I was pleased to provide an opening address to Gladstone’s Health and Leisure summit.
I took as my theme some of the lessons that software and services providers to the leisure sector could learn from retail, but as I worked on my presentation it was clear to me that this is not a ‘one-way street’. Gladstone provides the underpinning software for leisure centres, universities and organisations and so is at the sharp end not only of the increasingly digital customer’s demands, but also needs to provide a complex service over time – whether booking and paying for yoga lessons, or accessing your higher education college.
The Summit comprised staff, customers and sector suppliers and we had a great range of interested and challenging questions.
It was an immensely rewarding event and one where my research gave me many new perspectives.
In a busy and extremely interesting week I was privileged to be invited to the conference of the International Association of Departments Stores (IADS.org). Frederik Nieuwenhuys (Director at FredHopper.com) and I gave the opening keynote and were invited to stay for the remainder of the conference. A really stimulating and convivial two days. The event was hosted by De Bijenkorf at their Amsterdam flagship.
Earlier in the week I chaired a session at the SocialMediaInfluence conference (conference site), organised by my friend and occasional collaborator, Matthew Yeomans (now at RadarDDB). There was a real feeling of a common interest at the day, along with much twittering, discussion about twittering and some discussion /on/ twitter… 😉
Some great speakers and an interesting and engaged delegate list. As ever, the real value was in the 1:1 conversations over coffee. The take-away for me is that in these difficult times there are opportunities for brands whose focus blends quality and service. At the higher price-points value is more important than price to the more affluent customer. Empty brand promises are exposed ruthlessly online so the opportunity for strong multichannel sales can be damaged by timid or inept online activity.
It was an eclectic gathering of a couple of hundred people: merchants, affiliates, programme managers and entrepreneurs in a very open, engaged forum.
I spend a lot of time talking to and writing about retailers and the need to engage fully with the digital, demanding customer, and so it was interesting to have an opportunity to examine the role that affiliates play in connecting products and brands with customers’ wallets.
The blend of large-traffic sites, aggregators (like MyDeco or HousetoHome who put a very professional experience design onto the feeds they receive) and very, very niche affiliates (whether MobileShop.co.uk or perfectlyshapedworld) who put retailers to shame in their focus on customers) covered the gamut of retailing.
Given that we had people from the commercial and operational sides of affiliate marketing it was also an opportunity to examine the drivers for profitability, areas of collaboration and the developing needs that affiliates will have from merchants as they seek to remain relevant to customers in an evermore-demanding marketplace.
Following some good questions (both directly, over coffee and then on the subsequent panel discussions) I met some fascinating affiliates and niche businesses who I’m sure we’ll be seeing in upcoming issues of Internet Retailing.
My thanks to the team at Buy.at for their welcome and hospitality. The event was an examplar of stakeholder communication and networking.
It’s also about the only time I’ll ever get to stand on the stage at the BAFTAs… 😉