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Martin Newman: Predictions for retail in 2030

Martin Newman: Predictions for retail in 2030

by Martin Newman, The Consumer Experience Champion

 

At the end of May, I spoke at the British Retail Consortium’s “Reinvention Retail” event in London. It was an enjoyable event with some fascinating speakers: Katy Clark, a client partner at Facebook; Andrew Fowkes, director of SAS Retail Solutions; Sezin Tumer of Vodafone; and a host of others. Attending forward-facing events like this is one of the things I find most exciting in my industry. Looking to the future, gaming it, trying to think of problems and solutions, dusting off the crystal ball.

 

Credit from your local community

 

One of the main themes to pull out was of brand creation and development. Frances Bishop of the Pud Store talked about the company’s close links to local charities in the North of England; these community-minded connections can spread your reputation by word of mouth, and drive both increased footfall and a positive brand image. She also described the impact of Facebook Stories on her business. The message was clear: Make an authentic, positive and personal connection with the community in which you’re based, and your brand will pick up a lot of credit and goodwill.

 

Transparency is clearly important

 

Another issue which came up, and this is connected to the kind of reputational framework that Frances mentioned, is authenticity and transparency. Consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated, and, unfortunately, more cynical. We live in a world of ‘fake news’. So the public won’t necessarily take a press release or brand story at face value; they’ll almost assume that the company is lying or dissimulating. So the feeling at the conference was that brands need to go that extra mile to be transparent. The example we discussed was redundancies. The future promises great efficiencies to retailers, but we all know that ‘efficiency’ or ‘streamlining’ can be masks for pure and simple job losses. Experts from DLA Piper, an employment law firm, urged honesty. Say there will be redundancies, and explain why, when communicating with employees and customers alike. Take ownership of the narrative, and preserve your authenticity.

 

Future-gazing to 2030

 

For my presentation, I turned to a favourite topic, the future of the high street. I (reluctantly!) imagined myself in my sixties to envisage the state of shopping in 2030, and the changes that will have taken place. My talk was entitled “The Future is the Customer”, reflecting my passionate belief that retailers are going to have to become much more customer centric than they are now if they’re going to survive, let alone prosper, in the cut-throat world of 2030 retail. They will need to understand what consumers really want, and, ideally, be able to anticipate that desire.

 

Obviously, a lot of this customer-driven focus will come through increasing use and sophistication of technology. But there’s a strange conundrum, and it seems to be much more widespread than simply the retail sector: we almost always overestimate the short-term impact of technology, while underestimating the change it will bring in the longer term. I suppose it’s because we instinctively imagine the future through the prism of the present; we don’t change the lens when we change what we’re looking at.

 

Brands with purpose will win

 

What are customers going to expect from their retailers 10 years from now? One thing we can be sure of, it’s going to be a lot more than a simple transactional exchange of money for goods or services. Shoppers are going to want a brand with purpose, with genuine identity, which means not simply a slick marketing campaign, but a convincing narrative, an authentic voice, and a social conscience. Some retailers and brands are beginning to understand this in pockets, but the glittering prizes will go to those who see the whole picture and are able to paint one for themselves, not merely in broad brush strokes but in pointilliste detail.

 

Everything to play for

 

I don’t need to say, but I will anyway, that I’m enthusiastic and positive about the future of the high street. It not dead, it’s not dying, and it’s not facing insurmountable challenges which will lead inevitably to decay and decomposition. But it needs to be reinvigorated, and that process is going to require empathy, imagination and a taste for the disruptive. Dream differently, and dream better.

 

It was a pleasure to share my thoughts with such an attentive audience at the BRC. I hope they were receptive to what I was saying, and will take away the key messages and digest them. And one day, I’ll deliver this talk about the high street in 2030 for real.


Make it easy, make it popular: Focusing on the customer experience

Make it easy, make it popular: Focusing on the customer experience

by Martin Newman, The Customer Experience Champion

Harvey Nichols is a British success story. And it’s an older one than you’d think: for many of us, the chain is synonymous with Edina and Patsy’s Bollinger-fuelled antics in Absolutely Fabulous, but it’s been going since 1831 and now has seven outlets in the UK and several abroad too. It can genuinely go toe-to-toe with Harrods and Selfridges in the prestige department store sector, and what you might call its ancillary functions – restaurant, café, bar – have become destinations in their own right. So, they’re doing plenty right and I think anyone who has an interest in UK retail can point to Harvey Nicks as a genuine class leader.

