Senior retailers from across Europe gathered at this year’s InternetRetailing Summit in Berlin this week to share their experiences.

These are some of the key themes that emerged from discussions over the course of the event, which was held under the Chatham House Rule.

Operations & logistics
Convenience, said one speaker, is driving the development of fulfilment. It’s all about choice through click and collect, home delivery and other options since that reflects “what’s most convenient for me” at any moment, as well as the difference between different shopping missions.

Issues here, said one delegate, include introducing a process to refund the 15% of click and collect orders that are paid for but not collected.

It’s important, said another, to attribute sales to stores, while being able to recognise where the conversion took place. Connecting email addresses to store transactions helps retailers do that but, asked one delegate, how can that be encouraged? Another suggested offering discounts and e-receipts to customers via email. E-receipts, said one speaker, were “very popular with customers” since they enable them to trace previous purchases in order to make returns and to reorder or recommend products that they liked.

The Customer

What do we mean by the seamless customer experience – the aim of multichannel retailers? This was the starting question for one leadership panel. Such an experience, suggested one speaker, would be “very easy to use, predictable, delivering on expectations with real time updates that can adapt to interruptions and change”. Another said that while the seamless experience was hard to define “we should improve every day”.

“If we’re convenient they’ll come back to us,” said one speaker, adding that this meant it was important to keep focusing on what was changing and what customers were demanding.

One speaker said their organisation had added video to parcel tracking so that shoppers could see for themselves where their delivery was, while another said that customers wanted to talk to the organisation all the time: by taking some administrative tasks overnight it had been possible to create 24-hour availability for the contact centre. This had led both to service improvements and to late night sales. “If you don’t do these things, someone else will,” concluded the speaker.

The seamless customer experience rests on a single customer view: one participant said that when small changes “honing” the single view were made that had a knock on effect on all connected systems. It might also mean that decisions taken three years ago were no longer the right decision.

One delegate said that newcomers to multichannel retailing might benefit in the short term by having the latest technology – but within a few years that might mean they were tied into technology that was already outdated. “The challenge,” said another speaker, “is to remain agile, being connected and disconnected at the same time in order to make changes.”

Strategy & innovation

Strategic planning in retail usefully reflects demand from customers, said one speaker. Research shows that the next generation of customers want to have physical contact with the store, said another, while another delegate said that younger shoppers were keen to feel part of a community, and were happy to join in by submitting videos to their retail brand for sharing on the website. Useful innovations might help…