InternetRetailing’s annual conference will be taking place on 10 October. Emma Herrod looks ahead to some of the highlights.
London’s Business Design Centre is the venue for 2019’s InternetRetailing Conference (IRC). The event returns on 10 October with a line up of speakers from brands including eBay, Groupon, Avon, Liberty London, Adidas, Made.com, Arcadia, TripAdvisor, Watch Shop and Pernod Ricard.
These senior retailers from big name brands will share their visions for the future, how they see their strategic initiatives translated into practice and how they are implementing new technology across the business.
The morning plenary session will see InternetRetailing’s editor-in-chief Ian Jindal interviewing key retailers live on stage. This year’s keynotes include Andy Lightfoot, CEO UK & US of SpaceNK who will be talking about how increased agility is helping the company to thrive in today’s fast-paced disruptive retail environment.
Stephen Dowling, vice president, digital growth at Adidas, Zia Zareem-Slade, customer
experience director, Fortnum & Mason and David Lloyd, managing director, UK & Nordics, Alibaba Group will then discuss the issue of partnerships and how retailers, brands, consumers and marketplaces are better together.
Ethical ecommerce and the areas of fast fashion, electric deliveries, social media and sourcing will be discussed in the afternoon plenary sessions. Suzanne Westlake, head of corporate responsibility & corporate affairs at Ocado and Kieren Mayers, director of environment and technical compliance, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe give their take on this important issue.
Andy Harding, interim chief digital officer at Arcadia Group is interviewed about investment and where retailers should prioritise to drive growth. He will be followed by the closing panel who will be assessing the real power of the customer, online retailer and media owner. On the panel will be Henry Eccles, head of UK commerce, global partnerships EMEA, Google, Adele Cooper, UK & Ireland country manager at Pinterest and Ed Couchman, UK general manager, Snap.
These closing plenary sessions run from 4.20 until the conference closes at 5.45.
During the rest of the day though, there are many different topics for delegates to choose from. Across 6 conference tracks, delegates will hear from more thought-leaders as they discuss and outline what actions they believe retailers must take if they are to ride the wave of change in the retail industry instead of being swept away. Discussion and insight into RetailCraft will be shared across many areas on ecommerce and multichannel directors’ to do lists.
Track 1 will focus on growth and new markets in the UK and overseas. Speakers including
Forrester analyst Michelle Beeson, Robin Phillips, CEO of Watch Shop and Deckers senior director David Williams will discuss driving growth in new global and local markets.
Track 2 will focus on customer engagement and loyalty. From creating an emotional connection online with your customer, subscription models and loyalty schemes, through to referral schemes and getting customers to become a proactive ambassador of your brand in the future. Speakers here include Emilie Mouquot, customer and growth director, NotOnTheHighStreet.com.
Track 3 focuses on the customer experience across all touch points. Topics being discussed include channel switch between offline and online and how retailers can replicate the personal magic touch. Eric Fergusson, director of ecommerce, Liberty London and Sienne Veit, director, digital at John Lewis will both be contributing to these sessions, while Miriam Lahage, CEO, Figleaves will share what the comapny has done differently to captivate the market as it transformed from a multi-brand lingerie retailer to a lifestyle brand.
Omnichannel and the changing dynamics between online and offline will be the focus of Track 4. In these conference sessions, speakers will examine the relationship between physical, desktop and mobile. Retail leaders including The Co-operative Group will share how they have become more customer focused rather than channel focused. Stuart Heffernan, head of ebusiness at Pernod Ricard, Stephen Honight, ecommerce and performance marketing lead at Pukka Herbs and Nicola Fox, former head of CRM at Missguided and Holland & Barrett will be on hand to discuss the topic further with small groups of delegates in round table sessions.
Track 5 will focus on tech enablers and innovation. It will examine whether you should stay ahead of the market or keep up with the pack and what hugely successful fast-growing brands are doing differently, how they see the future of retail and what their plans are for the future. Zalando, TripAdvisor, Lego, Nobody’s Child and The Fold will all be sharing their views.
Track 6 will focus on customer expectations and giving them what they want. It will examine how retailers are achieving excellence across all the touch points to meet customer expectations as well as how to provide the perfect customer delivery experience at a price point that makes sense for both the consumer and the business. Jean-Francois Bessiron, vice president, Groupon, Nick Burton, vp digital development at Avon, Grace Roper, head of food digital operations, Sainsbury’s will share their expertise, while senior retailers from Interflora, Missguided, Grenson Shoes and eBay will lead round table discussions.
IRC 2019 is more than PowerPoint presentations and speaker interviews. Round tables, workshops and 1-2-1 meetings give everyone the chance to discuss individual business issues with peers and suppliers to the industry, while the exhibition brings together the latest systems and innovations.
The IRC round tables have been crafted to allow open and intimate discussions giving retailers the room to debate and discuss the most pertinent issues their jobs demand. These dedicated forums have been designed to span a breadth of topics critical to the future retail machine and will equip participants with the tools to create an overall solution that ultimately attracts, keeps and builds customer loyalty and revenue over time.
