Monday, 11 November 2013

Little brother is watching you

Concluding my brief series looking at how multichannel demands changes to the traditional retail organisation, something a little bit more future-facing. “Big Data” is a pretty topical term right now; lots of organisations are working to exploit the trail left by the ROBO customer (Research Online Buy Offline and/or Research Offline Buy Online).


Often these initiatives are dressed up for customers with nice phrases like “we treat every customer as an individual” which of course really means “we’re collecting as much data as we can about you so that we can work out what else we could sell you.” The rise and rise of the smart-phone aka personal tracking system is helping play a big part in that; if you’re on a boring journey one day, try passing the time by going through the apps on your mobile and see what each of them has permission to access – contact lists, call and messaging histories, location data and so forth. And to be fair, making it easier for customers to find things relevant to them (in whatever way – purchase patterns, nearby locations) is probably good for customers too.

Slightly below the radar (or so it seems right now), various governments, especially in Europe, are taking an interest in this. Not in the Edward Snowden NSA snooping way, but in a more constructive citizenship-aiding way. The UK government's Midata initiative is one such. It aims at “giving consumers access to the data created through their … internet transactions and high street loyalty cards.”

 According to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website:

midata will allow consumers greater insight into their everyday consumption and lifestyle habits by using applications and intermediaries to analyse their actual behaviours and thereby empower them to make better spending choices and secure the best deals.”

Or so the UK consumer minister says.
Roughly (one of) its ideas is to get companies to subscribe the data they collect about their customers to a personal data store for that customer, and make the data available in ways that are helpful to the customer. So for example a Tesco clubcard holder could find out how much they spend on fresh produce compared to pre-processed food each year, or on branded versus unbranded goods.
The idea extends further in that this data repository should be under the control of the customer, and should allow that individual to consolidate data from different sources, for example bank statements, clubcard data and utility bills in a way that helps give them insight into their own lives. "If I spend less on gas keeping the house warm, do I use up all the savings boiling the kettle and consuming tea-bags, milk and sugar?"
Taking it one step further again, the customer should be able to make part of that data publicly available, at their discretion and under their control.

Why is that helpful and what does this mean for retailers (or for that matter anybody that sells online)? Well the most interesting application for the future is the idea that, instead of customers having to come looking for you, you’ll go looking for customers. As a customer I can, in effect, put my business out for tender, along with whatever consolidated data (from all possible footprint sources that subscribe to the service) I choose to release publicly from my “Midata store” in order to help the potential vendors match my need as closely as possible.

“I’d like to buy insulation, or maybe solar panels, and here are my recent electricity and gas bills plus some outline idea of my general spending-power and preference for quality” is a sample concept.

It’s a potentially alarming (for some!) paradigm shift in retailing. And it’s happening now: Midata is already a legislative reality. It's even got a logo, so it must be serious...
Midata briefing at

Monday, 4 November 2013

Sharing the credit - the enemy within

Continuing my series briefly looking at organisational impacts of multichannel.

In a previous post I took a look at the basic stages of organisational development as a retailer becomes "more multichannel". On of the first aspects of this journey that typically needs attacking - and realigning - is the question of incentives and KPIs. Put more crudely: "whose sale is it anyway?" This is part of a wider topic of avoiding "channel conflict" i.e. ensuring that your channels collaborate and not compete. Incentivising appropriate behaviour throughout your organisation forms an essential part of a channel conflict avoidance strategy.

Firstly, let's take a look at how NOT to do it. Apologies for a screenshot in German, but I think it's pretty clear what's going on:

Ah yes, we have stores. And it's not fair if the website "steals their sales" so let's make sure that we show a more expensive price online than for the stores, and so defeat this invading enemy. Plausible, except that our brand slogan is "I'm not stupid" (because I shop here and it's great value); and now you can see quite how stupid you would be to shop online. And in fact, the site let you change your home store and see that the price was different in Vienna than in Salzburg. As you can imagine, this concept (Media Markt Austria in early 2010) didn't last all that long.

I'm not entirely sure why they needed expensive consultants to tell them this wasn't sensible, and in fact that the answer was fairly simple: whenever a sale gets made online, a store should get the credit. Different clients I've worked with use slightly different rules, but the basics are always the same: online sales are split, usually geographically by delivery postcode, and the benefit from those sales, either directly as increased sales/margin or indirectly in some sort of "commission", is allocated to the nearest store.

This has the benefit of neatly dealing with all those cross-channel stories too. Online sale, return to store? No longer does it make the store look bad, because the store "got" the sale in the first place. (OK, you might have to increase the acceptable KPI for stores because online sale typically generate proportionately more returns, especially in categories like fashion). Similarly collect-in-store is dealt with. Whose sale was it? Obviously the store where the collection took place.

