On 21st March we headed to the Internet Retailing Expo at the Birmingham NEC with an aim to engage with those embracing multichannel commerce and digital revenue streams in the world of retail. IRX aims to show the ‘whole gamut of multichannel retail’ and attracts top-level retailers and digital players from all over the UK.
There was an air of confidence, almost revolution, among the speakers and delegates. E-commerce practitioners have been growing in stature within their organisations and are now clearly pressing for internal changes to the way their businesses work. There were plenty of references to buyers who know it all, slow-moving IT departments and marketing departments still obsessed with traditional advertising.
The talks were well attended and on the whole invigorating. A few selected highlights from our time there included:
1. John Bovill from Jacques Vert giving a very lucid presentation on the challenges facing e-tailers today. He talked about the need to go from multi-channel to cross-channel; in other words, focus on the consistency and quality of the consumer experience across all your touchpoints. He also highlighted the importance of product availability and how a more coordinated interplay between stores and digital channels can help retailers strike the right balance between lost sales and excessive stock needing discounting.
2. Jo Stanford, IT Director at De Vere Hotels, talked about the long-term strategy that underpins the work Vexed Digital have been undertaking over the last few years. The focus has been on building a technical platform that can support their diverse portfolio of brands, while also enabling De Vere to adapt to new and emerging platforms such as mobile to expand their service offering.
3. A leading English Football Club presented on how they have driven sales very successfully through customised products via Facebook such as signed programmes and bespoke merchandise. Thus demonstrating how approaching f-commerce is very different to that through more traditional online channels
4. We also caught up with tesco.com who were present to demonstrate some of the innovation they have undertaken with Augmented Reality. As well as spearheading an AR campaign in Korea which has inspired a wave of copies they told us about how they have substantially increased sales of DVD and game titles through offering video playback when the physical product was held up to in store webcams.
5. Finally a shout out to Tom Allason from Shutl. The Shoreditch-based startup are looking at disrupting the delivery market by aggregating smaller, point-to-point delivery companies. The result is appealing scenario of online/mobile customers receiving their treasured new goods within the hour… a bit like Domino’s Pizza, but for dry goods. Tom gave a spirited presentation and they have live services to point to – the challenge will be in maintaining a high standard of service among the disparate delivery companies as Shutl expand.
All in all it was an informative day and vindicated the view that the world of e-commerce is becoming ever more fragmented. Now more than ever its imperative to understand a consumer’s preference in terms of new channel adoption and ensure they are catered for wherever they reside.