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/

Speaking at BBDO University

Following my presentation to the Innovation in Retail Forum I was pleased to accept an invitation to speak to the BBDO U meeting, held just outside Paris.bbdou.png

The event brought the leadership from the AMV, BBDO, Proximity family together to discuss digital trends, issues and opportunities. The team did a great job to pull together some excellent speakers (some of whom I was lucky to hear) as well as some ‘externals’ (me and Google).

I developed some of my themes on the demanding digital customer and approaches to exploiting the ‘attention economy’. In a very engaged Q&A session afterwards, and over lunch, it was good to get so many well-informed, enthusiastic and challenging questions.

No slide deck from this event due to its confidential nature, but there was some real-time commentary from the twitterati in the group – hashtag is #bbdou

Royal Mail: Speaking

At InternetRetailing we’ve been working with the Royal Mail a good deal this year on a number of projects, research activity etc and so I was pleased to be able to speak at their Multichannel Retail Insight Day on 6 May 2009.

The event brought together the retail specialists within Royal Mail to discuss changes in the industry and I was able to cover some of the demands that the sophisticated UK internet shopper is placing upon retailers, along with some of the approaches that the UK’s leading multichannel specialists are taking to set themselves apart.

Thanks to the team at RM for their kind welcome. Sadly, no slides from this engagement since it was a confidential briefing, but we touched on many topics that I think we’ll be returning to in InternetRetailing after our October conference.

Keynote at FDIH in Copenhagen

img_0484I met Morten Kamper, CEO of the Danish eCommerce Federation (FDIH) at an ACSEL event in Paris earlier in the year, and he has also contributed a wonderful piece to Internet Retailing magazine (May 2009 issue). It was therefore a great pleasure to accept his kind invitation to give a keynote at their conference on the use of social media in retail.

The event was held at the IT University, a wonderful and modern venue in the heart of Copenhagen, to a sizeable and enthusiastic delegate group.

As usual I was humbled by the fact that everyone spoke English, but moreso this time that some of the speakers even took the time to send me fully-translated versions of their slide decks: courtesy as well as capability. Very much appreciated.

I spoke on the retail progress made on Facebook and the lessons to be drawn, as well as considering other social media trends and opportunities (is it possible these days to present without mentioning Twitter??).

Facebook in Retail – Presentation to the Danish eCommerce Federation (FDIH)

View more presentations from ikj.

After the event Morten kindly gave me a CD of “The Roots Of Scandinavia: Soul Jazzfunk And Boogie” (we’d been discussing musical fusion over lunch) and this is currently a staple on my playlists. Amazing, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how FDIH came to publish this album.

I had a great, springtime afternoon in Copenhagen afterwards and I’ll publishing the photos from my wanderings on my blog.

Innovation in Retail Forum

Mary Queen of Shop
Mary Queen of Shops

I was pleased to be invited to speak for the Omnicom “Innovation in Retail Forum”, an even for the agency’s CEOs and senior managers, along with key clients. The event was organised by DAS Global in a rather exemplary fashion and held at the Wolff Olins offices in Kings Cross/Islington, overlooking Regents Canal.

The line-up was very impressive and a little intimidating.

Chris Sanderson, Strategy and Insight Director of the Future Laboratory opened proceedings with a clear and stimulating articulation of “prosumers” – today’s demanding and knowledgeable consumers.

Mary Portas, “Queen of Shops” (pictured) gave a really engaging and characterful articulation of the need for innovation, engagement and collaboration in retail. I’d obviously seen Mary on ‘telly’ and so had certain expectations of her presentation. These in no way prepared me for such an open, amusing and highly engaging 40 minutes. I was totally won over.

Dr Jonathan Reynolds of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management (at Said Business School) gave a fast-paced and and well-supported presentation on ‘location’ in retail and queried its importance in future.

I followed with a presentation on opportunities for ecommerce in the ‘network age’ (a development of my presentations on epiphenomenology, magic and the network/attention economy).

The event was fast-paced, intense and fun. It ran very smoothly and this was largely due to the intensive work by Danny and Alice (you know who you are!) in detailed advanced preparation with the speakers. Not only did we have several phone conversations to flesh out the content, tone and approach of each session, but great care was taken over the interaction of the presentations. The result of this advance work was that there was a good flow, negligible overlap and good thematic reinforcement.

I’ve taken a lead from this and will be emulating this approach for the October InternetRetailing 2009 conference!

Do stars shine brighter against a dark sky? [Editorial comment from November 2008’s Internet Retailing Magazine]

This article appeared in November 2008’s edition of Internet Retailing Magazine.

