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The retailers that stand out in this Dimension are setting new standards of service across channels.

Foot-forward retailers that are unafraid to develop and deploy market-leading features are rewarded in the Strategy and Innovation Performance Dimension.

These are traders that put the customer at the centre of the business. This Dimension rewards closeness and convenience – and small things that customers appreciate but that take work and planning to implement – whether it’s about making products findable, or responsive pricing. It’s about the businesses that are making the journey from personalisation to personal, and that routinely fine-tune this work to the customer’s benefit.

Our research here brings together the metrics that we judge the most strategic and innovative from the other five Performance Dimensions that make up this report. Among these are response times to customer queries, mobile load times and bug-free apps, as well as the ability to offer nominated time delivery, search visibility, and how retailers respond when no products match a shopper’s search. We’ve assessed which retailers offer international delivery, the number of payment options they use, and whether retailers make it clear that payment is secure. Finally, we’ve used the Wiser data on pricing strategies to round out our findings (see boxout).

Out in front

House of Fraser is well ahead in this Dimension. It has already put into practice many of the techniques in 2016’s basket of strategic and innovative practices, boasting convenient delivery options and strong mobile performance, while also responding quickly to customer enquiries. “House of Fraser,” says InternetRetailing researcher Martin Shaw , “has embraced true RetailCraft, and readily adopts new technologies. The areas where this retailer innovates in 2016 are likely to become the benchmark in later years that others emulate.”

Fellow department store Debenhams came in second place for a consistent approach to strategic action – it has, for example, fine-tuned its approach to ecommerce delivery in recent years, while its mobile performance also stands out. Health food business Holland & Barrett stood out for its reach, in third place, while fourth-placed John Lewis won its position for a strong performance in both customer service and in operations and logistics.

Last year’s leader Amazon is this year in fifth place after assessment expanded to a more holistic view of strategy. Amazon is the second most-trafficked online retailer in Europe, after eBay. Shaw says: “Amazon somehow manages to be at the forefront of every ecommerce trend. Its endeavours to be convenient despite a lack of physical stores, and in a Dimension that rewards the physical convenience cross-channel retailers find easier to offer, are recognised in this result.”

Assessing the field

The metrics brought together in this year’s Strategy Dimension reward cross-channel retailers that have the scale to offer true convenience. Both cost competitiveness and closeness to the customer are key. Three of this year’s top retailers are department stores. “Some of the services that are most convenient for customers rely on size and the economies of scale that accompany that heft,” says InternetRetailing’s Shaw. “Department stores seem to be particularly well-placed to capitalise on innovation.”

He suggests that fifth-placed Amazon and sixth-placed Asos score highly in this Dimension despite being pureplays because they have invested so heavily in enabling the cross-channel experience.

Businesses run by the Arcadia Group , including Topshop and Topman , do well in this Dimension. This, says Shaw, “reflects a significant, strategic, group-wide investment that yields results without sacrificing the unique customer-facing retail brands”.

As this year, the mix of metrics feeding into the Strategy and Innovation Dimension will be different next year, reflecting new benchmarks in performance in a competitive industry. Get in touch with your ideas for what should be included in the basket of strategic or innovative techniques and services for 2017 via or tweet @etail with #IRUK500.

Using price to assess Strategy and Innovation

The InternetRetailing-Wiser Dynamic Pricing Index will in coming months track both the retailers offering the most competitive pricing as well as the price volatility of products themselves. The analysis from Knowledge Partner Wiser takes as the baseline the price offered by Amazon – and not its marketplace sellers – for the 100 most popular products on each website. Here we’re sharing the first cut of this data as measured in January 2016 – a time of expected wide variation given post-Christmas sale activity.

Notably in this first tranche of results, Disney Store has the widest variation from the Amazon pricing. A review of the 100 products shows it is indeed selling the 100 selected products (from its “bestseller” ranking) at an average of 36% of the Amazon price. While not advertised as a site-wide sale these items were marked as discounted on the Disney site. Whether this reflects discounting or clearance of last season’s most popular lines is a question we’ll carry forward. While a spot measurement is interesting it is only by monitoring the changes’ frequency and amplitude over time that we can create a picture of a retailer’s dynamic and competitive pricing position.

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