 

I have to admit that I don’t have a totally clean sheet here, as I used to do some work for Harrods back in the day, but I was really encouraged to read that Harvey Nicks has – probably unwittingly, unfortunately! – taken a key piece of my advice and has made some bold, innovative moves to improve its service to customers. Specifically, it’s partnered with ecommerce solutions provider Global-e to introduce what are referred to as ‘localised checkouts’ to ease the shopping experience for its far-flung consumers. Essentially, this is technology which offers 21 languages, differing tax calculations and alternative payment methods, as well as low-cost shipping options and an easy returns service, all designed to encourage business from across the world, because Harvey Nicks is a genuinely global brand. Other providers in this space include eShopWorld, who deliver the same experience across different markets for Victoria’s Secret customers.

 

This is clever stuff, and it’s a perfect example of getting the technology right. The computing power is immense and sophisticated, but, as should always be the case, it’s seamless and virtually invisible to the consumer: all they see is a better, smoother service which makes their lives easier and more convenient. Don’t let daylight in on magic. Harvey Nicks has understood how critical overseas sales are to their business model as a high-end retailer, and have also grasped that, for high-spending international shoppers, borders are meaningless. A customer in Dubai or Saudi Arabia will want to purchase with equal ease as one in Hong Kong or Istanbul – and this technology makes that possible.

 

The new checkout systems were introduced in the second half of May, and Harvey Nicks have already reported “impressive results”. James Henry, their head of multi-channel operations, made exactly the point I would have made in his position, namely that this innovation basically puts international and domestic shoppers on a par in terms of convenience, and that’s absolutely key to driving sustainable sales in the global market.

 

This was a risk for Harvey Nicks. New technology as sophisticated as this isn’t cheap, and of course its introduction is a sunk cost: whether it works or not, you’ve spent the money, so you’re stuck with it. The onus is on the retailer to make it work. And it’s a fine balancing act. Customers from abroad may be a lucrative target, wherever they come from, but if your domestic market is left feeling like an afterthought, a necessary evil or like second-class citizens, the whole thing will be money down the drain. Each shopper must feel valued as an individual in the marketplace, his or her custom as important, whether it’s a pot of face cream or a bespoke evening dress, as that of any other. All of that makes this kind of integration a very smart move. Harvey Nicks have created a genuinely global community of shoppers, who can use their outlets anywhere in the world and find them familiar, comfortable and as easy to use as each other. The important thing is that they pay a competitive price and end up with the goods they want. Localised checkouts should do just that.

 

Three cheers for Harvey Nichols in doing this. It’s innovative, customer-focused and exciting. It’s exactly what the high-end retail market needs to be doing. Innovation can be infectious if it works, and I think this will. Break out the Bolly, darling!


12 things we learned from the BRC’s Reinvention Retail event

‘Reinvention Retail’ proved to be a day of stimulating discussion around the future of retail, well attended by British Retail Consortium members and partners. Technology companies including True Fit, Qlik, YR Store and Hero were on hand in the Future Zone to demonstrate how technology is helping retailers realign to customer needs.

Here are just some of the key points we picked up on:

Community

Placing stores at the heart of the community can be incredibly powerful for retail brands. Frances Bishop (pictured below), founder of The Pud Store spoke passionately about how her four stores in the North of England have close ties to local groups, charities, and loyal customers and their families. Community-spirited retailers tend to generate word-of-mouth recommendations, which can help with new customer acquisition.

Fran BSocial Media

Social media can drive store traffic and sales if you build on community links and proceed with passion, authenticity and sincerity said Bishop of The Pud Store. She revealed the power of Facebook Stories videos as a sales driver for her business.

Corporate mind set

To innovate and thrive in the new retail landscape, companies must have the right mind set at the top of the business, with a flexible organisation underneath. This was agreed by an industry panel discussing ‘Smart Retail’ that included representatives from Vodafone, Google and Furniture Village.

Changing retail workforce

100,000 people are now in retail roles that didn’t exist 5 years ago. But by 2025 there will be 900,000 fewer roles in retail than today – BRC figures.

DLA PiperTransparency about job losses

With the rise of robotics and AI, retailers will want to embrace the efficiencies promised, and this will inevitably mean change management, and the loss of jobs. Experts from employment law firm DLA Piper (pictured left) urged retailers to be transparent when “realigning” their businesses. They recommended honesty when communicating with employees, along the lines of: “We are struggling. We have to be competitive and this is how we have to do it.”