In the hands-on, practical, training-focused workshops, delegates can hear from the companies which have led, delivered and assisted significant projects for globally-renowned retailers, brands and services.
Last year’s conference welcomed more than 800 digital retail leaders, many of whom return each year, seeing IRC as an informative event and a great opportunity to network.
You can register your attendance and find out more details about the event at internetretailingconference.com.
The future of retail
Chloe Rigby, Editor at InternetRetailing.net asked speakers ahead of IRC 2019 for their retail predictions for the next five to ten years.
The role of the customer
Customers will continue to take the lead, says Stuart Heffernan, head of business at Pernod Ricard UK. “Shoppers will find new ways to challenge retailers,” he says, “and those that don’t listen and proactively change to meet shopper needs and/or think long term then they will struggle.”
Chloe Thomas, founder of eCommerce Masterplan, says retailers will need to develop strong connections with those who buy from them in coming years. “I think things will continue to shift in how consumers choose to shop and the experience they expect via different channels. Keeping up with and responding to that is going to be an exciting challenge. The retailers who win will be those with the strongest connection with their customers, which suggests it might be the direct-to-consumer and manufacturer brands who do the best, but I think there’s still plenty of space for a great curated range.”
The changing balance between online and the store
Speakers working in retail categories from toys to footwear see shoppers making more of their purchases online in the future, while shops evolve into showrooms where customers go for the experience. Lucy Shamdasani, vp, head of engagement technology and analytics at Lego Group, says: “Online channels will become more important and generate more revenue than physical retail stores for most retailers. There’ll be a widespread move to marketplace ecosystems for online retail, while physical stores will become much more experience-focused with the purchase less important.”
“I think the role of a multi-brand retailer will change hugely,” says Ashley Hubbard, ecommerce manager at Grenson Shoes. “They feel like expensive businesses to run with a model based on a limited margin that I don’t see fundamentally changing anytime soon. It’s not all negative however. The death of the high street has also led to the growth of brands selling direct to consumer which is a fantastic environment and an opportunity for the entrepreneurial thinkers out there that I think will continue to grow as tech becomes an enabler to making this simpler. Retail is an indicator of social and economic behaviour change to me.”
Hubbard says that while some products more easily lend themselves to buying online, shoppers will want to see larger and more expensive items for themselves – and that’s where retail theatre and experience-based shopping can be most relevant. “Not everything needs the same treatment,” he says. “I think the merging of social media and shopping will continue. Before long I can see Instagram being a shopping channel based on the early brand adopters in this space already offering shoppable content. Again, this is an experience being delivered to the consumer but without the need to go anywhere near bricks and mortar retail.”
Automation in delivery
Automation will start to be used in delivery, according to two of our speakers. Stephen Honight, global ecommerce and performance marketing lead at Pukka Herbs, says: “Driverless vehicles will significantly reduce delivery costs and unlock new ecommerce business models in CPG.”
Meanwhile Chris Conway, head of ecommerce at The Co-operative Group, says: “My best guess would be an increased move to automation, especially around delivery and last mile operations.
The use of technology in store is also likely to increase, not just to save costs but to improve the experience for customers as new generations of customers grow up and expectations change.”
Robin Phillips, previously of Boots and Waitrose and now chief executive of Watch Shop, says the benefits of working together will become a new theme for ecommerce and multichannel retailers.
“I think we’ll see a lot more partnerships and I don’t just mean retail partnerships but partnerships between retailers, technology providers, fulfilment providers, data providers, because I don’t think most retailers can afford or have the bandwidth to think about all those things. I think you’ll see people concentrating on what they’re expert at, their brand or product, and looking to other experts as partners to make sure that overall you can compete against the likes of Amazon.”
One example of how that might work is around data partners to make sure personalisation works well. “We have to be careful about respecting the sanctity of privacy and data,” says Phillips, “but I think increasingly you’ll see customers giving permission to share some of their data with a combination of retailers, mobile operators, shopping centres, individual stores who’ll work together to provide a more personalised and rewarding experience through sharing that data – a value exchange with the customer.” Indeed, Watch Shop itself is becoming a B2B partner by working with brands that want to outsource retailing, fulfilment and stock holding. It’s already providing drop shipping services to Goldsmiths and is looking to expand on that.
The rise of sustainable businesses
Stephen Dowling, vice president, digital growth, at Adidas predicts an “exponential decline” among “bad retail, bad retailers and bad customer service”.
He says: “Good retail, good service and good offerings will continue to prosper regardless of the channel. If and when the credit wave goes out, businesses built on featherweight and dubious consumer propositions will be seen to have their pants down.” Businesses that ensure they are sustainable will work in the long-term. “Sustainability and society will become part of the extended retail P&L as in consumers will brutally judge those who are either part of the solution or the problem.”
Polly McMaster, chief executive and co-founder of The Fold is thinking on similar lines. “Brands with a more agile approach and a stronger sense of purpose will flourish,” she said. “We are already seeing a wave of consumer change on everything from shopping habits, environmental awareness and inclusiveness. But with all of that, it always comes down to – are you selling product that a customer wants to buy?”