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The Conran Shop’s ecommerce head on why ‘omnichannel’ is outdated, Pinterest and GDPR

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The Conran Shop is “still striving for” a truly omnichannel experience although the store is set to remain its main sales channel, according to the retailer’s head of ecommerce.

In an interview with InternetRetailing, Rachel Morris, who has previously headed up ecommerce at designer fashion label Austique and clothing store House of Hackney, said that this omnichannel experience is now something that customers simply expect.

“The word omnichannel feels outdated now,” says Morris. “Omnichannel was a new way of thinking about things when ecommerce was quite new and there was the idea we should be integrating digital with the store experience.

“Customer expectation is so high that it’s almost a given now.”

The Conran Shop, which features in InternetRetailing’s Growth2000 index of expanding online retailers, operates across the UK and France, as well as Japan.

Recently it has been furthering the convergence of the store with digital channels, particularly in a September collaboration Pinterest. The one-month installation in the company’s Chelsea outlet featured a pathway through with the store where popular products were marked with ceramic pins. Users could scan specific codes with the Pinterest app in order to be directed to the product on Pinterest.

According to Morris, the use of Pinterest hinged on the fact that one of the site’s largest sectors is home and interior.

The other element to the Pinterest collaboration was tailoring content to fit the platform. Having undergone internal education on the site, the store considers Pinterest separately to social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook, with ads being far less welcome.

“Before we would often lump it with Instagram and Facebook, but it’s very different in the way people use it.

“They (Pinterest) like to say social media is about the past, Pinterest is about the future. We know people use Pinterest to plan their interior space so for us, it’s a perfect audience of people.”

Morris says that the store will still be the primary channel going forward, but the company is still striving for a true omnichannel experience – which she defines as a “completely universal experience of the brand” and customer service that will answer questions regardless of channel.

The Conran Shop looks to the fashion sector for best practice on omnichannel, a sector which she says is “fast-moving, complex with very high customer expectations”.

The company is looking to achieve a single view of the customer, which means bringing together the valuable customer data stored on legacy systems with newer systems. However, the introduction in May of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has made this harder.

“We have to be really careful about what consent has been given and what data we’re allowed to use and what we use it for. That definitely has changed things.”

Morris says there has been a backlash against marketing campaigns due to the legislation, with fewer people being willing to sign up to newsletters. It is mainly an exercise in due diligence, she says.

“It has slowed down the amount we can get and use but it hasn’t driven it to a halt.”

Upcoming projects include the company’s ongoing move to Magento 2.0, scheduled to be completed next year. The Conran Shop also wants to focus on email marketing.

Other plans for the near future include expanding internationally to new markets, which the additional capabilities offered by the Magento platform should facilitate.

Further off in the future, Morris is interested in the use of technologies such as augmented reality to bring products into the customer’s living room. The ideal world, she says, is layered online and offline interactions, “understanding how our customer interacts with us at every touch point whether that is Instagram or the shop window.”

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