Such approaches do need a little bit of dexterity in back-end accounting. Typically this is done by treating the website sales as "virtual". In other words, any ecommerce team-members that might be targeted on online sales still get credited for their efforts by accumulating the sales which pass through the website, but these sales are not rolled-up into the overall P/L (because the store sales are used for this), they are just tracked for KPI purposes.

Overall, it's another big change from traditional brick-and-mortar only: store managers and store staff need to really care about the website and regard it as their friend not their enemy.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Amazon: the first chink in the armour?

OK, I know I'm probably a bit slow with the flow here, but did anyone else think that the announcement by Amazon that marketplace sellers - in the EU at least - will now be able to sell their products cheaper on their own site than on the Amazon marketplace is more strategically significant than it might look at first reading? (See for example the story as reported on the BBC news site).

The trouble with Amazon is that too much of it looks more and more like a play on price alone, albeit one powered by the cash-cow of its awesome core media/books business. It looks more an more like 4 separate animals, although of course being able to leverage a single CRM view has to be a huge boost:
  1. cash cow media/books; even here it is obsessed with being the cheapest. When did you last see a seller listing cheaper than Amazon itself, assuming Amazon holds the title at all? Or take a look at the royalty rates for publishing on Kindle; basically there's a massive incentive to keep the title at < $10, and you absolutely have to commit to being cheaper than the print version
  2. 2nd rate (and generally expensive for Sellers) marketplace; eBay, Allegro (in countries where eBay hasn't made it) are usually the #1
  3. Reasonable IT services business, into which it is pouring investment
  4. Retailer outside media/books: totally a play on price, and dominated by the nightmare category of consumer electronics. The website isn't even that good at selling presenting this stuff (OK it is evidently good at selling lots of it). Margins, given how coy Amazon is on the topic, are evidently a big issue
Now that the "last man standing" multichannel retailers are starting to fight back properly - viz Dixons making a profit again at last, or Best Buy making proper price promises - then maybe, just maybe, price price price can't continue to be the be all and end all of Amazon's business. It certainly wasn't where it started in books.

It's just had to back down in a very small way. Is this the thin end of the wedge? Maybe the fact that it is preferring to invest in the services side of the business in preference is a sign that Amazon itself is reading the tea-leaves the same way.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Product Data is the New Logistics

Continuing my series briefly looking at organisational impacts of multichannel.

In my last post, I proposed a nice organisational direction leading through various stages until true multichannel is reached. Unfortunately this usually falls at the first hurdle: new organisational disciplines which didn’t exist prior to multichannel, and – here’s the rub – don’t obviously fit anywhere in an existing retail organisation and/or nobody “wants” them.

Many new disciplines – SEO for example, or email marketing – tend to drop nicely into place. In the early days of “Multiple Channel” retailing, with a Rebellion or Distributed organisational model (see my previous post) SEO activity will sit in an eCommerce team itself. Later on as the organisation matures, it will move naturally into Marketing.

Others, such as managing a Fulfilment Centre specialising in single-pick customer orders (as distinct from bulk retail replenishment) tend to land naturally in their primary discipline from day 1, in this case Logistics.

The “bastard discipline from hell”, as everybody who has ever been involved in a new eCommerce implementation knows all too well, is Product Data Management. It is always on the project critical path. And nobody ever wants to own it, either during implementation or afterwards in business-as-usual. It’s one of those tasks you can never do well, only do with varying degrees of less-badness, so there’s no reward. It’s horribly labour intensive, so there’s lots of cost. And it’s completely new, a discipline that simply wasn’t required before online channels came along.

Where should it sit in the organisation? It could sit in “eCommerce”. This, to me, is one of the tests I use early in an engagement to understand how multichannel a client is. If they still have Product Data Management in some sort of eCommerce leper’s camp, safely isolated from the rest of the organisation, then I can be pretty sure a client is organisationally pretty immature.

It’s often forced into Commercial or Buying teams. The argument is that these are the people with the relationship with suppliers, so these are the people that can source the data. While this is true in a way, I’m not sure I’ve ever worked with a Buying team whose primary competence is Business Process/Administration. On the other hand, at least these teams have a strong focus on sales (usually! – and yes I have worked with at least one retailer where Buying didn’t appear to have a sales target…). And lousy product data online usually equates to lousy sales.

My favourite example of lousy product data ensuring lousy sales, from some years ago now so I think I can use it without causing blushes, is this product sold by a major DIY retailer:

“What size are these doors?” is fairly fundamental. Worse still, the question had actually been answered on the forum, with a precise and accurate answer… by one of the retailer's buyers for the Doors category.

So, if Product Data Management doesn’t belong in eCommerce, or in Category Management, where else? Well, some sort of dedicated admin team is possible. But where should it report to? It’s unlikely to be big enough to merit a top-table seat in its own right, so it’s still left looking for a home.

