The InternetRetailing Conference took place in London on 5 October. Emma Herrod reports on some of the insights shared at the event.
Senior executives from leading businesses within retail including Google , John Lewis [IRDX RJLW], Asda , Lastminute , Trainline , Canon and Conrad Electronics gave presentations at the recent InternetRetailing and eDelivery Conferences in London. Highlighting the current state of retailing and the challenges ahead Ian Jindal, InternetRetailing’s Editor-in-Chief opened the event with the thought that “mediocre multichannel retailers no longer exist.”
He continued: “The world has become a little bit tougher than it has been for a while. Retailers are looking for the path to stand out from other such good retailers.” Amongst those retailers trying to stand out from others is German electronics company Conrad Electronics. The company’s VP B2C Daniel Infanger shared how the company has gone through a process of “getting deeper into its customers minds” to gain a better understanding of its customers, their behaviours and journeys in order to segment more precisely. “Statistics are not enough anymore,” he said.
He explained how the company had learnt the importance of business intelligence and talking to its customers. “No tool will solve all problems,” he said. He also talked about how organisation structure must follow business strategy and attribution and KPIs need to balance short and long term business plans as well as strategic and operational processes.
With digital enabling new models as well as different ways of shopping, consumers sometimes need educating. This was the case for dress hire company Girl Meets Dress which had to explain to shoppers that they could hire a dress rather than having to buy it. As Anna Bance, the company’s Founder explains: “The main challenge was to get customers to hire – to try it. So express checkout was necessary”.
Girl Meets Dress had to be adaptive with the shopping experience as customers gained an understanding of the process and reacted in different ways. It has had to create a balance between being a retailer and a booking service, explained Bance. Some customers talk to customer services before hiring an outfit while others look for items from a specific designer. “Every customer has a specific event date and knows where they are going. Therefore, customers put in their event date and then browse,” she said.
This has led to a lot of backend programming and a calendar for every single dress since the system needs to know when each dress is available. Dates are blocked out around a hire period for it to be logged in and out of the business and cleaned between hires.
The company has had to be adaptive with products and its own model too since frequent customers have wanted a membership option so that they could have hassle free hires every month. “Without adapting we wouldn’t have grown as much as we have,” she said. She also warns that all retailers need to adapt, to try new things.
The effect of making an emotional connection with potential customers was under discussion in the plenary panel discussion. Philip Driver, Head of Ecommerce EMEA at imaging specialist Canon Europe, says his brand has focused on sharing stories as part of its focus on offering a premium brand experience. “You tell us what your stories are and we will help you live your stories, providing a whole ecosystem around that, and the tools and services to help you do that,” he said. “Data is really important for that, since it helps us to fill those gaps.”
Sean McKee, Director of Ecommerce at Schuh , says the footwear retailer measures customer sentiment with every transaction, and is working to develop a positive, feel good, and trusted position. “It’s not just about today’s sale but it is about being where the customer trusts you.” That said, negative emotions, such as anxiety, can help to spur the sale. McKee said features such as countdown clock or showing the number of other people looking at an item can help to close the sale. It’s important that these figures are based in fact and that retailers don’t play too heavily on the negative. “It has to be better than that,” he said.
Simon Bell, Founder and Managing Director of Diligent Commerce said the “emotional triggers” that nudge people towards a sale are important – depending on the item being sold. “If you’re selling widgets, emotion is not too important,” but, “If you are in luxury the fundamental benefit is less about utility and more about what it says about you. Those sectors must really go for it.”
Canon’s Driver added: “Ink is a panic purchase but when you come through the ecommerce store, we’re still presenting you with high end brand values, irrespective of what you’re buying. Next time you may be looking for something more upmarket. You want the journey to say we know why you’re here, you want it quickly, but it still has to be that same seamless experience.”
Highlighting the event’s themes of ‘Energising Retail,’ Alastair Sterling, Industry Head, Retail at Google, warned “The pace of change and technological adoption is only going to get faster” – and the retail response must keep pace.
He pulled out key trends in his presentation including the “always connected consumer”, the growing access to hugely powerful supercomputers, such as those now at work at Google, and the massive datasets that are now commonplace. “We have access to more and more data than ever before,” he said. “Every two days we produce more data than mankind produced up to 2003. For businesses that’s mind-blowing. On one side of the fence this is scary, on the other, if I can make sense of the data I’m probably going to be able to engage with my consumers and my audience better than ever before.”
Voice, assistance, and cross-device digital experiences and journeys will all be important – as will emotional commerce. He summed up his advice in three points: help me faster, know me better, wow me everywhere.
Katie Baron, Head of Retail, Innovation and Insights, Stylus took delegates on a tour of the world to show how retail is changing. Examples included conversational commerce, chat bots, online personal styling and Johnnie Walkers’ Alexa Skill which educates shoppers on whisky types and allows them to make a purchase using their voice. Membership schemes were also discussed and how they can help brands to see consumers’ long-term behaviours.
“One of the biggest game changers is going to be the Internet of Things,” said Baron. One study she cited says that 2024 will be the tipping point for IoT when more than 50% of traffic will be to home devices and services.
The InternetRetailing Conference was also the place for product announcements. YotPo and Pitney Bowes both released research studies while Bazaarvoice launched Brand Edge, a solution for brands to collect consumer-generated content quickly and share it with retailers that sell their products online. The content that can be collected and syndicated by Brand Edge includes traditional ratings and reviews and questions and answers as well as visual content such as unboxing videos. The combination of reviews and visual content really helps consumers come to a decision, explained Olav Bus, Head of Product Marketing EMEA, Bazaarvoice.
“A recent study on visual content showed that 65% of consumers feel more confident to make a decision when there’s content from other consumers there rather than content that’s provided by the brand or other retailers,” he said.
Brand Edge works for brands that do not sell online as well as those that do and can help with new product launches since feedback can be collected from brand advocates and others during sampling campaigns.
Some of the presentations from the InternetRetailng Conference 2017 are available to view online now at internetretailingconference.com