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Editor’s comment

Amazon is launching two further Amazon Go cashier-less stores in the US while over in China Alibaba’s Hema store network continues to expand. Ten stores opened recently giving the New Retail model a foothold in four new markets. There are now 46 Hema stores in operation in 13 cities across China.

Looking to grocery in the UK and the news has been Co-op Food’s launch of a scan, pay and go cashier-less operation and the announcement from Sainsbury’s and Asda that the two businesses are to merge – or ‘combine’ as the announcement calls it.

In this issue of InternetRetailing magazine we investigate the grocery sector and how it is being shaken up by shoppers’ digital and omnichannel preferences. Chris Conway, Head of Digital – Retail, Co-op, shares insight into the Co-op’s digital ambitions while we also take a broader look at the implications of the Sainsbury’s/Asda merger and what it takes to be a leading grocer in the digital age. As Chris Conway says, “When the Co-op starts selling online we won’t be or, we’ll be something very different and unique.” It is this differentiation that all retailers are seeking. Ecommerce/digital; buying power and owning the supply chain; extended ranges; ad platform and the right solution for last mile/warehousing are all examined.

We also look to China and the US to see how developments there will impact on European retailing and whether there will be a clash as East meets West.

Of course, a view of Europe wouldn’t be complete without thoughts on Brexit. With final Brexit terms still to be agreed none of us know with absolute certainty what life will be like after 29 March 2019. Penelope Ody investigates what retailers should be planning now and giving readers five things to think about. As she advises: “Go global – tariff-free imports from non-EU countries mean many prices can fall so why not shop the world?”

Shopping across borders is something that consumers are happy to do increasingly and retailers are meeting their demands with faster delivery and then launching localised ecommerce sites when the demand reaches a certain point. While the site will be localised, many orders are still sent from UK warehouses. Returns too come back into the UK. These two aspects are covered in separate articles by Bobby Shome, Global Business Development Director, Centiro and Al Gerrie, CEO, ZigZag Global.

Bobby Shome believes that the ability to integrate live data points into a retailer’s delivery management systems will enable them to provide accurate updates to customers, no matter where in the world they are based.

Al Gerrie, meanwhile, warns that for some retailers – particularly in fashion – paying insufficient attention to returns volumes and their cost could send retailers to the wall as consumer spending has declined and return rates are now growing faster than ecommerce. “The bedroom is the new fitting room,” he says.

He also points out that, with international ecommerce, returns need to be dynamic to allow for the goods to be sent where the demand is for that item.

Consumer trust is essential when launching into new markets and retailers have to really understand the shopper to make a connection as if they are a local business. “We see trust as the critical factor,” says Emile Naus, a Director at BearingPoint, in his guest article in which he shares insight into what retail trust means for consumers around the world. Research from BearingPoint shows that in China, 81% of consumers think it is important to trust retailers, and 64% do. In South Africa, another important market for international expansion, 74% of consumers think retailer trust is important, but only 21% actually do trust them. He suggests that China, Nigeria, and South Africa represent interesting test cases for international expansion.

Wherever you are trading, trust and the customer experience are paramount to success. I hope you find some inspiration and thought-provoking items amongst the pages of this issue of InternetRetailing as we look at ecommerce around the world.

Emma Herrod

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