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IRC 2016 INTERVIEW Neil Sansom, CEO, Woolovers, on Multichannel Integration – Enhancing Customer Experience, Fulfillment and Delivery

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Ahead of this year’s InternetRetailing Conference 2016, we’re previewing some of the key events of the conference, profiling the conference streams and interviewing speakers. This week we speak to Neil Sansom, CEO at Woolovers.

Internet Retailing: What are the one or two biggest challenges that you see in ensuring that the customer experience works across channels?

Neil Sansom: Replicating the experience across channels can be difficult, online has a rich information and content regarding the product and it is difficult to replicate this in a constrained space such as a catalogue or in-store where you are reliant on staff who need to be well trained. Customers recognize this, but they can in some cases be more knowledgeable than a staff. Recognizing customers are customers of the brand wherever they shop is essential. Don’t be precious regarding channels and sales targets: customers don’t see channels, they just see the brand.

IR: What are one or two key pieces of advice you’d have for other retailers in answering those challenges?

Two things are key: recognize that customers are now very savvy as I said and, secondly, you have to allow staff to have their own tools to assist in the experience. One easy step is to loosen rules around BYOD (bring your own device) on the shopfloor.

Embrace technology and its benefits and think about allocating sales from direct channels to physical stores. This can be done simply by using postcodes, catchment areas or a straight forward pro rata basis. This breaks channel barriers for staff and they see the business rewarding customer performance rather than channel performance.

IR: What benefits might they see as a result – why will it be better?

They will see less sales conflict in channels, customers appreciating the brand and the experience. Customers will return and become more loyal. We know multichannel customers are more valuable and visit the brand more.

IR: Tell us a little bit about Woolovers and how you’re answering these challenges in your own business. What benefits are you seeing?

Currently we don’t operate physical stores, only selling through online and phone. We are adding click and collect to our telephone orders as well as online orders and we are upgrading our systems so customers can see all of their order history whatever channel they ordered in. We are investing in call centre staff to have better awareness of the product, what sells with what or substitute products if out of stock. Web content is being used to deliver this.

IR: Aside from your own panel discussion, what are you most looking forward to at IRC 2016?

I am interested in hearing the Airbnb talk: what can we learn in retail from these new disruptive models?

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