in their role in order to help our customers. Probably one of the biggest things is about the change of culture and mindset. It’s almost about bringing yourself to work, an intuitive approach that to be as easy and transparent at work with your customers and yourself to do your job.

A great example of that is there’s always the great debate around reward, and that online is my biggest threat if I work in a store. One of the biggest cultural levers that has been successful is rewarding the physical store for everything that happens commercially outside that store. If a customer buys something online, whether it’s click and collect or home delivery, the store gets the credit for that based on where the product is picked up, whether in the store or the nearest store to the postcode. The store gets the credit for everything.

InternetRetailing: Apart from your own presentation, what are you most looking forward to at IRC 2016?

MD: I love going to IRC because there’s always a huge variety of different organisations that are sharing their learning. You can take away from that some great tips, tricks and quick wins that you say what a great idea, we could try that in our organisation. I always get the fact of how many of us, whether we’re retailers, financial services, telcos, leisure and hospitality, are all facing really similar challenges. There’s so much we can learn from each other just by connecting. The network is so important at the event as well – there are so many great things that are happening out there, it’s a beautiful place to share, learn and trade some ideas and thoughts, find some kindred spirits with similar problems. There are always different approaches that people are trying to some familiar problems that can be really helpful to you as an organisation. I get a lot from these events because I always come away with a list of things that we should think about, try, do, test. It’s a great source of inspiration and best practice.

Mike Durbridge is speaking in the Transform track at IRC 2016, which is on October 12. His session, Harmonising communications and experience to create continuity between online and physical stores is at 12.30pm. To find out more about the event, and about sister conference eDelivery Conference, being held on October 11, visit

For more information about the InternetRetailing and eDelivery conferences click here. Today’s the last day to claim a 20% discount on the ticket price by entering the code AUTUMN20 at the checkout.

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on