Take a closer look at it. What does it involve? Well, it’s very business process driven, standards and compliance are essential, flow management is important, just-in-time-delivery is a core competence, it’s about getting something from suppliers, and you are always working to serve demanding sales channels… sounds very like logistics / supply chain doesn’t it? The difference is that instead of a physical supply chain via warehouses, there’s a virtual supply chain via data warehouses.


I do indeed know of organisations that do this (I say this hastily before I get hostile comments posted by irate Logistics Directors).

But it’s also perhaps the strongest illustration of another key consequence of become Multichannel: very new disciplines in traditional functions. Logistics is the New Marketing has been one of my themes in these posts. Here’s a related one: Product Data is the New Logistics.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

4 stages in the evolution of the multichannel organisation

As promised in my last post,  I’m going to take a look at a few of the many other impacts that going multichannel has on a retail organisation.

A high level overview seems like a good place to start. I typically see the following models, either in action, or – unfortunately – more often in aspiration, when I work with clients:

I’d like to say that the Rebellion model – where a small number of people, typically from I.T. and Marketing conspire together to drag a retailer online – is already dead. In actual practice, a version which I’ll call Sponsored Revolution seems to be alive and well. In its typical manifestation, there is indeed a general top-management mandate for adding new channels, but this does not translate into altering individual targets and KPIs, and so the implementation project team or eCommerce team has to spend a disproportionate percentage of its effort wheedling co-operation out of the rest of the organisation. To give a specific example, it is very difficult to persuade an individual buyer to devote 20% of his/her time to developing the range for online, or (worse) helping with product data management, when it is expected that only 3% of sales, and therefore 3% of his/her existing targets, will be met from online sales in the next 12 months.

The Distributed model is the one I encounter most often in actual practice (although this might be a biased reflection of the developmental stage of organisations that typically engage me). A small dedicated team looks after driving the new channel(s), but has a clearly defined mandate to use certain resources from existing business teams. To use the same example, the buyer would have a specific target for new channel sales, and a clearly stated guideline regarding the expected time commitment.

 In the Focussed model the eCommerce team is dispersed back out into its wider departments again, but the idea of managing specific (usually just new) channels persists, usually with a skeleton coordinating team. For example, the team responsible for online customer-service would now report into general customer-services, but would still retain a distinct identity and a strong affiliation with the online channels. I actually can’t think of a real-world example of the Focussed model implemented in toto, possibly because it is rare to encounter an organisation which is matrix-managed across the majority of its functions, but partial implementations are very common.

 Finally, we reach the point where the distinction between channels ceases, a true Multichannel organisation. For example there are not two groups of customers, there is one group of customers – “our customers” – and so the existence of a separate marketing team makes no sense. Yes there may be channel-centric technical specialists, for example experts in SEM or Affiliate Marketing, but every discipline has its technical specialists, and the task of management is to coordinate them towards achieving the same organisational goals. One day I will work with a retailer that is truly Multichannel in this way; I haven’t yet encountered one!

In practice, retailers make these transitions at different speeds in different areas of the business. It’s not uncommon to see something like Multichannel buying, Focussed marketing, and Distributed logistics. It’s important that this is a deliberate choice, not an organisational accident or worse still a kind of Darwinian struggle for channel supremacy.


Sunday, 21 July 2013

From Buying to Trying

In my last post - from McJobs to iJobs - I considered one possible organisational impact that Multichannel could have on "traditional" retailers: the upgrading of roles at the point-of-sale. Of course this will have wider consequences: staff performing more complex roles need to be managed in more sophisticated, and probably less top-down process-driven, ways.

This has led me to consider where else in the organisation this increase in role-complexity might hit hardest, and I'll be looking at a few of these in my next few posts. For the first of these, I want to consider the opposite end of the product-lifecycle in a retailer: Buying.

As Amazon puts it "we... focus on selection, price and convenience". Most multichannel retailers, in fact, attempt to offer a much wider range of products online than they do in stores; "thin" categories, which might work as end-of-aisle or next-to-POS takeaways in a store environment, just don't cut it online. Customers expect "total" ranges where they can browse a complete selection.

Suddenly the poor Buyer needs to buy 3 times the previous range of products.

To make matters worse, top-sellers in store could be very low price-point articles. And these aren't going to work online, because of shipping charges, unless they can be sold as add-ons. The required range profile is typically slightly different.

The Buying organisation faces a dilemma: each category buying team now has to buy more articles. So is the best way to do this to create two teams, one buying for store-only (or core articles for both channels) and one buying for the online range only? Or is the best approach just to make the job more complex? What you definitely can't do is stand still...

