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InternetRetailing Expo – InternetRetailing Magazine May 2019

The InternetRetailing Expo took place over two days in April at Birmingham’s NEC. Emma Herrod pulls together some of the event highlights.

April 3 and 4 saw retailers and suppliers to the ecommerce and omnichannel industry gather at the NEC for the annual InternetRetailing Expo. Over the two days, 300 exhibitors and 100 speakers shared their knowledge and chatted on the exhibition floor and in the conference sessions.

Amongst the exhibitors was Lil Packaging which showcased its range of environmentally-friendly packaging. The company’s vision is to be the world’s most ethical ecommerce packaging provider as it tries to remove plastic entirely from ecommerce packaging – and it hopes that others will follow suit.

Another pioneering exhibitor was OrderWise. The company is developing robots which will work in a warehouse and carry mobile racking to pickers. Think short, rectangular robots that lift the shelving from underneath rather than a gym-going C-3PO.

The company claims that the typical ROI for its goods-to-person robotic solution is 1-2 years. Ironmongery brand A Perry is due to go live with 15 robots and 450 pods – as the shelving is called – in August.

Robots were also the topic of a presentation by Jason Perry, manager ecommerce strategy & rollout, food digital, Co-op.

The convenience retailer was speaking about the company’s use of Starship Technologies’ robots for final mile deliveries. He explained to delegates how Co-op has made more than 15,000 deliveries to customers using the autonomous robots since starting a trial in April 2018.

“We’ve seen a 4.5x increase in weekly orders since launch,” said Perry “and that’s steadily growing”. Of the nine thousand households in the store’s delivery area, around 80% have downloaded the app and 40% of that number have placed an order.

Co-op has recently expanded the trial to a second store and started its own online grocery service delivering products by electric bicycle to customers in London.


With 90% of its mobile orders collected in store, building trade retailer Screwfix has to ensure that it gives its busy trade customers a good experience on mobile as well as through every touchpoint.

Orders can be collected in a minute of being placed as stock is held in a warehouse behind each of its stores – or trade counters as the company calls them. Click and collect is a major part of the retailer’s business with 80% of all online orders collected. Online sales last year amounted to £500m.

Sue Harries, digital director at Screwfix, explained to delegates that location and stock level data is returned when a person searches on Google for a product.

For example, they can see that a store 1.1 mile away from them has 15 of that product in stock and click on the link and go straight to the right place on the Screwfix site. They are then sent a text message when the order has been picked from the 11,000 skus in store, she explained.

The Screwfix app enables customers to keep an electronic version of their receipts in one place – something which is important for business customers working on different jobs.

The app also enables push notifications so that when a customer goes near a store they are sent a message about any items they have in their online basket – regardless of which channel was used to place them there.

The basket is converted into a QR which can be scanned at the till in store rather than the customer or a sales assistant having to look up the items or order numbers.

She shared three approaches that have worked for Screwfix:

  1. “Don’t use technology for technology’s sake – start with the customer problem you are trying to solve.” In Screwfix’s case the company wanted to give customers’ time – by having a quick checkout – and the certainty of knowing that the items they want to buy are in stock and can be reserved.
  2. “Put the customer in control of their journey.” One way that this is achieved is by keeping the communications open so that the customer knows what is happening with their order and they feel that they are in control at every point in the journey.
  3. There are so many different ways you can place an order. “It’s a really complex environment that we operate in now, but our customers really don’t care how complex it is. All the customer will remember is how the experience makes them feel about the brand.”


Jonas Hessler, former global web and ecommerce digital manager at Ikea, shared the stage with Apptus talking to delegates about how Ikea adopted AI-driven online merchandising to help customers find what they were looking for online.

As well as increasing search conversion, the retailer also tested automated merchandising and found that this led to a 75% reduction in the merchandisers’ workload since they previously spent 85% of their time working with product listing pages.

“We are not after cost cutting, we want to automate tasks so you can concentrate on value adding activities,” was how the solution was sold to the merchandising team.

A sales increase of 2-4% was achieved by automating merchandising, he told delegates.

The introduction of personalised product recommendations as the next step of the rollout resulted in a 7% uplift in sales “in some markets,” he added. And a better customer experience.

Hessler shared three things that have lead to his success, one related to business, one technology and one personal work life.

  • Business: Innovate more when you don’t need to as during successful times you have both funding and time;
  • Technology: Know what you want to achieve and find a vendor who is delivering a world-class experience;
  • Personal: It’s easy to work in a routine but that is the opposite of innovation. He asked the audience to think about the last time that they did something for the first time.

AI was discussed further by Matthew Kelleher of RedEye, in a presentation on how AI and predictive analytics, on top of a good data set, can increase customer lifetime value.

Working with building merchant Travis Perkins, the company was able to decrease customer churn and increase the number of VIP customers – those with a frequent high spend – from 3.2% of customers in January 2018 to 5.8% by the August. Spend per customer also increased over that time.

Taking the message from Hessler of doing something for the first time, if you missed this year’s InternetRetailing Expo and haven’t been before, then put it in your diary to visit for the first time in 2020. The team at IR Towers look forward to seeing you there – and at October’s

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