After the buzz and positive atmosphere at the InternetRetailing 2008 Conference, Ian Jindal considers the role of ecommerce in a hostile and uncertain period for retailers: can etail’s star shine undimmed?

There’s a stunned and bruised feeling in retail. Not so much as a result of the downturn/recession/depression (delete according to pessimism) but  at the effect of the unintended consequences.

The speed and extent of the seizure of short-term lending markets has caused significant trouble to businesses who depend upon flexible working capital: growing businesses, seasonal businesses, leveraged businesses with liquidity covenants and suppliers whose working capital needs to be with retailers are all suffering. The amplified impact of retail and manufacturing workers losing confidence, buying power or even jobs will be, for the retail sector, like hitting a wall.

In retail Boardrooms across the land, all eyes are now on eCommerce. While offline like-for-like performance is down across sectors, eCommerce is still growing or at least ‘holding up’. As drowning men cleave to passing logs, so do CEOs view the online channel as an opportunity to save the financial year. Many in eCommerce, myself included, remember the nuclear winter of 2001-3: the question is what lessons have we learned and do we have the strength to apply them?

The key lesson is that this is a time for brave people to be ruthless and focused. In a rising market there’s always a “mañana” in which to implement gentlemanly improvements in segmentation, stock control, processes, addressing margin… However, there is no “tomorrow”. I know that Christmas is busy, but we must all fear that January post-sale will be even tougher. Putting off decisive action until December 31st is folly.

While each business is different, in general we can concentrate upon pace, focus, agility and responsiveness – attributes that should be a fundamental part of ecommerce.

Pace is vital since we need to trade our sites daily, not weekly or monthly. Learn lessons quickly and implement immediately. This is no time for a ‘to do’ list – you need a ‘just done’ list!

Focus must be upon customer-facing activity – help them part with their cash. Simplicity is a function of this: in merchandising, marketing and projects.

Agility is needed to move quickly and with confidence: make the changes now, not next week!

Responsiveness should be to the customer or emergent opportunities. The origin of the word ‘retail’ is from the French word “retailler” or ‘re-tailor’ – creating something anew for each customer, focused on serving them. The web’s ability to segment, personalise, algorithmically optimise and merchandise should come to the fore. Now, today – not tomorrow.

These are simple requirements, but take backbone to implement. Wibbling, waffling and waiting should be reserved for those on the sidelines.

Even with this bold, brave approach we etailers are dependent upon our colleagues in logistics for service levels, buying and merchandising to have the right goods to sell and our stores and contact centres for cross-channel leverage. The temptation is to try and forge ahead online but now more than ever is the time to work closely with colleagues to burnish a consistent service to customers across all channels. While your colleagues see ecommerce as an opportunity to rescue trading performance you have an opening to cement cross-channel working… not to show that you’re separatist, selfish and narrowly focused!

eCommerce continues to perform well, and it’s said that stars shine more brightly against a dark sky. However, our aim cannot be simply to be valued in comparison with the decline of others. eCommerce professionals have an opportunity in the coming months to demonstrate a robust and agile commercialism and to lift the whole business by customer focus, modern inclusive working practices and delivering the multichannel leverage of which we speak so often.

In these dark times it takes bravery to be brilliant and simplicity to sparkle. eCommerce should be a constellation, not a lone star: this Christmas,  don’t twinkle alone.

Going for Gold [Editorial comment from the August 2008 Internet Retailing Magazine]

Having won a temporary pass from IR Towers to a seaside retreat with cable TV, Ian Jindal is watching Olympic synchronised diving as the rain beats against the windows and thinking of peak season…

The Olympics are an extraordinary event. Not solely for the obvious (and barely-understood) commitment and expertise of the athletes but for the emergence of a new form of human being: Homo Potatum Sofum Expertatis, sometimes known by its common name, the ‘couch potato’.

Being inactive while watching telly is not that remarkable. Rather, it’s the peculiar quadrennial transformation into a sporting expert that defies accepted ideas of evolution. I’d never seen synchronised diving before, but I can note with great accuracy the differences in body line, the perfection of the piked position and the miniscule timing differences in breaking the surface… Humans have evolved to be able to identify tiny differences in patterns, even if most of us lack the ability to make our bodies work to those fine tolerances.

My mind slipped back to thinking about retail, and I realised that the armchair critic is no match for the uncaring, critical, always-right customer!

In the battle to extract cash from the recession-constricted wallets of our visitors etailers are resorting to a near-permanent sale, free delivery, deeper additional discounts… and all the while Christmas is coming and we need to gear up for peak.

