When is an industry conference not a conference, when it’s an unConference. Before you all go off thinking I’ve lost the plot, bear with me.
The UnStore has been around for a few years now as the ‘new’ concept stores of the future. Rather than having products constrained within four walls, these stores are flexible spaces that are entertaining, engaging and interactive. OK, the InternetRetailing unConference (IRC), which is taking place in London on 11 October, may not promise to be as entertaining as the Samsung 837 unstore in Manhattan, for example, but looking through the list of speakers and the change of format it will be far from dull.
Delegates will have to interact with each other and with speakers as the day takes a round table approach with discussion, retail problem solving across many topics pertinent to issues raised by roles in retailing today. As the IRC organisers say, “These dedicated forums – exclusively for retailers – 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.”
These round table are led by retailers for retailers with moderators including Coop, Dixons Carphone and House of Fraser. Topics range from pureplay, innovation & disruption, beyond channels, marketing & customer obsession, final mile, operational excellence, international growth, mobile first and brand engagement.
Delegates won’t be expected to do all the work as a keynote fireside chat with Henry Birch, CEO of Shop Direct will start the day. Shop Direct is the UK’s largest integrated pureplay digital retailer and financial services provider, with annual sales of £1.93bn. Birch has been at the helm since May so will be able to share a new perspective with delegates of the company’s brands, more than 1.3 million website visits every day and how mobile accounts for 69% of online sales. Maybe the retailer’s mantra of “We exist to make good things easily accessible to more people,” will extend to sharing some of its success to other retailers too.
The question of skills and those on which ecommerce leaders should focus to regenerate their businesses and drive 2018 profits will be addressed in a keynote discussion led by InternetRetailing’s Editor-in-Chief, Ian Jindal. He’ll be joined by panellists including Jonathan Wall, Chief Digital Officer of Missguided.
Discussions then move onto omnichannel and the role of the store today and how it will develop in the next 5-10 years.
A quick fire panel discussion with be posing questions of the audience too as the conference takes a dive deep in to the issue of innovation and exposes differing views. Panellists include John Nother, Senior Director: ASDA Digital Technology, Walmart International eCommerce and Alex Hamilton, Head of Insight at Isobar.
A coffee break then allows for the 4 walls to be changed to accommodate the different speaking tracks for the majority of the day, before delegates come back together for the closing keynote panel discussion which will look at how ecommerce will develop by 2021 and what should retail leaders be doing today to prepare? With panellists including Google and Facebook and innovative retailers Schuh and Picnic there should be plenty of things to think through and how they may fit your own business.
Before then though, delegates have a full afternoon of presentations, workshops and one-to-one sessions to get to the heart of issues relevant to them, their role and their retail business. Four conference streams focus in further on International & Innovation, Delivery & Operations, Customer & Engagement, Beyond Channels.
With the uncertainty Brexit has created for ecommerce; many retailers are increasingly looking to international markets from growth opportunities. Although the opportunity is huge, trading internationally is a complex process. With online competition now fiercer than ever retailers are using innovative strategies to drive market share and keep customers engaged. The ‘International & Innovation’ conference track will help delegates use localisation effectively to drive sales and customer base when retailing internationally. The innovation sessions will help them understand how they can differentiate through creating and fostering an internal culture of innovation, get beyond the hype of AI and how multichannel retailers learn from pureplay innovators.
With the options for customer delivery rapidly growing and with some retailers even providing an hourly delivery option, delivery is fast becoming a key way for retailers to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The ‘Delivery & Operations’ track looks at both final mile and operational excellence to drive market share through world class delivery. Delegates will learn how they can meet customer expectations for same-day delivery whilst still remaining profitable and what an operational excellence strategy looks like leading up to and during peak trading periods.
Speakers in this track include Charlotte Briscall, Head Of Digital Experience, Group Digital at Sainsbury’s who will examine how demand for same-day delivery will develop over the next two years.
Phil Barnes, Director of Supply Chain at cataloguer to online fashion business N Brown Group will present on how retailers should approach resource available during peak trading periods. One of the questions he’ll be posing is “what can retailers do collaboratively as an industry to smooth the curve of gearing operations up for peak?”
Track 3 includes speakers from peer-to-peer social shopping app Depop and catering equipment supplier Nisbets. Simon O’Mahony, Director of Digital, Retail & Customer Service, & MD Mitre Linen, Nisbets, will look at the question of how to prove marketing ROI in a fragmented market of increasing media options. One of the questions he’ll try to answer is “Which new media innovations will offer retailers the best ROI by 2020?”
As the track overview says, customer expectations are getting ever higher in an increasing complex market of channel options so an effective marketing, customer and engagement strategy has never been more essential for successful ecommerce. The ‘Customer & Engagement’ track will help delegates to understand how to prove marketing ROI in a fragmented market of increasing media options and also decide which personalisation strategies will actually engage your customers and drive loyalty.
Conference Track 4 goes Beyond Channels: Today’s increasingly demanding customers want to shop whenever, wherever and however they desire and now expect an increasingly seamless experience across channels. The ‘Beyond Channels’ track will help delegates asses what a seamless omnichannel customer experience actually feels like and how they should approach delivering it. It also looks at how retailers can move ‘mobile first’ from a concept to a strategic ecommerce reality.
Alexander Bartholomew, Managing Director, Performance Cycling, Halfords, will share his expertise in this area looking at the skills, talent and culture that is needed to make mobile-first a reality.
Other speakers in this track include Sara Prowse, Chief Executive Officer, Hotter. Sara joined shoe retailer Hotter at the beginning of 2016, with the remit to fix and stabilise a business that had gone through rapid growth but was starting to falter, and then step change the growth trajectory, with international expansion the key driver. At IRC she’ll be looking at omnichannel retailing at what a seamless omnichannel customer experience feels like and how retailers should approach delivering it, what key strategies offer the best ROI when approaching a seamless experience, how do you decide how much to invest in each channel and how should you design your corporate structure to deliver the omnichannel experience of the future?
IRC aims to shake the industry and question well established retail concepts; equipping digital leaders with a platform to learn, network and continue developing their digital retail and multichannel strategies. To this end, delegates have the opportunity to meet and test their strategies against each other in order to create an overall solution that ultimately attracts customers, keeps customers and builds loyalty and revenue over time. That has to be worth taking back to the boardroom.
Visit internetretailingconference.com for more information and to register.