What makes a great retail technology leader?

Retailers need to be as tech-centric as their shoppers, and those running technology departments should all have several common traits. Internet Retailing has explored what those attributes are in a special white paper produced alongside payment specialist Klarna, helping make clear what comprises a great retail technology leader.

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Will Rowe earn top marks as sparks fly on high street?

In a mobile-first consumer world under constant bombardment from Amazon, it was refreshing to hear a candid assessment of the current retail market by Marks and Spencer’s Chief Exec, Steve Rowe who explained the recent decision to close 100 of its 330-plus store estate.

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More reasons to invest in mobile retail and measure digital differently

Forrester says digital’s impact on both online and physical retail sales will continue to grow, and it has advised retailers to ensure they are adopting a mobile retail strategy and measuring the true influence of their digital assets.

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Seven stats revealing Amazon Prime’s amazing growth

Amazon Prime continues to aggressively grow retail market share – here are seven secrets of its success from the online retailer’s 2017 Q4 results call.

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4 AI lessons for CIOs to consider according to Gartner

The CIO community – in retail and across multiple other industries – has shown a significant level of interest in artificial intelligence (AI), but implementation remains at low levels, according to Gartner.

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Mobile Shopping: Unlocking the potential of m-commerce

Mobile shopping innovators from across Europe gathered in central London for two days of inspirational talks and workshops earlier this month. The Mobile Shopping conference and exhibition shone a spotlight on the extent to which m-commerce has progressed in the last decade. Attendees came away with insights into what leading brands and retailers are aspiring to next, when it comes to mastering the mobile proposition.

Speakers from Facebook, ASOS, Lidl, Google, John Lewis, Tui Group, Virgin Media, Amazon and more explored how the channel is advancing, the challenges faced and key learnings achieved in recent years. Chaired by Chris Field, CEO of Retail Connections, the event included panel discussions examining the imperative of driving conversions through the mobile shopping channel, while keeping customers fully engaged and secure.

Sponsors of the event – including Apptentive, branch, Content Square and Urban Airship – had experts on hand to showcase the latest solutions that are underpinning m-commerce capability and content today.

The challenge of legacy systems

There’s no denying that m-commerce is battling with a host of challenges, despite the channel being considered the fastest growing in retail. Broadly, there was discussion about a lack of the necessary funding and manpower required to drive real wins with mobile shopping. At the heart of this is the issue of legacy systems, and Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of E-commerce at shoe retailer Schuh gave a gratefully-received presentation on how proprietary systems can hold back progress, and lead to lost sales and frustrated customers. He outlined how Schuh had undergone 18 months of re-writing systems to get rid of dead or ‘zombie’ code, and bring systems up to date. The m-commerce platform has subsequently seen down-time reduced to virtually nothing, with data safely stored in the cloud, and page loading problems all but eliminated.

In search of simplicity

David Ironside, Senior Product Manager at ASOS.com explored the issue of simplicity, asking: ‘How can you further enhance your UX with visual search functionalities that take personalised product discovery to the next level?’ His fascinating talk took delegates through ‘the discovery problem’ and revealed how even after a major overhaul of search usability, ASOS customers and the press were initially unimpressed with changes introduced. He talked about ASOS’s introduction of visual search last year, saying this is on track to improve search success by 40% for users of the site. He predicts a big move away from typing in search terms in favour of shoppers snapping images on their phones wherever they happen to be, and searching with these. “Consumers will come to think: ‘I have an image and that’s all I need now to find a product’,” he said.

Mobile Shopping Europe 2018

Optimising customer engagement

Search and usability were constant themes, with speakers and workshop discussions focused on where and how improvements should be made. Jenna Swire, Head of Product for holiday website OnTheBeach gave powerful examples of how to design specifically for the small screen.

On a similar theme, Day Two’s morning keynote delivered by Mario Viviani, Technology Evangelist, Amazon covered voice search. In what he described as the new frontier in online discovery, he posed the question: How can you blend your visual digital services with voice, to provide the optimum customer UX?

Julie Austin, Head of Ecommerce at Mamas & Papas certainly has her eye on the future. She entertained delegates on Day Two with a ‘Futuristic Case Study’, discussing how to better engage with your shopper’s on their personal devices. Her thinking is that much more attention must be given to meet expectations of increasingly tech-savvy customers and drive conversions on big ticket items.

Discovery replacing demand

Perhaps the most thought-provoking speaker of the event was Daryl Hughes, Head of E-commerce and Retail at Facebook/Instagram. His contention was that today’s fast growing retail businesses don’t wait for demand, they create it. He spoke of buying a high tech water bottle on the back of ‘discovering’ it on social media. “Consumers want brands to find them products they didn’t even know they wanted,” he said. He spoke of the advancement of social feeds from text, to image, to video and predicted that “AR and VR will soon make up the bulk of feed content”. To keep up with disruptors in the social selling market, traditional retailers have their work cut out, was his central and very powerful message.

The Mobile Shopping conference provided a window on the future of m-commerce, and the kinds of innovations that will shape it. Find out more about the event, and future similar events here.