Is this our Olympic relay race? We have the highly-honed and much practised disciplines of logistics, buying, marketing and technology, all at peak form after over 4 years of “working” ecommerce. However, if the team play and baton-passing is not the equal of the individuals then the customer notices. “98% performance”” gains no credit for the hard work and expertise: rather, the ‘2% deficit’ is noticed and punished.

Characteristic of the ‘mature stage of ecommerce’ is that customers have now experienced expertise – either from you or (painfully) from your competitors. Unfortunately, the expert etailer gets little explicit praise, save for an increased retention and net promoter [tm] ranking. That retailer’s competitors however suffer silently – the silence of being shunned. Customer may still come to your site, from habit, curiosity or expensive CPA tactics but upon arrival your site suddenly seems to lack lustre, that certain Gold Medal je ne sais quoi, the allure of the champion. Second division. Vauxhall Conference. Amateur.

The first symptom of underperformance is a perplexing drop in conversion rates. Blame the recession, blame holidays, wait for the new season’s stock, fire up another affiliate… Somehow, though, the medal positions are always filled by your competitors… While we all clap politely and are pleased with ecommerce’s resilience – the ‘rise in popularity of our sport’, if you will – it’s of zero consolation to the true competitor, for whom it’s medals or nothing.

With peak season imminent, what are our options? The first point is not to start anything new or risky: this is a time for a perfect drill rather than a  practice match. The next is to coach each of your skilled players in working to their maximum capabilities – practice at peak enables performance at peak. Finally, make sure that your training camp includes cross-discipline practice and communication. With high pressure and high stakes it’s all too easy for people to fall back into their own areas and leave the overall problem to ‘someone else’. But as Potatus Expertatis knows, it’s the tiny cracks and flaws that mark the teams down from gold, rather than the the flashes of isolated brilliance moving them up.

Peak success will be from Gold-standard teams, working flawlessly and consistently together to deliver under pressure against the etailing elite. No amount of free delivery and empty promises can win the Christmas Olympics.

To the victor the spoils.

Breakfast Briefing: Clearwater Corporate Finance

I was invited to speak at a breakfast briefing hosted by Clearwater Corporate Finance by Jackie Naghten on “What makes a successful online business”. The presentation was to a group of Clearwater’s clients and contacts in the private equity space – either investors, investment managers or entrepreneurs (pre- and post-funding). Given the short time and the knowledge of the audience I focused on what I see to be the fundamentals involved in appraising a business for investment or in running an online business with a ruthless focus on value and growth (or, in today’s challenging climate, value and surviving long enough to be able to realise that value!).

The presentation covered:

  • The retail context – continued growth in online, but no longer ‘free growth’ nor a ‘rising tide floating all boats’. We discussed changes in consumer buying patterns.
  • “There’s no middle in eCommerce” – average, “OK” and ‘sufficient’ businesses have no place online
  • Sustainable competitive positions: customer insight (if you know viscerally what your consumers want, you have a chance to survive where other companies would flounder); product (whether exclusive access or unique knowledge, presentation or pricing); and Operations (the best sausage machine). Unfortunately, there are now companies who excel in all areas, so the ‘no middle’ comment above is reinforced
  • We considered the origin of ‘retail’ – slicing and dicing, retailoring and fitting to the customer, and draw from this an origin founded in service and closeness to the customer
  • I emphasised that ecommerce lives as part of a multichannel world: even pure-play businesses have contact centres, logistics, sometimes print and increasingly consider shops…
  • Service is fundamental to customer retention and profitability. We considered at a high level service issues from contact centres through delivery and returns and how failure in these areas is costly – and unnecessary.

It was a great session and my thanks again to Jackie and Clearwater for the invitation.

RetailGreen – challenges and issues in green and sustainable ecommerce

“Retailgreen.eu – challenges and issues in green and sustainable ecommerce”

I’ve been interested for a while in the tension between “retail” (encouraging customers to buy more) and sustainability or ‘green’ sentiments (encouraging people to buy less – “reduce, reuse and recycle” being the operating mantra).

There are many benefits and challenges for retailers in considering sustainability as a part of their strategy and this group on LinkedIn is a first step to exploring this topic.

Mired in conflicting claims, in questions of how far to trace and cost impacts and benefits, and struggling to reconcile customer expressed claims with their measured behaviour, we expect some lively debates!

I invite you to join the group and help shape the debate.

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – lessons for efficiency and saving in sustainable commerce

  2. The sustainable customer – market pressures on retailers to ‘go green’. Following the ‘green dollar’

  3. Profiles of companies and their green activities, tribulations or market positioning.

You can join the group directly from this link:

http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/150191/365DA86DD491