Welcome to the latest in our series of Internet Retailing special reports. In this issue, we take customer experience for our theme. At the heart of our exploration of what the consumer wants, and how retailers best deliver that, lies one key question: how do we best serve a customer who is taking an ever more powerful role in the retail transaction? We echo the words of retail veteran Sir Stuart Rose, who formerly led M&S and is now chairman of a string of innovative ventures including Ocado and Dressipi. “They always used to say the customer is king,” he told Internet Retailing Conference 2013. The customer is not king any more. The customer is master of the universe – you have to give them what they want, when they want it.” Thanks to fast internet access and the many different devices that people can now use to access the service, customers can now move from one retailer to another at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen. They are well versed in finding the exact product that matches their needs, as well as the information that they need to make informed choices. They want it now – and for free, and they never take no for an answer. Forward-thinking retailers are responding by building strategies that let the customer take charge of their own experience. By definition, retailers can no longer rely on established wisdom to design their customer experience, and throughout this special report we discuss new and varying approaches that retailers of different sizes and from a range of sectors are taking to the task of satisfying their customers’ wants and needs. In this supplement we look at how traders from The White Company to John Lewis, from Schuh to Argos, and from L’Oréal to TUI Travel, are assessing their customers’ innermost desires, and working to shape their businesses around that consumer demand. As always, we’ve considered the issues through the prism of six regular features, on interface and design, merchandising, strategy, logistics, customer engagement and cross-channel experience. In our interface and design feature (page 8), we consider how retailers best approach the challenge of designing retail experiences fit for a grand omnichannel design. It’s not all big gestures though: going back to basics and focusing on small details to create a big picture that works. That’s just some of the advice that we’ve gathered from leading industry professionals – and, as we found, they have plenty more to say as well. Our merchandising section (page 12) takes a look at the importance of keeping things relevant. Starting with the customer when setting out the online range helps boost transactions; we delve deeper to find out how and why retailers are looking to the individual to boost their mass appeal. A cross-channel experience (page 16) is part of every multichannel retailer’s strategy. The challenge is to make that a reality, to take the steps that move on from selling through a choice of channels to creating the linked-up seamless experience that consumers so relish. In this feature we take a look at the different ways businesses are bringing their sales channels together, and at practical steps towards achieving them. Customers like deliveries that arrive on time, and with a smile. In our logistics and systems feature (page 20) we consider how shippers and sellers are working together to create experiences that resonate, and are remembered for all the right reasons. In our strategy feature (page 24) we consider how retailers can best organise around the customer, pulling together the different strands that go towards satisfying and delighting web visitors. We assess strategic approaches to building a connected business in an often-siloed world. Personalisation, finally, is at the heart of customer engagement (page 28). In our feature, we look at ways retailers can achieve the one-on-one interaction that delivers dividends. Traders that learn from the customer, advises one expert, will be able to deliver the kind of offline service that customers seek.