Category InternetRetailing

InternetRetailing Conference 2016 – our 11th annual event

I was pleased to open both www.edeliveryconference.com and www.internetretailingconference.com and welcome the usual senior gathering of multichannel professionals to our intense multi-track conference and expo.

You can see the write-up of the event and also videos of proceedings on the conference site, but a particular thanks to Tony Rivenell of Halfords who was game enough to do a Q&A on the role of the Chief Digital Officer during our keynote sessions…

Beyond Brexit: Building Retail in a new epoch

The ramifications of the British vote to leave the European Union are barely understood, but the radical implications cannot be underestimated. There are some challenging lessons, and more-challenging opportunities, to be seized as we move from bemoaning or celebrating to the realities of building a new future.

THAT THE world had qualitatively changed was clear as I addressed our inauguralEuropean Summit in Berlin the week following the Brexit vote. The overwhelming messages from the gathering of the IREU Top500 retailers was that the UK’s skills and expertise were valued, and that there is a bond between multichannel professionals that bridges national boundaries. This is clearly shown too in the first ranking of Europe’s Top500 multichannel retailers, the IREU Top500 2016, which we’re pleased to release this month. Europe and trade are certainly the issue of our time.

Epochal change

We are witnessing an epochal change – of radical disruption. While the digital revolution caused disruption, there are few events in our time that have recast social relationships, rewritten the rules of politics, recast national relations, rejected the underpinning legal settlement of nationhood, trade and personal freedoms, while resetting people’s expectations of the course of their families’ lives. Short of war, this is the most wholesale disruption we may see in our lives and from this we need to create and seize opportunity. The manner in which we act post-Brexit will test and set the character of the UK and Europe for the next generation.

Our industry could be characterised by a customer-focus, a bias for innovation and change, and a global perspective. All of these are fundamentally, radically challenged by the Brexit vote. The questions to consider are broader than retail alone, but as a major employer and generator of economic value we have to engage more broadly than solely our own bailiwicks. Areas of engagement include:

  • How better to connect with our customers, many of whom have expressed an anti-urban, anti-establishment, anti-globalisation sentiment? If our customers are never wrong then we need to find a better narrative of inclusion and relevance, even as they seek out global brands at discounted prices… We need to consider how we communicate and live our values, not just our pricing and promotion policies.
  • Our staff are simultaneously an asset to our business, our own customers, and the disaffected or disenfranchised voters. Skills development is needed both for our own performance and for our employees to have a stake in society and confidence about an improving future of employment, mobility and affluence. How can we connect with our staff to align our commercial progress with their lives and hopes?
  • What needs to be done to retain competitive, open market access? Both for sales of our own goods and the purchase of goods for resale, consumables and infrastructure?
  • As we have a chance to look afresh at our regulatory frameworks, what is necessary to ensure a level playing field? What regulation do we want to retain, remove, introduce?

Over the coming months we will be seeking, listening to and synthesising the voices in our industry as we look to create positive outcomes from this disruption. Our editorial approach at IR is to reflect the board-level, cross-disciplinary, commercial conversation and so we’ll look at all areas in which we can make an impact.

What questions do you think need to be addressed? Where should our focus lie? Please let me know your thoughts. Over the coming year we will hold informal discussions across the UK and in key European cities, under the Chatham House Rule. The aim is to have an agenda, an approach and consideration points in time for the next European Summit in Berlin in June 2017. We have invites to Liverpool, Edinburgh, Manchester, London, Paris and Amsterdam, but we’ll go where the conversation leads. If you have an office or venue that could host us, please do let me know. While the focus of the discussion will be amidst multichannel retailers, key suppliers to the sector have an important voice and we invite their contribution too.

Please drop me a note at ian@internetretailing.net if you’d like to contribute.

This article was first published in InternetRetailing Magazine in July 2016 and on Linkedin as a post.

Brief appearance on the BBC’s ‘Christmas at John Lewis’ documentary

Provided you didn’t blink in the wrong place you may have caught my contribution to a BBC documentary on how John Lewis prepares for Christmas. I had great fun contributing to a topic that we’ve covered ourselves – namely how the elite retailers prepare for peak. An interesting take within the programme was that #BlackFriday had changed the ‘traditional’ Christmas peak, and further looked at the role of eCommerce ‘pure play’ giant Amazon.co.uk in the competitive landscape for John Lewis.

The programme aired on 23 December, 2015, titled “Christmas Shopping Fever 2015: John Lewis and the Retail Race” and you can see it for a while on BBC iPlayer – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06t3kqt/christmas-shopping-fever-2015-john-lewis-and-the-retail-race

 

Ian Jindal discussing John Lewis with Cherry Healey for BBC 2's

 

I was really impressed with the research the team did beforehand. We had a number of phone discussions, follow-up questions and a good brief on the ‘arc’ of the show. I had a great time filming my snippets and even though it was a couple of hours the time passed really quickly. I’m sure that TV production crews forget how interesting we find the whole process! Most of the filming I do is around our events and these tend to be one-take-only commentaries. At first I thought that it was a luxury to have more time, but now I simply feel a combination of awe and sympathy at the skill and patience needed to turn hundreds of hours of footage into a coherent, brief broadcast!

