Emma Herrod previews Internet Retailing’s annual conference, which this year is keynoted by John Lewis , House of Fraser [irdx RHOF] and Zalando .
The Internet Retailing Conference takes place in London on 14 October. Each year it brings together the leaders in ecommerce and cross-channel retailing to share lessons learned and best practice during the past year and to discuss the challenges for the industry in the year ahead. Delegates to the one-day event will hear from companies including B&Q , John Lewis, Tesco , Waitrose [irdx RWAI] and Marks & Spencer .
Retailing continues to change as retailers with physical shops, online and a mobile presence work to move past simply joining up the channels. Everything must work in a way that gives a seamless experience with staff, operations and systems aligned around the customer.
A seamless experience is no less important for pureplays, especially those that are re-foundationing from the exceptional growth of a start up to a more mature position of sustainable growth, across multiple categories and countries.
Transformation plans are the underpinning of many tier 1 retailers with Marks & Spencer rebuilding its business in terms of systems, technology, innovation, staff skills, warehousing and distribution. Argos, Shop Direct and B&Q have all been travelling along the road towards becoming leading digital or omnichannel businesses. But rebuilding a business for the omnichannel era without impacting on day-to-day trading is no easy feat.
With this backdrop of transformation plans in retail, the 2014 Internet Retailing Conference takes the theme of ‘Re-foundation’: the time of incrementing, tweaking and avoiding the wholesale changes needed in the industry has gone. In the words of Neurath: ‘we are like sailors who on the open seas must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom’.
With three keynote speakers – Mark Lewis, Online Director, John Lewis, Andy Harding, Executive Director, Multi Channel, House of Fraser and Jérôme Cochet, Senior Vice President Sales, Zalando – and three separate tracks, the conference will bring together learnings from those who have started again – and benefited from it – along with those willing to share the challenges with delegates wishing to remain in the leadership group.
The time of incrementing, tweaking and avoiding the wholesale changes needed in the retail industry has gone
Epitomising the journey that brick and mortar retailers have had to take are department stores as they have transformed from traditional stores and multiple channels to cross-channel and omnichannel retailing. From acquisition to separate division to integration, John Lewis has had to transform everything from systems to culture to be in a position in which mobile and omnichannel commerce underpin growth at the Partnership. The benefit can be seen in sales of over £1bn from the JohnLewis.com site alone as Group sales passed the £10bn milestone in 2014.
Mark Lewis, Online Director, John Lewis will take up the conference theme of re-foundation when he opens the keynote session at Internet Retailing 2014. He’ll share the journey of omnichannel transformation that John Lewis has been undertaking: the transformation in infrastructure, culture and operations that form the foundations of John Lewis’ future success and why he believes that “innovation and investment are key to omnichannel success”.
Track 1 – Tide
With an overview of technology while building a business to the position of one of the US’ top 200 retailers, Jason Miller, co-founder of Motorcycle Superstore will open the stream by sharing how the company used various technologies to achieve this.
Tesco has delivered over 173 million online grocery orders since Tesco.com launched in 1997. Simon Belsham, Tesco’s Managing Director of Grocery Home Shopping, will share his views on fulfilment and delivery and why they are fast becoming the key battleground in online shopping, with delegates in a presentation on maximising the click, collect, deliver opportunity. Waitrose’ Director eCommerce Robin Phillips will share insight into how it is seamlessly integrating the inspirational and transactional journeys. A great opportunity to hear why Robin believes integrating content, inspiration and commerce is what the company needs to be doing online to give a really fantastic brand experience.
John Straw of Thomas Cook [irdx RTHC] will close the stream with a viewpoint away from traditional retailing in which the customer takes a longer, considered journey before purchasing. On being asked what is the key challenge for retailers who wish to remain in the leadership group, John warns: “the great disruptor of retail is content and until retail realises this Amazon [irdx RAZC] is going to continue to eat its lunch”.
Founded in 1849 as a small drapery shop in Glasgow, House of Fraser is a great British heritage brand and one that is no stranger to transformation and innovation. It claimed second mover advantage when it first launched its website, back in 2006 but has since moved ahead of the pack to put mobile first in its site design. In store, it has transformed part of its Edinburgh store into a digitally-enabled concept with large screens, computers and fitting rooms all aimed at customers wishing to click and collect.
More recently, House of Fraser was winner of the 2014 Internet Retailing Mobile Award for mobile activities that extend beyond the obligatory to reinvent the retail experience. Andy Harding, Executive Director, Multi Channel, House of Fraser will close the keynote session with an exclusive presentation in which he shares insights into the journey from a ‘house of brands’ to a digitally-driven mobile-first business; the vision that’s been driving those moves and the realities of making the change.