You can download the Maximising Mobile benchmarking report here. Retailers facing the next stage of m-commerce investment, fine-tuning and growth will find the report an excellent benchmarking tool.


NRF 2018: 5 brands using Instagram for business success

Instagram’s chief operating officer (COO), Marne Levine, used her presentation at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show to detail how retailers and brands are using Instagram to connect with their customers, thanks to the launch of the company’s Stories and Ads features in the last two years.

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NRF 2018: Key quotes from retailers and brands

Retail Connections attended this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in New York City, and we’ve picked out some of the most pertinent quotes from retailers and brands participating in the conference.

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What’s happening at Mobile Shopping 2018?

For those who’d like to boost their knowledge of the potential of m-commerce, the Mobile Shopping Europe conference later this month is a must. Taking place 31st January – 1st February at the Hilton London Bankside, the event shines a spotlight on exactly how far m-commerce has progressed, and what leading brands and retailers are aspiring to next.

The two-day conference and exhibition will bring together the sharpest minds in m-commerce from around the world, to advise and inspire. Speakers from Facebook, Vodafone, Google, Adidas, John Lewis, Canon, Virgin Media, Lidl, Amazon and more will give their take on how the channel is advancing, the challenges faced, and key learnings achieved in recent years. Delegates can also expect a focus on the next wave of tech and behavioural developments affecting m-commerce – social commerce, wearables, mobile payments, the convergence of offline and online, to name a few.

This content-rich event really has an eye on the future of m-commerce, and the kinds of innovations that will shape it.

What’s on the agenda?

Day One opens with the Editor’s Welcome Speech, where Lucy Bradley, Editorial Director of Worldwide Business Research, will set the scene, and outline what’s coming up over the next 48 hours.

Our own Chris Field – CEO, Retail Connections – will be on hand as chairman and will introduce a host of high profile m-commerce experts. He’ll also chair a panel discussion, exploring the vital imperative of driving profitability through the mobile shopping channel, while keeping customers fully engaged and happy.

User experience and customer engagement

Keynote speaker Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of E-Commerce at footwear retailer Schuh delivers a fascinating presentation entitled ‘Lessons learnt from legacy’. He’ll be discussing how traditional retailers can take advantage of their heritage to fully harness the advantages that mobile can offer.

Later in the day David Ironside, Senior Product Manager at ASOS.com explores the issue of simplicity, asking: ‘How can you further enhance your UX with visual search functionalities that take personalised product discovery to the next level?’

Want to master mobile marketing?

Day Two is equally packed with powerful content. Don’t miss the morning panel discussion on how to master mobile marketing. This brings together John Connelly, Senior Manager, Digital & eCommerce, Coca Cola, and Mark Apter, eCommerce Innovation Lead at L’Oreal. They will grapple with the issue of how leading brands are leveraging the 24/7 mobile shop window, to educate, inform and drive consumers in-store – something multichannel retailers really must master in the coming years.

Expect a big crowd for the morning keynote delivered by Mario Viviani, Technology Evangelist, Amazon. He’ll be looking into voice search – the new frontier in online discovery, and asking: ‘How can you blend your visual digital services with voice to provide the optimum customer UX?’

Monetising mobile

There is also a session on ‘Streamlining Customer Service to Better Monetise Mobile’. For this, speakers from Google, Adidas and John Lewis will focus in on how to increase conversations and conversions with m-commerce, and how to streamline customer journey while staying on brand, and continuing to meet wider business objectives.

Julie Austin, Head of Ecommerce at Mamas & Papas certainly has her eye on the future. She’ll be sharing a ‘Futuristic Case Study’ and discussing how to better engage with your shoppers on their personal devices. Her thinking is that much more attention must be given to meet expectations of increasingly tech-savvy customers and drive conversions on big ticket items.

The afternoon (on both days) takes the form of workshop streams that offer a rich choice of subjects. The aim is to explore very specific disciplines within the m-commerce space, with case studies and the opportunity to ask questions and learn directly from the experts.

Future-proof your m-commerce strategy

We’re on the cusp of a big push towards m-commerce excellence in Europe. Are you on board? This is the newest, most innovative channel in retailing and there is a lot to learn. Mobile sales are forecast to increase by 85% in Europe and retailers are looking into how best to capitalise on this exciting mobile-first landscape. If you want to be ready, make sure you attend Mobile Shopping 2018. We’ll see you there!

You can download the Maximising Mobile benchmarking report here. Retailers facing the next stage of m-commerce investment, fine-tuning and growth will find the report an excellent benchmarking tool.

Mobile Shopping is taking place on the 31st January and 1st February 2018 in Hilton London Bankside. Find all the details here.

Retail Connections readers can get 15% off the total price of a ticket to Mobile Shopping by using the code MSRC18 when booking here.



Interview: Find Me a Gift managing director Adam Gore

Find Me a Gift (FMAG) makes 50% of its annual turnover in the six weeks leading up to Christmas, going from 1,000 orders on a typical day to 12,000 every 24 hours during the festive period.

