Ahead of this year’s Internet Retailing Expo (IRX 2016) we’re running a series of previews focusing on event highlights, from the conferences to interviews with key retail speakers. Today we speak to Mike Durbridge, omnichannel director at B&Q.
Internet Retailing: You’re speaking at IRX 2016 on putting the customer first in digital transformation. Can you tell me about one challenge that is particularly important in this area?
Mike Durbridge, omnichannel director at B&Q: You can take all of the customer insights, analytics, customer feedback, employee feedback and you know what it is you need to do to make a difference. But when you you then look at changing the legacy systems to get them to work in a different way together, changing operations, culture and processes, what you end up with is a compromise of ‘that’s really difficult to do, but we could do this instead’. You end with parts of what you think is right and within those you even develop quite complicated workarounds to get around some of the technical legacy systems and processes that exist. You can end up with not what you first wanted – but a very complicated version of what you first imagined.
The reality for most businesses is that we’ve got to work within the legacy systems and technology that we’ve got. To make all of those fit the change that you want to make is incredibly complicated and difficult and it is sometimes easier to compromise, delivering a more limited scope with a number of workarounds that make the operation more complex.
IR: And one major benefit?
MD: Digital transformation genuinely does make things easier for the customer, and it’s more helpful for them. It’s also easier for all your colleagues that work in your business. That means you need to fundamentally change how you operate as an organisation – and that starts from the technology, the processes and the culture. If you sat back from your business and said if we were starting this business brand new today, what would we do, you’d have something very different than what you’ve got. You almost need to start with that mindset and rather than looking at things in individual line items – rather than this customer experience we want this one – look at the totality of the customer experience that you want and therefore what change would that require in totality, and address it as one big block of change, particularly to do with technology and legacy systems. You need to see the big picture rather than lots of individual customer journeys.
It’s genuinely liberating because, my God does it make things easier to work in and operate, as well as delivering a good customer experience.
IR: How do you see retail stores changing over the next few years in the light of changing customer behaviour?
MD: This is a very personal opinion but I see that stores will change from pure shopping experiences into as much more localised fulfilment collection points. If we imagine a world where the customer will use digital as a means to get the products that they want, using some textual localisation you can work out what’s the best way to get that product. Is it in stock in this store? I’ll pop down and get it. Where is it in the store so I know exactly where I have to go to get that product? Or I can reserve it, click and collect it immediately. It will be ready and waiting for me as soon as I walk into the store with an easy collection experience. Rather than the store being a pure replication of a digital experience, I think you’re going to have a digital experience that will be much more around the inspiration and the shopping. The store is about bringing those products and services to life and making it easier for the customer to get what it is they want very quickly from the digital experience.
IR: What are you most looking forward to at IRX 2016, apart from your own presentation?
MD: The biggest thing for me is, as an organisation you can get trapped in your own bubble of what’s the scale of change and activities that you’re doing. At IRX what I always find great is the number of companies who are doing some amazing things where there are little tricks, hints and tips that you can learn. It makes you think a little bit differently about what you’re doing and how to improve what it is you’re doing. There’s so much to learn from, and so many great contacts to make at IRX from your own journey.
Michael Durbridge, omnichannel director at B&Q, is speaking in the Connected Store of the Future conference at IRX 2016. His presentation, Omnichannel retail: digital transformation, customer first? is at 11.10am on April 27. Find out more about IRX 2016 here. Register to visit the show for free here.