While long-standing retailers are re-foundationing for future success they are still under threat from the agile competition of start-ups and as they look to international markets they have to contend also with other retailers looking to do the same. The UK is not alone in producing world-class retailers. Still growing at the phenomenal rate of a start up, online shoes-to-fashion retailer Zalando is a reminder to why no retailer can stand still. Ahead of his keynote presentation, Jérôme Cochet, Senior Vice President Sales, Zalando warns that localization is key to Zalando’s international success.
Following the keynote session, the conference will split into three simultaneously running tracks: Tide; Time; Place. Analytics, insight, planning, prediction and customer behaviour will be covered in Track 1 ‘Tide’ which looks at the movement and ebb and flow of retail complexities and demands.
Track 2 – Time
Mike Durbridge, Omnichannel Director of B&Q is leading the digital transformation at the home improvement retailer while working on Kingfisher-wide projects and ways to make working in store easier and simpler for colleagues. He’ll share learnings on the synchronisation of digital and physical and how it is enabling a move to stores that are easier to browse and shop with customers that are more confident to serve themselves.
Director of M&S.com, David Walmsley, will provide the inside track on the transformation and creation of a new flagship digital experience at Marks & Spencer commenting beforehand that “you must have the capability to continually evolve – having the right skills and mindset in-house is crucial”.
Franck Zayan, President of E-Commerce at Condé Nast International will talk about how the lines between publishing and retailing are blurring and how Condé Nast is pushing those boundaries.
Time is the heartbeat of retail with operations, logistics, supply chain, IT and systems being time-based or time-sensitive. From seamless experience, to speed of delivery and seasonal activities, Track 2 ‘Time’ covers retail from real-time to the long-term.
However, to sell, retailers have to be at the right time, but also in the right place. In the multichannel age the notion of place is challenged and extended as retail can happen anywhere from the high street, to digital in store, on mobile, the tablet shopper at home and across borders. All issues of ‘Place’ will be discussed in Track 3.
Track 3 – Place
Mobile technology enabled French fashion retailer Comptoir des Cotonniers [irdx RCDC] to launch 10,000 boutiques in just one night. Valérie Dassier, e-Business, CRM and Customer Service Director, Comptoir des Cotonniers and Françoise Cousin, E-business Projects Manager, Fast Retailing will share their experiences and learnings from the innovative project.
Mobile will be debated further by four top retailers including Claire Davenport, Managing Director of Vouchercodes.co.uk. “Mobile technology has given new meaning to ‘location’ in retail,” she commented ahead of the debate around mobile commerce, the importance of the tablet and second screening, location, payments, apps, responsive design and omnichannel shopper behaviour.
Harriet Williams talks about how Labelux is managing complexity to deliver a seamless luxury experience for Jimmy Choo , Bally, Belstaff and Zagliani – multi-brand, multi-site, multinational and multichannel.
With its pioneering social listening and cross-channel brand engagement Coca-Cola will share how it is using social, mobile and retail channels to drive growth and react to real-time events. An aptly named presentation to end the conference stream – Anytime, Anywhere.
Speakers at the Internet Retailing Conference will have led transformation within their business as their product sector or the retail landscape have evolved. Whether those projects have been major transformation across the whole business, technology-led, staffing or operations, they all will have been coherent, cohesive and worked for their customers. Projects within retail don’t have to be massive to produce radical results although the major replatforming project brought to fruition this year at Marks and Spencer while continuing daily trading is a feat that many will admire. David Walmsley, Director M&S.com will be speaking at the Internet Retailing Conference and sharing with delegates the inside track on the transformation and creation of a new flagship digital experience that is built around the evolving customer.
Tesco, also has been undergoing major changes and Simon Belsham, MD of the online grocery business will share Tesco’s multichannel vision with delegates.
For all retailers, whether pureplay or omnichannel, shoppers are turning to their mobile phone at every opportunity. One in four shoppers now owns a tablet too with this becoming the fastest growing conversion channel for many. In the words of French fashion retailer Comptoir des Cotonniers which this year launched 10,000 boutiques in just one night – and is presenting at this year’s conference – the store of the future is everywhere.
From big data to delivery choice and margins to mobile design, payments and innovation, the Internet Retailing Conference offers plenty of opportunities for delegates to debate the key issues with speakers and with an audience as knowledgeable as the speakers, past debates have been as lively as they are informative and thought provoking.
Retail is not alone though in its re-foundationing and transformation so while the industry looks in on itself and watches competitors, lessons can be learnt from other sectors: travel, brands selling direct and publishers with their pulse on content. With Thomas Cook, Condé Nast International and Coca-Cola [irdx RCCA] closing the conference I wonder what part services, brands and publishers will play in tomorrow’s retailing? Are they the next competition?
As well as the conference, the event includes longer, in-depth workshops on supplier-specific areas and an exhibition which brings together retail decision makers with senior teams at technology and supplier companies. The team at IR Towers look forward to greeting you at the Internet Retailing Conference. Registration is now open at internetretailingconference.com.