Automation

Retailers are sceptical about ‘low to no’ checkout stores becoming the norm. Vodafone’s Sezin Tumer, Global Principal for Retail Innovation said: “We can use automation for some simple interactions but not everything. We try and blend technology with the human touch.”

Moving beyond fear of failure

“Retailers can no longer rely on the tech guys to do it all,” said Mike Broughton, Director of Digital Innovation and IT at Furniture Village, speaking on the ‘Smart Retailing’ panel. He said everyone in the business must be committed to a learning culture around new tech, and trying new things. “Have a Plan A, but also have a Plan B and even a Plan C. Move fast and don’t be afraid to fail.”

Data analytics skills shortage

When it comes to deployment of AI and data analytics, lack of availability of skills remains the greatest challenge for CIOs in retail, said SAS Retail Solutions Director, Andrew Fowkes.

Katy Clark FacebookRemoving friction for the customer

Facebook is working hard to remove ‘friction’ in the Facebook and Instagram buying channels, and can already facilitate customers placing an order with a retailer in 3 taps in their apps, explained Katy Clark, Client Partner at Facebook (pictured left).

Content consumption

Content consumption on social media is off the scale, said Clark, making the point that product posts and adverts must inspire in milliseconds. She reminded the audience that each week users scroll more content on their Facebook feed than the height of Big Ben. That’s 96 meters of content in a feed.

Martin NewmanPurpose

Retailers may be obsessed with Return on Investment, but now and in the future consumers want to see more purpose in brands, a reason to engage, said Martin Newman CEO of The Customer First Group (pictured left) in his presentation ‘The Future is the Customer’ which looked ahead to retail in 2030. “It will pay to turn your attention to ‘Return on Involvement’.

Belief in technology

“We always overestimate the impact of technology in the short term, and underestimate its impact in the long term,” said Martin Newman.

The BRC’s Reinvention Retail event took place on  22 May, 2019 in central London, at etc. Venues Monument.


Event preview:  The BRC’s Reinvention Retail Conference

Retailers need all the help they can get today, coping with profound change across the industry. The BRC’s Reinvention Retail conference sets out to provide a blueprint for survival.

“We’re pooling our own expertise with other industry leaders at this new Reinvention Retail conference to provide practical advice, tools and solutions that can help you successfully navigate and innovate your way through this rapidly changing landscape,” says the UK retail trade body.

Their thinking is that the successful retailers of the future will be those who effectively adapt to customers’ evolving needs and demands around technology and service – across online and offline, digital and physical. We couldn’t agree more!

Prominent industry speakers stepping up

The BRC has invited top industry experts to inspire and advise on the day.

  • Martin Newman, bestselling author and founder of The Customer First Group will be chairing the event talking about how digital can dramatically improve the customer experience.
  • Andrew Busby, Founder & CEO, Retail Reflections will lead a discussion on how working smarter today can help to prepare retailers for tomorrow, with the impact an opportunities brought by technology. He will be joined by, Alistair Stirling, Industry Head of Retail at Google, Martin Francis, Customer & Digital Director for Karen Millen/Coast, Sezin Tumer, Global Principal Retail Innovation Manager, Vodafone and Shop Direct.
  • Katy Clark, Client Partner at Facebook is presenting on ‘The Zero Friction Customer’ sharing new insights on how retailers can better understand and eliminate friction in the customer experience.
  • Frances Bishop, Founder of The Pud Store, will provide and insightful presentation demonstrating that successful retail businesses come in all shapes and sizes.

The days discussions will tackle issues such as in-store digitisation, and the challenge of building a mass following across online and offline channels, how the structure of the industry is likely to change and how to create a truly customer-centric business.

Add value through technology

In the ‘Futures Zone’ delegates can explore how retailers are harnessing different technologies to add real value to their operations and customers.

There will be interactive workshops and round tables designed to help retailers learn how to boost customer loyalty, make commercial use of their own data, and create outstanding customer experiences.

When and where?

Reinvention Retail is taking place on 22 May, 2019 at Etc. Venues Monument, London

Find out more here.

 


How to survive disruption in retail

“To survive disruption, you must think long term and invest in tomorrow” Martin Newman

 

In the history of commerce, never has the sector undergone such rapid change as in the last 30 years. We’ve seen catalogues boom and bust, the DVD and CD industry crash out in the wake of online downloads and music apps, and online outlets like Boohoo and Amazon transform the way we shop.

The way technology and service innovation has disrupted consumer-facing industries in such a short amount of time proves more than ever that brands need to be agile, quick to transform, and thinking about the long-term future of their business, rather than appeasing short-term wins for stockholders.