My on-screen contribution comprised of a review of the customer expectations on delivery (c 0h24’) and upon the role of SEO in supporting visibility and sales at peak (c0h30’).

We’ve covered John Lewis extensively on InternetRetailing – they’re one of our “Elite” UK retailers in the InternetRetailing Top500. You can see John Lewis’ company listing as well as information on the Top500 on our site.

We also covered BlackFriday and CyberMonday with rolling, on-the-hour information on the performance of the Top23 retailers in the UK and John Lewis’ performance over peak fared well.

Ian Jindal on the BBC's documentary on John Lewis' Christmas, 2015

BlackFriday and CyberMonday comments on BBC Radio

It’s all go in retail-land with BlackFriday and CyberMonday and I was pleased to be asked to contribute to a fun piece on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, commenting on the phenomenon. Great questions from Paul Marriott on his show, details are here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p037v012

You can hear my clip from the programme on Soundcloud:

Morrison’s move to online grocery delivery – BBC Radio interview (Shane O’Connor show)

On 10 January, 2014 Morrisons at last joined the ‘club’ of major grocers in the UK who deliver online. Their share price and reputation had been on the receiving end of negative sentiment, and so with the launch of the pilot programme in the West Midlands I was interviewed by BBC Radio, starting with a direct question “They are so behind the game, is that going to be a problem for them [Morrisons]? Coming to the party so late?”…

My colleague at InternetRetailing, Chloe Rigby, covered the story and you can leave comments and join the debate there: http://internetretailing.net/2014/01/one-week-on-how-is-morrisons-online-grocery-service-going/

“Capability and Maturity” – editorial from the May 2011 edition of InternetRetailing Magazine

I’ve just published the web version of my Editorial for the May 2011 issue of our Magazine, “Capability and Maturity”.

You can see it on Internet Retailing’s site here:

http://www.internetretailing.net/2011/05/editorial-capability-and-maturity/

There’s also a link to the May 2011 Digital Edition of Internet Retailing Magazine (‘page turner’), also available online.

In the article I mention the MSc in Internet Retailing – a commercial qualification, academically assessed and accredited.

Applications for the MSc are now being accepted for September 2011 start: information at http://econsultancy.com/uk/training/qualifications/retailing. Open evenings on 26 May (Manchester) and 14 June (London) can be booked online . You will have a chance to chat with us, the academic staff from MMU and the Econsultancy trainers, as well as speaking with current students from the first and second intakes.

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” – Editorial from the January 2011 edition of InternetRetailing Magazine

I’ve just published the web version of my Editorial for the January 2011 issue of our Magazine. You can see it on Internet Retailing’s site here:

http://www.internetretailing.net/2011/05/editorial-planes-trains-and-automobiles/

There’s also a link to the digital ‘page turner’ edition, also now published online.

“Purchandising” – Editorial from November 2010’s issue of Internet Retailing Magazine

I’ve just published the web version of my Editorial for the November 2010 issue of our Magazine. You can see it on Internet Retailing’s site here:

http://www.internetretailing.net/2010/12/editorial-purchandising/

There’s also a link to the digital ‘page turner’ edition, also now published online.

“No more eCommerce – it’s Total Retail” – Editorial from September 2010’s issue of Internet Retailing magazine

Here’s my editorial from the September 2010 edition of Internet Retailing magazine. You can see this article in the digital edition here:

http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/bd0ff4ae#/bd0ff4ae/6

We’ve long predicted that multiple channels will give way to an integrated commercial approach, but inspired by the World Cup – and not allowing his utter ignorance of football to stand in his way – Ian Jindal reflects on the lessons from the Beautiful Game’s radical transformation in the 1970s, drawing parallels with today’s changes: welcome to the age of Total Retail.

In January’s column, we looked forward to a year in which Boards would place ever-increasing demands on the eCommerce teams, and that eCommerce leaders will need to become rounded, commercial leaders in order to secure their role on the Board. Since January we’ve also seen the rise of mobile and m-commerce and this has increased the pace of innovation and digital development, further eroding channel boundaries. M-Retailing.net, our new title, charts the increased pace of change, but there remains a nagging feeling that the game has changed.

In our businesses we expect our teams to combine deep functional expertise, with a non-trivial appreciation of other disciplines, and finally an ability to assimilate and master change situations, new skills and the changes in customer behaviour and demands. Admittedly there’ll be training – both corporate and self-directed – but there is also a need to reconsider the way we manage and lead our digital teams, as well as the wider business, to achieve against these demands.

