The UK’s largest multichannel retail event is taking place at Birmingham’s NEC on 21 - 22 March 2018. Emma Herrod shares a preview of the 8th InternetRetailing Expo.
Online retailing in the UK is maturing with a growth rate in 2017 dropping to 12.1%. It had been predicted to grow by 14% and this is still less than the 15.9% average year-on-year rate seen in 2016. Sales growth on smartphones is also slowing – albeit down to 50% rather than the 102% seen monthly on average during the second half of 2015. Tablet growth only increased by 0.7%, according to the IMRG.
This decline in the phenomenal growth seen in online could be part of a 3-year bounce pattern which saw peaks in 2010 (from increased web speeds) and repeated in 2013 (rise of tablets) and 2016 (driven by purchasing on smartphones). Should 2018 follow this pattern, then the year is expected to slow down further but be followed by a new stimulus to proliferate the market during 2019, according to the IMRG .
So, how can retailers prepare for an as yet unknown stimulus for the market while trying to ring every penny out of a challenging trading year? Is innovation the answer in the form of Artificial Intelligence as retailers pass increasing amounts of decision making to smart, fast computers or will further operational efficiencies make the difference between remaining on the high street or joining the list of retailers which have disappeared in recent years? Will browserless commerce in the form of voice assistants be the shift in behaviour needed to stimulate the ecommerce market?
And what about Brexit and its March 2019 deadline? What impact will that have on us all?
As retailers are challenged by long-term strategic plans, rolling digital roadmaps and innovations to keep up with consumer demands for seamless experiences and fun retailing – which all have to be balanced with daily trading and quarterly reports – InternetRetailing gathers speakers and exhibitors for its eighth, annual InternetRetailing Expo.
Amongst 100 hours of interactive content, 100+ visionary speakers, 300+ industry-leading multichannel exhibitors, 8 free conferences and excellent networking opportunities, the InternetRetailing Expo team hope to aid retailers in answering some of these answers in ways that fit their individual businesses.
One of the workshops, for example, looks in depth at the top priorities for UK retail executives in 2018. The Oracle + Bronto-led workshop will examine how leading UK retailers are responding to consumer needs and how they’re optimising their digital and mobile strategies, among other insights. These include: the channels and tools ecommerce marketers are focusing on to drive sales and profits in 2018; how bricks-and-mortar retail and ecommerce can complement one another; top marketers’ takes on mobile strategy and optimisation by device; the importance of adopting a hyper-personalisation conversation with your customers; the technologies retailers would invest in if time and money were no issue.
In the conference tracks – of which there are 8 overall across the 2-day event – retailers and industry experts will discuss different aspects of retailing from omnichannel to mobile and operations to the final mile. Retailers will share their experiences and lessons learned to date during presentations and question and answer panel discussions. Visitors then have the opportunity to talk and meet in the exhibition space with the technology suppliers working with these leading retailers. Top 500 retailers are invited to network in their own Lounge area in the exhibition hall.
Mobile, for example, is one of the key growth areas for ecommerce as a channel in its own right and as an enabler for omnichannel services and a digital connector between retailer and customer in-store . Robin Phillips, Director of Digital - Kurt Geiger will share his experiences of ‘Boosting sales through moving from mobile friendly to a truly mobile-first strategy’ in a presentation in the Mobile-First conference track. As part of his presentation, he’ll cover aspects including: achieving a clearer understanding of the mobile element of your customers’ purchase journey; restructuring your strategy, team and skills to reflect the shift to a mobile-first customer; ensuring engagement through making the mobile experience awesome; prioritising mobile checkout to ensure you maximise conversion opportunities; ensuring your email marketing strategy is effective in a mobile-first market; integrating your mobile-first strategy into your omnichannel initiatives to drive a seamless experience.
Tom Rooney, Senior Product Manager, Mobile Apps and In-Store Digital - John Lewis, will then discuss how the department store is ‘Transforming the in-store experience with associate mobile technology’.
It’s one thing to carry out these projects, but with any aspect of retailing their effectiveness needs to be continually tested and measured. Sarah Davies, Lead, UK eCommerce Partnerships – Google, will cover the metrics that matter for retail, along with sharing insight into the use of accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to improve webpage speed and how to increase customer engagement through progressive web apps (PWA).
