13 Trends and Priorities to Survive and Thrive
Internet Retailing conducted research into the key issues for retailers in 2013, the challenges left behind in 2012 and what they are heading into in 2014 to come up with ‘13 for 13’: thirteen trends and priorities to survive and thrive. Emma Herrod reports the results and the ensuing discussion at IRX.
Mobility and Mobile retailing was revealed as the top priority for retailers in 2013 as the results from Internet Retailing’s ‘13 for 13’ research was announced at the Internet Retailing Expo in March. Some 68% of respondents reported mobile as a key issue for 2013 with just 6% believing that it will continue to be a key work challenge into 2014.
Ian Jindal, Editor in Chief of Internet Retailing, set the survey questions and commented that the issue was not so much about having an app but rather an integration of mobile and tablet devices into the multichannel offering, optimising experience and embracing mobility. It’s not just the device, but the use of untethered computing power and context,” he said.
Jindal was joined by a panel of four to discuss the results at the Internet Retailing Expo and they agreed that mobile is the most important trend for retail at the moment. “Mobile is the future,” said Walter Blackwood , Director, Group Logistics at Mothercare. “If we don’t keep it at the top of the list we won’t have a communication method to our customers,” he told delegates.
Fellow panellists Stephen Lepitak, Editor, The Drum, queried why mobile is still the main thing. “It’s a lack of understanding and how can you be an expert in every channel,” he said. Siobhán Géhin , Associate Partner at Kurt Salmon agreed. She also said that “2013 is the year of the customer.” How, where and when they want; “expectations are raised and how they are being matched by retailers.” For Steve Dukes, Head of Paylater, the main issue is one of “recession retailing,” and for Steve Lepitak of The Drum it’s publishing, content and social. “Something that draws in customers and drives social,” he told delegates. Walter Blackwood cited delivery and international as major issues for 2013. “The real opportunity it presents from a marketing perspective as well as logistics,” he told delegates. In the widest possible context of delivery “we’re talking about it as something that doesn’t work.”
THE REST OF THE TRENDS
Seamlessness was the second trend to be brought up as important to retailers in 2013 but unlike mobile, 22% of respondents said that it will still be an issue running into 2014. Experience design will continue into 2014 as well. Ian Jindal commented: “Building upon the growth in channels and their interaction, experience design is shaping the customer’s view of the whole shopping journey and all contacts with the brand. More than user experience or web design, we’re focusing now upon the customer’s assessment of how we arrange design, service, product, operations, logistics, staff, voice and mobile to create a total experience”.
Delivery issues rumble on from last year as demand for greater and more capable delivery capacity is mirrored in the travails of delivery companies. As retailers strive for ever-better service, in increased competition with other growing retailers, is our ability to secure prioritised capacity at the highest service levels?
International and cross-border trading continue from last year through 2013 and into 2014 as retailers of all sizes look to new markets but also strive to defend home markets as non UK companies enter the market. In 2013, growth in new markets is lifting retail spirits in an otherwise flat market and international has become an orthodoxy. “Going international used to be such a big issue,” said Géhin.
“We have an advanced level of skill and an almost universal language that lets us in but doesn’t necessarily lead to growth,” said Blackwood. Growth is going to the English speaking world i.e. Australia except for high-level brands pitching to growing middle classes in emerging markets.
The issues though are 1) how are they going to pay you and 2) delivery such as getting downstream access to local couriers and post services, commented Blackwood. A key question though is what is stopping retailers from “doing these trends?”
The panel discussed issues around what is holding retailers back from ticking off the boxes revealed by these 13 trends. One issue is that there’s “a limited pot for IT spend and everyone is asking how do I get the best bang for my buck,” said Géhin.
There are two issues here: one is what would it unlock? Decrease margins in the short term but increase in the long term. The second one being about how to galvanise the entire organisation behind change rather than just the ecommerce team.
Blackwood believes that for some, the difficulty is in defining who the customer is. “When you disappoint customers’ expectations you have failed,” he told delegates. “You can’t spend lots on stores and then use the cheapest courier and knock down their price.”
So, how do you go from a trend to best practice? The panel believes it is down to retailers at the cutting edge being happy to try out different things.
AND WHAT FOR 2014
For Jindal the issue for 2014 is direct selling by brands. Géhin believes it will be the digital stores. “My expectations are rising week by week and customers are becoming ever more expecting of that experience,” she said.
“Things are becoming more complicated,” said Dukes so for him experience design will be a key issue for 2014. With a cry of “Good luck,” Lepitak said that retailers will need to keep their customers happy regardless of where they are, so experience across the brand will be critical.
Blackwood predicts that logistics will still be an issue for retailers in 2014. “What we have in the UK is not fit for purpose,” A challenging cry indeed for a logistics pioneer turned retailer.