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Front matter: Next’s future of fashion

Multichannel purchasing trends were also key to growth generation. The company estimated the profit on items ordered online but collected in store was £47m in the last year, while customers buying instore with their Directory card generated some £16m of service charges earned by the Directory on resulting balances owed. An estimated £9m was saved by allowing Directory customers to return goods through shops rather than by courier only.

In his review, Lord Wolfson said: “These benefits would not have been achieved if Next was simply a High Street retailer or a home shopping business. It is important to understand the benefits this integration provides.”

Shopping Research grows online

The number of consumers turning to the internet to research their shopping is growing fast, according to the new BRC-Google Online Retail Monitor.The quarterly report, which uses the data produced when a retail product is searched for on Google, found that in the first quarter of 2011, total retail searches grew by 29% compared to the previous year. Searches using mobile devices, including phones and tablets, grew by 181% to account for 11% of total retail searches.

As a group,multichannel retailers were the greatest beneficiaries.They enjoyed a 42% rise in searches, year-on-year, compared with 19% for pureplay merchants.Overall, the top three retail search terms were ‘boots’,‘dresses’ and fancy dress, though home furnishings, furniture and iPods and the Kindle also featured in the top 10 of search terms.

Interestingly, the number of overseas consumers searching for UK retailers grew by 27% in the first quarter, suggesting strong potential for international expansion, while the number of UK consumers searching for overseas retailers grew by 21%.

Lakeland unveils new site

Kitchenware company Lakeland has launched a new ecommerce website, designed to make it as easy for its customers to shop online as in their stores.

The new site was developed by the Javelin Group, using Leeds-based ecommerce specialists AWA to design the front end. AWA used research and customer feedback to redesign every aspect of the Lakeland website, from the homepage, search and product pages to the basket and checkout.

Tony Preedy, marketing director of Lakeland, said: “We are extremely proud of our new website. We were determined that our new platform would enable us to give our customers the very best levels of service and to enable us to present our innovative range of products in the very best light.”

As well as reflecting the needs of its customers, the site also features e-marketing and content management tools for its business users. Product catalogues, website analytics, online marketing, layout and email campaigns can be managed in house.

Applications used include the hybris ecommerce platform, Adobe’s marketing suite, Baynote’s realtime recommendation engine and Silverpop’s eCRM system for email messaging.

M&S TV helps lift sales

Visitors to Marks & Spencer’s ecommerce website have collectively viewed its online TV service five million times, and spent six million minutes watching since it was launched, the company has said.

Analysis has shown that customers who watch video on M&S TV view three times as many products on the website, and spend 30% more, on average, compared to those who don’t.

The online video channel, produced and managed by Adjust Your Set, has been rebuilt with the addition of new features including a larger choice of content, a larger video screen size and the ability to navigate content while also watching video. Viewers can also rate and share their favourite videos.

The Chatter tool has been added to the retailer’s website as well. The tool embeds social media content into video content enabling brands to use it to search for, capture and curate conversations about a topic from Facebook, Twitter and blogs. These can then be made available online, through mobile phones, instore and for outdoor broadcast.

Amazon checks out the uk

UK online shoppers can now checkout their online purchases from third party retailer sites using their Amazon customer credentials as Checkout by Amazon (CBA) launches in the UK.

When those customers use their Amazon log-in to pay on any site that has integrated Checkout by Amazon, they can choose delivery to addresses listed in their Amazon address book and pay using their Amazon-registered credit card without leaving the site they’re on. Clicking on the Checkout by Amazon button brings up an Amazon-branded log-in and takes the user straight to a shopping basket. Notification of a sale comes to the retailer via Amazon Payments and consumers are offered the same guarantees on delivery as they are through Amazon.

For the consumer it means fewer steps to take in order to pay, says Amazon, while it also benefits retailers since it results in larger order sizes and new customers.

“We are focused on making it extraordinarily simple for Amazon customers to shop anywhere online,” said Eric Broussard, general manager of Amazon Payments Europe, which operates CBA for Europe. “Launched in the US in 2008, Checkout by Amazon now makes it possible for over a hundred million Amazon customers worldwide to shop securely and conveniently on retail sites all over the UK.”

Retailers who want to use Checkout by Amazon follow a series of instructions to integrate the facility into their site. Use is charged at 20p per transaction and a percentage of the transaction value, starting at 3.4% on purchases with a value up to £1,500, although volume discounts are available.

EU Directive could cost £8.8 BN

Draft amendments to the Consumer Rights Directive, currently being discussed by the EU, could cost online retailers an estimated £8.8bn or 4% of the estimated European ecommerce market in 2012, says the IMRG. This cost of funding returns will inevitably be passed on to consumers it warns.

IMRG calculates that without the new EU legislation, returns across the EU currently cost etailers about €5.7bn (£5bn) a year, based on the premise that 90% of returns are domestic and 10% cross-border in the EU. The new EU legislation would, it says, see that figure rise to €15.7bn (£13.9bn).

The IMRG is campaigning against the four parts of the proposed legislation. Article 17 doubles the length of time in which the consumer can change their mind on a purchase to 14 days, and also requires retailers to cover the cost of returns worth more than €40. Article 16 requires that a refund be made within 14 days, rather than the current 30 days.

Article 12 gives the consumer 14 days to tell the trader they are going to return goods for a refund, while Article 22a allows a consumer to require a retailer anywhere in the EU to sell to them, a move the IMRG has said would damage retailers.

EU Justice Commissioner Vivane Reding has said the new rights would increase consumer protection by eliminating hidden charges and costs on the internet, and “will bring tangible benefits to consumers and businesses.”

The legislation, including draft amendments, is now subject to negotiation between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers before it becomes law.

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