In the 1970s there was a similar need to change the approach to football. With faster balls and pitches, increased professionalism and training demands, the static tactical approaches that ranged lines of offence and defence against each other had become turgid. The insight was to create a system where any player could take over the role of any other player – fluidly, autonomously and to great effect. A multitalented player would be expected to be an attacker, a midfield play-maker and a defender – seamlessly and without pause. A jack of all trades and master of most.

Central to the tactical approach of Total Football were the notions of creating space, flexibility and collaboration, founded upon rigorous and demanding training and a proactive attitude, always seeking opportunity and taking initiative.

Likewise the modern eCommerce team. For ‘creating space’ we have the need to create commercial opportunity – even amidst the mayhem and turmoil of minute-by-minute trading. Members of a Total Retail team are expected to act commercially, create opportunities, despite the pressures of daily activity.

The notion of multitalented team-members is also vital. Not only must there be an appreciation and understanding of other people’s skills, but team members must also be able to make a credible contribution in other areas. No more “I am a marketeer” or “I am a technologist” – eCommerce professionals must be both (as well as operationally savvy and commercially astute). Indeed, we created the MSc in Internet Retailing as a programme to assist the development of multi-talented leaders for our industry.

One aspect not present in the 1970s was “fan power”, or ‘customer power’. Our colleagues in store have the most intimate human contact with some customers, but across the whole business it’s the multi-touch, extensive digital contacts that give eCommerce professionals a privileged insight to the customer’s activities. With social media we have an enviable view of the customer’s attitudes and activities beyond the shopping experience in our domains. Further, considering m-commerce and mobile interaction, we’re increasingly able to gain more insight into customers’ behaviour even when they’re not “online” and explicitly shopping or researching.

Total Retail is the opportunity for us to progress from a simple injunction to ‘be more skilled and commercial’ to an approach of being more engaged with customers – at every stage of consideration, socialising, learning, buying and sharing. Being of service to a demanding, knowledgeable and social customer, at all times, places and points of attention. It’s a fully committed approach. To deliver upon this demand we need both to hone our individual skills as players, and to develop a ‘game play’ that is open, flexible and enterprising. The tenets are skills, flexibility, collaboration and creating opportunity.

This shift will be uncomfortable and demanding, even upon those who believe it to be a necessity (and an opportunity). However, it’s likely that our customers will come to expect this sooner than the majority of retailers will respond – meaning significant spoils for those who can bring sparkle to the retail game, much as the Dutch shook up football 40 years ago. Time for us all to embrace Total Retail, and we’ll return to this theme again over the coming year.

Internet Retailing 2009 – our best conference to date

October’s conference season’s highlight (for me, anyway) was the fourth Internet Retailing conference – IR2009.

While I’m of course biased (!) the conference saw our highest attendance (just under 1,000 in total, with 450 full delegates), an expanded roster of exhibitors and, crucially, the introduction of our plenary keynote session to open the day. Novotel Show_2009_013.jpg

We were privileged and inspired to hear from Peter Fitzgerald (Retail Industry Head at Google UK), Jane Judd who heads customer service at Zappos and Robin Terrell, MD of John Lewis Direct. Any of these speakers alone would have made a wonderful conference opener, but to have all three was a luxury (one that we intend to repeat in future years – I think we now realise that one can’t have too much of a good thing!).

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Peter, above, gave us Google’s view on the ever-increasing pace of change, and the need for retailers continually to ‘up their game’ to remain competitive. A chilling message, delivered with Peter’s usual charm and clarity.

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Robin wowed the audience with his combination of shared insights and facts (his openness was astounding and very highly praised) along with a down-to-earth pragmatism about the tasks and challenges ahead. I won’t précis his speech (you can see the full video on the conference since) but I’ve never seen before 1,000 people, as one, dive to write notes at a speaker’s every utterance.

Robin’s speech was one of the best keynotes I’ve seen and one of the most highly-rated ever at our conference.

Jane, below, took a few moments to introduce us to the Zappos way and then peeled layer after layer away to reveal a characterful and savvy underpinning to “The Zappos Way”.

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For the rest of the day it was intense networking as well as note-taking and idea-exchanging in the three parallel streams. Here are some photos from the day…

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Morten Kamper, CEO of the Danish eCommerce and Distance Selling Federation (FDIH) asking a question of the keynote speakers

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Mark “Many Phones” Pigou, my business partner in InternetRetailing and the conference promoter. Odd to see him smiling until the very last stand is down and the feedback is in…

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Mike “Dr Mike” Baxter, redoutable Stream Chair, engaged on a panel…

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Rob “I’m Listening” Prevett, IR’s Account Director, personing the stand at the show…

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… and humour (plus marketing budget!) from Jacob Salamon at Bazaarvoice. They’ve enlivened our conference for the last couple of years with “Badge Flares” – adhesive messages for the bottom of delegate badges – but this year pulled an “homage”. Great fun, and I’ve used this image in lieu of a business card for a while since. Thanks Jacob 😉

The 2010 conference information is already available at http://screenevents.co.uk/IR2010/index.html and I’m looking forward already to building on the success of 2009 to make our fifth annual event even better!