Luckily, founder and managing director of the online retail business Adam Gore found time in his busy schedule at this time of year, to speak to us about the company, where its focus lies, and the challenge of online Christmas trading.

Interesting initiatives on the horizon include cost-per-click product promotion with suppliers, and new methods to increase conversion rates. But in December, it’s all about Christmas for Find Me a Gift.

Tell us about Find Me a Gift, and the business model you’ve created…

Find Me a Gift was started in 2000 from a spare bedroom with a £6,000 loan from HSBC. Our amazing team have grown it into the business it is today: with a £15 million turnover and over 56 permanent staff members, which increases to over 200 in December.

Our vision is to deliver happiness around the world with our memorable gifts and experiences, and through each interaction with our customers, suppliers and FMAG family.

What are the aims of the business and what are its unique selling points?

We strive to treat our customers like individuals with unique requirements, providing exceptional customer service, an outstanding user experience on all devices, offering unique memorable gifts and experiences for them and their loved ones. Our USP is our wide variety of gifts to suit all recipients, that shoppers wouldn’t necessarily find elsewhere.

Tell us about some of the brands you have on board…

We’re lucky enough to sell a few licensed ranges on our site that are very popular with our customers. In particular, we sell a number of pieces of Star Wars merchandise, which has been a best-seller over the past two years due to new films such as The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and the soon to be released The Last Jedi reigniting the series’ popularity with a new audience.

We also sell several Marvel products, Harry Potter, and Disney ranges which have an enduring appeal with our customers. We’re proud to sell licensed ranges with characters that are well-loved by all ages.

Talk to us about your team – how many staff, where are you based and what’s the company culture?

We’re based in Southam, a small business in the heart of Warwickshire, and we currently have 56 full-time permanent staff members. However, in November and December we employ over 200 additional temporary Christmas team members to work in our warehouse and customer services departments.

Our culture revolves around nurturing our Find Me A Gift family by creating a fun and professional team environment where people are given training, responsibility, and recognition to enable them to achieve and succeed. We treat all suppliers and partners with respect and bring them on our journey.

At Retail Connections we like to focus on technology, what examples of sophisticated systems/ecommerce tech/fulfilment options/payment methods are there at Find Me a Gift?

Recently, we’ve focused our attention on increasing our conversion rate. For example, we have adopted user behaviour-optimised merchandising which ensures we show the most suitable products to each of our customers. This helps make customers’ shopping experiences on our site feel unique, and increases the likelihood of them buying from us. We’ve also invested a great deal of time and resource this year to optimise our mobile page speed to give our customers the best possible user experience, which again drives conversion.

In addition to this, we are currently testing cost-per-click product promotion. This will give suppliers more power over the placement of their products in relevant categories of our website. We think it will be a great step in cementing good relationships with our suppliers and will hopefully lead to generating more relationships and partnerships with new brands and wholesalers.

Finally, we use feedback and survey software to allow our customers to give us information as they use the website and at friction points in their buying process.

We notice Trustpilot has pride of place on the homepage. What role does user-generated content play in the success of your business?

We’ve always seen user-generated content as crucial to the success of Find Me a Gift, as it gives customers a much more rounded opinion of our products. As well as our own reviews and Trustpilot we are also a Google certified shop with a score of 4.7 out of 5.

What business performance figures can you share with us?

We’re proud to announce that in 2016-17 we had a turnover of £13 million, and our revenue grew by 30%. Our 2017-18 target revenue growth is 30% again, so we’re currently on track for a great year. Seeing this continued stable growth provides us with confidence that our strategies are working and gives us some scope to try new, innovative techniques.

How much of your business is conducted at Christmas, and how do you ensure your site, staff and technology is prepared for peak?

50% of our annual turnover in occurs in the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas. For example, we go from 1,000 orders a day to 12,000! To ensure all orders get sent out on time, our warehouse goes from being open from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, to being open 24/7.

It’s a massive challenge for all our team, but we stay prepared because we spend most of the year forecasting carefully and creating several contingency plans to cover any potential emergencies. We start recruiting temporary staff as early as possible to ensure we can cope with demand as soon as we hit our peak, and our expert purchasing team spend month carefully forecasting product sales to ensure we don’t run out of what are predicted to be best-selling products. Of course, we always have lots of chocolate treats to hand too that have helped our staff through many a busy day!

Lots of online retailers are opening stores. What considerations have you made to physical retail? High street shops? Pop-ups? Anything on the horizon?

While we have considered opening a pop-up shop in the past, we currently don’t have the expertise in-house to run a retail store. Therefore, we would need to recruit an entire new team. At present, we are happy with our growth but it’s worth taking into consideration for the future. It would be great to try something new and see how it all goes.

What are your key goals for the year ahead?

In 2018, we’re hoping to continue to innovate our company to make it more profitable, focus on designing and creating more of our own products to differentiate us from our competitors, and develop our brand reputation further to gain more customer loyalty.

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