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Editor's Comment - Issue 52 (IRM 52)

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Customers expect good service from every business that they interact with, be that via the telephone, face-to-face or through social or digital channels. We have all come to expect digital channels to work in a certain way whether it’s the way that the navigation works or the fact that everyone includes a way that they can be contacted on their site. The digital world is not just made up of retailers; customers are spending their time on many different sites, playing games, reading the news, browsing through magazines. How those sites work and the experience they are giving has a knock-on effect on retail and how potential customers expect retailers to behave, how their sites look and the experience they give. Gamification, a big issue a few years ago, has moved into retail from other sectors while editor’s picks and editorial-style features are increasingly appearing amongst the digital offerings of the fashion and motoring retailers. Amazon, once a retailer, is now a content producer, emulating the TV industry.

In this issue of InternetRetailing, we take a look at some of those other industries, how they are impacting customer behaviour and the lessons that retailers can learn from them. The world of consumer magazines, for example, is encroaching on retailing as the lines between content and commerce merge in new ventures from Condé Nast and Marie Claire. Is the combination of publishers’ engagement skills with retail’s logistics expertise a marriage that retailers should be worried about?

What about manufacturers? Selling direct to consumers opens up opportunities for manufacturers while also enhancing the relationship with retailers. Ian Devine, of global commerce service provider Salmon, writes about why brands should be unlocking the benefits of direct-to-consumer marketing whilst leveraging the expertise of their long-standing partners. The internet, though, is raising new challenges and opportunities for brands and manufacturers as the Internet of Things progresses towards the ‘Commerce of Things’. James Gagliardi from Digital River examines the opportunities for manufacturers as they move from, for example, selling 1,000 toothbrush heads in a single order to the same number of toothbrush heads in 1,000 orders as devices automatically order replacement parts as they are needed. “Digital commerce infrastructure will be vital to manufacturers as they make the shift to the Commerce of Things,” he comments.

Micro-payments is something to which consumers are already becoming accustomed through their use of mobile phones. Friends can now split a restaurant bill with each paying their share via their phones, parking can paid for by phone instead of hunting for the correct change and charities are asking us to TEXT 70000 to donate £5 for the latest disaster relief effort. Will someone buy a £1,000 handbag and pay for it using a mobile app? Last year, someone paid a £23,000 deposit on a home to an estate agent using the Pingit app so it shows that eventually it will come.

Retail is not restricted to online and stores are also undergoing a massive transformation as retailers redefine spaces. Technologies, such as robotics and augmented and virtual reality, are moving into the mainstream while what were concept stores are being rolled out across store estates. Argos, for example, is doing away with paper catalogues and small pencils in its stores in exchange for iPads and speedy collection points. Bertrand Bodson, Chief Digital Officer of Argos’ owner Home Retail Group, spoke to me about the company’s transformation.

Dalziel and Pow’s Digital Design Director Ross Phillips writes in this issue about what retailers can learn from other sectors’ use of digital in store and store design for omnichannel customers. Commenting on the Argos transformation, he says: “One of the key successes of the new stores is how technology both in-store and back-of-house has enabled staff to take a more active role in the customer experience”.

There is lots going on in the industry at the moment and much was discussed at the recent InternetRetailing Expo. I’ve pulled together some of the highlights in the Now & Next section. Talking of Next – the next IR event is the Awards party on 24 September. I look forward to seeing you there.
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