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Editor’s comment – InternetRetailing Magazine May 2019

It’s mobile phone upgrade time again. Something that we are all used to; pay £x a month to talk, text, use data to a level pre-agreed with the service provider and after a set length of time you can change your phone. The same is true with cars – pay according to the plan for three years and at the end of it either pay extra to keep the car or hand it back to the dealer and start again with a new car. How much do we actually need to own?

Reminiscent of the early days of the internet when someone would be in a closed environment and have to survive for a week with only what they could buy online, how much today can be bought through a monthly subscription?

Taking that one step further, how much can be bought automatically without you having to do anything apart from initial set up? My HP printer, for example, automatically orders ink when it’s getting low so that I never run out. This market for devices which automatically order their own consumables is predicted to grow massively over the next few years with both manufacturers and fulfilment services such as Amazon trying to gain market share early.

Thomas Cooper, ceo of Pantri, a new service in this area which is due to launch this summer, shares a view of subscription services and why they pose a threat to retailers. An interesting read indeed.

Manufacturers selling direct to consumers is nothing new though. They have moved on from using door-to-door salesmen of a bygone era to ecommerce sites controlling the brand experience for consumers across the globe. How brands then link their direct-to-consumer business with their other sales channels adds extra complexity to the holy grail of the seamless experience.

This is something that Levi Strauss is grappling with. The denim company returned to the stock market in March following a major transformation of the business from its foundations through to its direct-to-consumer channels. From declining sales, almost insolvent, $2bn in debt, too much inventory and “the wheels off the car” in 1996, the company grew 25% in Europe last year.
Seth Ellison, the company’s executive vp and president, Europe, spoke to me about how digital and focusing on customers has helped to turn around what he called “a sleeping giant”. His insight into the “140-year-old startup” runs as the main interview in this issue of the magazine and he’s featured on the cover too.

Of the business now, he says “to be Levi Strauss we have to be rock and roll on the outside but function like a Swiss watch on the inside”. A sentiment that others could learn from.
Other aspects of direct-to-consumer are discussed in this issue of InternetRetailing as we investigate how brands and manufacturers are using digital to get a closer understanding of their customers.

Paul Skeldon, InternetRetailing’s mobile editor, investigates department store 2.0 and shares his thoughts on why the death of the high street is really just a retail reset. “Generations of the future still see a place for the in-store shopping experience, but retailers need to create an experience that plays to the strengths of in-store shopping whilst fixing the pain points that are driving people away,” Peter Ballard, co-founder of Foolproof told Paul.

There’s also news from InternetRetailing’s RetailX research division on how brands are performing across Europe. The RXBX EU 250, sponsored by Amazon Pay – which will have been delivered along with this issue of the magazine – investigates the performance of the top direct-selling brands in Europe. Each brand was examined across the six Performance Dimensions of strategy & innovation, the customer, operations & logistics, merchandising, brand engagement and mobile & cross-channel. The Elite, Leading and Top250 are listed further on in the magazine.

Finally, for something completely different, the eDelivery pages include details of the Co-op’s trial of autonomous robots for final mile deliveries in Milton Keynes. To date, 15,000 deliveries have been made to customers using the robots from Starship Technologies since the trial started in April 2018, Jason Perry, senior manager ecommerce strategy & rollout, food digital, Co-op, told delegates at the recent eDelivery Expo.

To readers I say, watch out behind you as technologies which were once felt as too far-fetched come snapping at your heels.

Emma Herrod

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