As many CEOs are relatively short lived in terms of entering and departing a major brand – often as little as three years – it can be a survival method to immediately concern themselves with short term wins for their stockholders and investors. This means that long-term sustainability becomes an afterthought, and necessary risks are not taken as a result. In a changing and often volatile market, safe decisions can create long-term decline.

As a leader, you must also be an innovator. If that means investing in new technology or service techniques, then you must pursue and embrace change and remain on the front foot at all times – and that means developing the ability to take a leap into the unknown.

“If you wait until you’re 100% sure, you’re 100% too late.”

I actually have a sign on my desk: “If you wait until you’re 100% sure, you’re 100% too late.” Safe decisions mean that you aren’t working as a disruptor, allowing companies that are prepared to invest in transformation to win over your share of the market. Companies such as Uber moved sharply to offer innovations such as tracker options for concerned customers, along with travel time predictions, leaving slower competitor taxi firms in the dust. It is now almost impossible to play catch up and overtake that level of innovation, which is almost entirely down to that fact that ‘safe’ sells well to stockholders.

Rather than the goal being that yearly bonus, it should be the sustainability and agility of your business. We’ve seen previously successful brands and chain stores go bust in the space of a quarter due to brave new innovation from competitor firms.

“Never play catch up and never play too safe.”

Never play catch up and never play too safe. That’s not to say anyone should be reckless; if your data and experience tells you that a new investment in tech, products or outlets is necessary, the time is always now. Success or expansion doesn’t equal doing a well-worn route of more stores or more staff. Look into how you want to grow and what you want to position yourself as both as a business and as an innovator.

“…no business proposal or change ever comes with zero risk, and often the most transformative products (such as the iPod, for example) don’t come without serious uncertainty about whether the market will embrace something totally knew.”

Managing concerned stockholders over your business proposals will not, of course, always be easy. But no business proposal or change ever comes with zero risk, and often the most transformative products (such as the iPod, for example) don’t come without serious uncertainty about whether the market will embrace something totally knew. But by taking those transformative, disruptive decisions, Apple managed to radically alter the whole sector, making tapes and CD stores in serious peril.

The only certainty from total inaction is failure, so caution comes at a high price. The landscape has changed, and will continue to change, and brands with the confidence to evolve will always prevail.

 

Read Martin’s other blogs on our website by clicking this link+


Boardroom blues: how to keep staff motivated

 

Another day, another boardroom battle for Britain’s retailers. Today it’s Debenhams, who desperately need £200m to fight off Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley, who seems intent on buying up every ailing retailer on the high street.

But what do these high-level wranglings mean for the average customer? More sales, certainly. But one thing you are guaranteed to find is an assortment of frazzled employees who are worried about their jobs.

 

So, while you’re getting annoyed at Sandra who refuses to look “in the back” to see if they’ve got that jumper in a larger size, or Robert on the customer service line who appears less than interested in whether the courier has lost your delivery, what are the suits at the top of the food chain doing to reassure staff?

 

From my 30 years in the retail business, I know only too well that staff morale can make or break a business. So here are my top three tips for Debenhams bosses – or any other struggling retailer, as there are many to choose from right now – on how to help your employees weather the storm.

 

Firstly, remember staff at all levels. Remember that they will see the news and be uncertain about what it means or them. Yes, middle management might be wondering where they fit in with the new structure, but the chances are they will be well-informed. What about the people on the ground? These are single mothers, working part time while the kids are at school. Students, who work weekends to supplement their meagre student loans. They’re wondering whether they will have a job next week, and wondering how they are going to pay their bills.

 

Second, be transparent. Put out a staff memo on the company intranet. Even better, record a video message for staff and reassure them that although the outlook looks grim on the news, you are doing everything you can to make sure they are looked after and that job losses are not something you want to consider. Make sure staff have access to this information before the press do, so they feel like they are your priority.

 

Finally, provide support. Have your HR department ready to address concerns, and remember this is an opportunity to improve. Encourage staff to adhere to best practice, and invest in training. Though this might seem counter intuitive, it goes a long way towards boosting the collective flagging that words like “store closures” and “buyouts” can bring.

 

If you cover all these bases, no matter what happens, you will have your staff behind you!

 

Read more from Martin Newman here+

 


Taking the floor: How to turn your store into the centre of your customer’s experience

What makes a good store? Short queues? Clean tables? Clear signposting? We could argue that all these things are frankly a given. So why are they so low down the priority list in the retail sector?

