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IRX 2019 INTERVIEW Jeremy Howard of Cru World Wine on using digital to cut retail costs

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We’re running a series of previews ahead of this year’s IRX 2019, which range from interviews with speakers through to overviews of the event highlights. Today we hear from Jeremy Howard, chief executive of Cru World Wine. 

InternetRetailing: Tell us about Cru World Wine – and how the business changes the way that fine wine is sold.

Jeremy Howard, chief executive of Cru World Wine: Cru World Wine is a global supplier of the very finest wines to collectors, investors and drinkers.   Unlike competitors who still rely to a large extent on phone and email, Cru has pioneered the use of a digital platform to handle all client interactions, from the initial sale through to the collection management, online selling and even deliveries.  

IR: You’re speaking at IRX both on offsetting the costs of B2C through B2B marketplaces and on outsourcing overheads. Can you tell us one or two ways that Cru has used different digital technologies to cut costs – and what the results of doing so have been? 

JH: Encouraging our client to use our digital platform has enabled Cru to increase its productivity per team member very significantly over the previous three years.    Each account manager can now manage many more accounts because so much of the client interaction does not need human interaction.   As an example, one of our senior account managers in Europe used to handle around 450 clients.  He is now able to cover almost 5,000, because so much less of his time is spend on manual processes like organising deliveries for clients. 

IR: Is there one surprising thing that you’ve learned from doing so?

JH: The willingness of clients to figure things out for themselves is a constant positive surprise. We thought that our outsourced call centre would be much busier than it is fielding calls from clients asking for help on how to use our platform. But in fact it seems like clients would much rather spend an extra couple of minutes clicking around and watching our online tutorials than asking a call centre employee to walk them through it. 

IR: What one piece of advice would you give to other retailers who are looking to follow in your footsteps?

JH: The one key thing is not to focus only on the client.   We have found that it is just as important to have staff members on board with what you are doing. If you don’t motivate them to sell the digital tools, then in a high net worth sector like ours this can be a significant barrier to adoption. It is a challenge to explain to staff how digital tools aimed clients can enhance their productivity and ultimately lead to a better paid and more enjoyable work experience for them. This process and the communications which go with it need lots of work. But you can do it!

IR: Apart from your own presentation, what are you most looking forward to at IRX 2019?

JH: Hearing about people’s experiences with digital transformation both from outside and within their companies. I am most keen to hear about how other companies are managing their internal teams during this transformation. 

Jeremy Howard will be speaking at in the Scaling up Ecommerce conference on Thursday April 4 at IRX 2019. He will present a case study, B2B marketplaces as a secondary market to offset operational costs of B2C, at 1.15pm, before taking part in a panel discussion, CAPEX to OPEX, SaaS, outsourcing and partnerships, at 2.15pm.

IRX 2019 will take place at Birmingham’s NEC between April 3 and 4. To find out more about the show and register to attend click here

Image courtesy of InternetRetailing Events

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