Out in the exhibition hall, companies including Bugfinders, Mobile Bridge and mGage are on hand to discuss aspects of m-commerce with Expo visitors.
Another exhibitor, which enables brands to create individualised experiences for customers, is Monetate. The company will be able to discuss with visitors how they can improve engagement and business performance. The company’s Director of Strategy & Insights, Simon Farthing, will also be presenting in the Marketing & Customer Obsession conference track.
Also speaking there are Savannah Sachs, UK Managing Director – Birchbox (who is also the cover interview in this issue of InternetRetailing) and Ken Daly, CEO – JML. Daly will provide the opening keynote address on the topic of ‘Understanding why customer centricity is crucial for today’s ecommerce players’. In this presentation, he’ll cover: evaluating what customer-centricity really means to the online retailer and why it is growing in importance; understanding the essential new skills that are now required for a more customer-centric business; moving from a marketing focus to putting a customer-centricity strategy at the heart of your company culture; ensuring a more seamless experience through a single view of the customer.
Meanwhile, over in the International Growth conference track, Joël Palix, CEO, Feelunique will be talking about how to evaluate which countries offer the best opportunities to increase your customer base and are right for your expansion plans.
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 and the ‘International Growth’ conference track aims to help visitors to improve their international efforts through effective localisation, enabling them to drive customer convenience through efficient international logistics and delivery. The track also looks at the key international ecommerce challenges and how they can be overcome.
A panel of speakers, all with experience of expanding retail operations outside of their home countries, will discuss the biggest challenges retailers face when expanding internationally and how they can best be overcome. This is the opportunity for visitors to ask questions of the retailers from Conrad Electronic International, Michael Kors, Made.com and Lovehoney. Along with localisation and delivery methods, the speakers will also raise the questions of “how do you know when is the right time to pull out of an international territory?”
Operational issues are key to a successful international expansion plan and a separate area of the exhibition hall is opened out for companies involved in all areas of supply chain, operations, logistics and delivery. Forming the eDelivery Expo, which is running alongside the InternetRetailing Expo, these companies can discuss everything from supply chain, to warehouse software and packaging to final mile solutions.
Hermes, Correos, B2C Europe, Snapfulfil and Narvar are amongst the companies exhibiting. Narvar is sponsor of the Operational Excellence conference track in which its CEO and Founder, Amit Sharma, is joining a panel discussion on ‘Ensuring your returns policy supports sales whilst avoiding disruption to your business’.
Descartes meanwhile will be running a workshop entitled ‘E-Commerce warehouse logistics as a competitive advantage’. The company will show visitors what they should look out for in ecommerce warehouse management software and what can be achieved – all with real-life examples.
The ‘Operational Excellence’ conference track focuses on the supply chain, operations and logistics element of internet retailing. Speakers will share with visitors how they can use innovation in their warehouse to improve operational efficiency and how best to manage 3PL relationships during peak trading to improve customer experiences.
The track also looks at how retailers can work together operationally to drive sales, ensuring their returns policy avoids business disruption and what operational excellence will look like in 2020 and how to best prepare. Karen Gibson, Senior Manager - toyou Client Relationships – Asda will present on how the supermarket is leveraging its logistics operation to provide third party click and collect services to other retailers while pulling in new customers to its stores.
Looking ahead to the question of what operational excellence will look like in 2020 and what retailers should do now to prepare, Dave Crellin, Head of Online Operations, Sainsbury’s, will share his views in the closing keynote address.
Whether you’re looking for validation of your own customer behaviour or view on 2018’s innovations, looking for ways to optimise daily trading or expand across geographies, product categories or into marketplaces, then the InternetRetailing Expo and eDelivery Expo offer retailers with whom visitors can network, speakers happy to share their experiences, challenges overcome and lessons learnt along the way and leading suppliers on the full gamut of retailing functionality. Whether it’s Asda, Ocado, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Google, Screwfix or Shop Direct Group, they will all be there – and that’s not counting the 5,000+ visitors expected to be walking around the exhibition over the 2 days. You don’t know who you’ll bump into.
For more information and to register for your free pass, visit www.internetretailingexpo.com. As ever, the InternetRetailing team look forward to seeing you there.