The first thing I’d think about when setting up a shop is the space. Where is it? Why is it there? We can’t always choose luxurious, central locations but we can choose not to set up a bowling ball shop that’s a good twenty minute walk from the nearest car park. What puts you off going out for a bit of Sunday shopping? It’s the same for your customers. For a good customer experience, you need to think about the whole customer journey. Too many brands think about this process as the immediate transaction of a product: it isn’t. According to a study by Digital Market Trends in 2019, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. It’s a free market, and you can’t afford to ignore that.

Space isn’t limited to location, either: think about how people can interact with your floorplan. What makes you want to go into the store? What do you see on entering? Can you easily touch, engage with and experience the products? There are so many great examples of stores taking full advantage of this: Apple was one of the first to pioneer a free, unplanned and unsupervised interaction with their products. This was a really smart move: If you’re buying a phone, you want to see what it does. You want to check it can take a picture that won’t make you look like a potato. You want to see whether you can navigate the software. Engagement allows the customer to imagine ownership. The battle is half won if you can make them visualise trying on that dress, eating that salad or showing off their new laptop.

Aside from interaction, you should also imagine the ergonomic experience of your floor space. If you’re expecting a market of young women out for a swish dinner, can they get up the stairs in high heels? Can you easily reach the shelves? Can you you find what you are looking for? Is there enough light? Can you easily hear the staff over the music or ambience? Simple things like getting your trolley down an aisle easily or not having to step over clothes or push around mannequins make all the difference.

Remember, your customer isn’t just buying your products, they are going to remember this experience. It starts long before they reach the till.

Guest blog from Martin Newman, Retail expert and Founder, The Customer First Group.


Flexibility for profitability

I wrote recently about the importance of senior management drawing on the experience of employees across the spectrum to make the most of their businesses. I’m a passionate believer that success in retail is a collective enterprise, with people at every level feeling engaged and having the opportunity to make a real contribution. Happy team members are more productive, more imaginative and more committed, and those kinds of intangible benefits are what give retailers a winning edge against their competitors.

 

The duty of care issue

 

It’s not just that employers will benefit from happy and healthy staff, but they have a social and corporate responsibility to look after the people they employ. People invest so much of themselves in their jobs, whatever it is they might do, that they have the right to be taken care of and accommodated.

 

Last year, the Wellcome Trust launched an inquiry into whether their employees would benefit from moving from a five-day to a four-day week as standard. Would it affect productivity and competitiveness, or could working differently allow people to live fuller and more enriched lives, ploughing some of that emotional investment back into their work? I was completely behind the idea of asking the question: I think that kind of disruptive instinct, of posing awkward questions and looking at familiar problems with fresh eyes, is exactly the sort of thing that we should be doing. It’s one of the keys to success, and as we all know, success is cumulative. If something works well for an enterprise, be it a business or a charity like Wellcome, then competitors will take up the idea and possibly even make it better; the whole sector ups its game, leading to improved service and sharper reactivity to consumers’ and workers’ needs. Everybody wins in the end. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

 

Caution scuppers the drive for innovation

 

So it is with disappointment that I heard the Wellcome Trust had come back with a no. It was an understandable reaction to a radical idea, but one which focused on the potential problems, and, I thought, failed to look hard enough at the possibilities for improvement. Wellcome reported that employees were concerned at the prospect of their workload being compressed from five into four days, that part-time workers would find the change disruptive, and that the very act of changing over to a four-day week would distract the charity from its core function.

 

None of these is a convincing or decisive factor. The anecdotal evidence argues against them. They could have looked at Pursuit Marketing, in my home town of Glasgow, which switched to a four-day week and found that productivity rose by 30%, sickness leave is at an all-time low and recruitment is buoyant. I hope that other firms will break ranks and try this kind of innovative behaviour for themselves.

 

Valuing your people must be a priority

 

It’s part of a wider point that I keep coming back to. As a retailer, you want – or you should want – the very best staff you can hire, and you should want them to operate at the top of their game. That means removing obstacles to employing and promoting them, and making their work experience, which is so much of each of our lives, as attractive and accommodating as possible. So flexible working, whether it’s a four-day week, part-time employment, compressed hours or working from home, should be as widely available as possible. You want to rule out as few people as you can from doing any jobs within a firm, from working on the shop floor as the first responders, to sitting in the boardroom juggling profits and long-term strategy.

 

Flexibility means so much

 

There are a lot of reasons why flexible working might appeal to people. Maybe they’ve changed career and want to have a better work/life balance, so allowing them more leisure time appeals to them and keeps them motivated. They may have issues to do with childcare: there is a demographic bulge (excuse the pun) of female employees who are reaching a point in their lives where they might want to have children, but don’t want to write off their careers. Allowing them to take an innovative approach to working patterns might allow them to stay on board and continue to develop their professional skills and achievements, and they’ll come back stronger and more effective. Others may have difficult commutes that they don’t want to undertake every day, and so might welcome the opportunity to work from home at times.

 

What’s the effect of all this? Well, if you get it right, you’re making your firm more attractive to potential employees, and you might gain an edge in terms of productivity as well as staff wellbeing. It won’t suit everyone, and it won’t always be easy, but it comes back to the advice that I always give: innovate, question and be disruptive, and you might creep ahead. If you prosper, the whole sector prospers with you, and ultimately the customer benefits. And isn’t that what we all want?

 

Read more of Martin’s exclusive blogs on Retail Connections by clicking the link here+ 


The shop floor, virtually

Everything is online these days. While I agree that it’s right to say this, it’s also true. Of course, over the past 20 years we’ve seen the rise of internet giants such as Amazon. Companies which have been totally transformative in influencing the way we shop. But even in the so-called “real world” – i.e. bricks and mortar – stores must now have a strong online presence if they want to remain competitive.

It is no longer a matter of selling via the internet or across a physical counter: self-evidently retailers must now do both, and those that miss the boat, or misjudge the distance between the boat and the pier, are destined for an undignified splash, before sinking without a trace.

Online retailers have long put a great deal of thought into the architecture of their websites, from entering at the front door to navigating the maze of products within – but there is a tendency for real-world retailers to concentrate solely on their real-worth stores.

Thousands of hours of thought, design, consultation, research and experimentation go into creating the idealised shopping experience, in which customers are wafted through different sections and departments and presented not only with all the products they could have wanted, but many many which they had not even imagined they needed. Cutting-edge methods track shoppers through supermarkets, to the point where the most profitable lines are placed at eye level with millimetre-sharp precision.

Unless the same painstaking effort goes into the design of their websites, they are doing themselves a disservice and burdening themselves with an afterthought which will be customer-unfriendly, awkward and ultimately unused.

One of the watchwords of mainstream retail is immediacy. If a customer grows bored or frustrated with the systems they are having to navigate, and knows how to get the same product at least as cheaply and more conveniently elsewhere, that is what they will do. Blind brand loyalty to retailers is a thing of the past – you have to get service, convenience and experience right, and focus on driving customer lifetime value – and decisions can be made in a matter of seconds. If the Boots website is clunky, the customer will flick to Superdrug and buy there instead.

That’s why real-world retailers need to think of their websites as a virtual shop floor.

Customers want a pleasant experience, one they will find relaxing and perhaps even enjoy, and one which is, above everything, easy and convenient. Just as products will go unsold if they are two flights of stairs up at the back of the shop, so a section which requires four or five clicks of the mouse and a knowledge of which particular link to follow will prove barren as far as revenue is concerned. It’s got to be a smooth, snappy and instinctive experience, not a Second Life version of Grace Brothers.

To achieve this requires a wholesale shift in thinking. Too many real-world retailers have seen online sales as second-best, a grudging admission of availability to customers who can’t – or won’t – brave the “proper” shopping experience. That philosophy won’t do now. The two art forms, over-the-counter sales and online retailing, must work together, side by side, virtually inseparably.

The real world, after all, still has its unique strengths; you cannot try on shoes on the Clarks website, or feel the weight of cloth in River Island through the screen of a smartphone. Connections have to be made. You like something in the shop, but it’s not in stock in your size? The sales assistant should order it online for you and have it delivered to your home the next day. You want something straight away but you don’t want to browse or queue? You should be able to make the purchase on the internet and then simply collect the goods from the shop.

In the final analysis, retailers have to make their customers feel comfortable. Make them feel loved. Because those feelings of convenience and relaxation will disappear with even the slightest barrier – and the nearest shop is now just one mouse click away.


Martin has been working in the consumer-facing sector for 37 years, founding and chairing e-commerce consultancy Practicology, and heading up multichannel operations for brands such as Burberry, Ted Baker and Harrods. Martin is known globally as a champion of customer experience, being at the heart of end-to-end customer-centric transformation in the industry.

To read more of Martin’s blogs on Retail Connections find them here >>


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