In practice for a true Multichannel retailer (as distinct from a Multiple channel retailer), the answer is best summed up in a quote from Philip Clarke at Tesco:
"As we look forward, I think our larger stores will have a bit more food space, a bit less general merchandise space, and a bit more clothing space."
In other words, range planning has to be a multichannel process. Inevitably that means a more complex process. And in turn, that means more complex roles.
More complexity buying the assortment, more complexity selling the assortment. The obvious question is what about in the in-between processes, and that's what I will look at in my next post.


Monday, 17 June 2013

From McJobs to iJobs

My attention was drawn last week to two intriguingly opposing articles. First of all, the usual gloom and doom on the high street message, this time articulated in terms of vacant properties etc, published by the Centre for Retail Research.

The direct correlation between the growth of online sales and the decline of high street sales is spelt out. The article demonstrates a reduction in the proportion of consumer spending on the High Street from 50% to 40% coinciding with a rise in consumer spending online from 0% to 12.7%.

Once again we see a key principle – online retail does NOT create extra money in consumers’ pockets, it just represents a spending shift. Figures in the UK are distorted somewhat by the existence of a large online grocery sector, unlike anywhere else in the world. But if we focus only on non-food, the picture is quite clear:

As the research goes on to state, national coverage now requires far fewer stores. A truly multichannel strategy to reach all customers via a properly blended online/offline offer does the job just as well. The key quote: “retailers with a strong web offering now need just 70 high street stores to create a national presence compared to 250 in the mid 2000's”.

And what about those retailers with the strongest web offering of all – the online pureplays? Well that’s where the other articlecomes in. It seems a pureplay isn’t really a pureplay after all, you need a showroom. If you can do like Amazon and use brick-and-mortar retailers as your showroom in a kind of parasitical price-scalping mode, then this is undoubtedly extremely efficient – you get the showroom, someone else gets all the costs of the stores. If you can’t, what can you do about it – seems like the best thing to do is… open brick-and-mortar stores. OK, maybe not traditional stores, more, well… showrooms.

In many ways we’re already familiar with the concept. What more is an Apple store really than a high street showroom? OK, you can buy the products there, but they are much more places where you can look at the product, get service on it, and get someone to explain it to you.

To do that, of course they need a different kind of staff. No longer are the staff there primarily to perform the mundane tasks of shelf-filling and cash-taking. The essential requirement for a staff member in an Apple store is to know more than the customer. And not just any customer, but a customer who has spent time researching the product already online – an expert customer.

What these two articles taken together suggest is that we can expect another strategic shift on the high street – from McJobs to iJobs...

Monday, 10 June 2013

Social Media Explained...

I've just come across this while hunting for something serious to write about for my next post, and I can't resist reposting it here!


Monday, 27 May 2013

Amazon IT capex - spending like it's gone out of style

Another interesting figure in the Amazon 2012 10K filing: capitalisation of IT expenditure:

"Capital expenditures included $381 million, $256 million, and $176 million for internal-use software and website development during 2012, 2011, and 2010."

There are a couple of points of interest in these numbers. Firstly, how small they are! There's an old Forrester benchmark for retail IT expedenditure which roughly suggests that, for a "traditional" retailer, 1% of revenue is spent running the show, and a further 1% enhancing it. And then they suggest that for a digital business, this latter number could be anything up to 8%.

By contrast Amazon's capital expenditure as a % of revenue looks like this:

Although it sounds odd to observe that $381M of IT capex is a small sum, when viewed against overall revenues it really is. You might actually argue that Amazon is underinvesting in IT... Given that it also makes a loss and has a growth strategy, this looks quite odd. What might they spend any extra on?

Well improving the online experience for fashion would be a good start. One of the "features" of the Amazon site is the extent to which it is one-size-fits-all. Essentially it still sells books, and if the product isn't a book, the user experience can be quite peculiar. (Take a look at the utterly bizarre online grocery beta in the UK or Germany for an example of really really peculiar).

Fashion is evidently something they want to push. Although my home page is doubtless heavily personalised, the fact that fashion is even worth personalised banner space is indicative:

And yet the site doesn't really tackle the whole issue of variants - sizes and styling - at all well. It's trying to bend a books-based system into clothing. Try this part of the UI/UX for a shoe product (I'm currently working for Dr Martens so shoes are front-of-mind right now!):

What the hell does that price mean? And what's with the size selector? A clear case of - to be honest - not spending enough on the IT to adapt it for footwear. Take a look at how Zalando handles this same challenge (much better, cutting a long story short).

Anyway, the other point of interest in the IT spend is that it is increasing, both as a % of revenue (from 0.5 to 0.6) and massively in absolute terms. And given that it doesn't seem to be on the "products" side of the business - or at least not on selling shoes - then it seems reasonable to guess that it might just be on services.

This would be reasonably consistent with another interesting note in the 10K - a comment on gross margins:

"Gross margins increased in 2012... primarily due to service sales increasing as a percentage of total sales." 

Gross margins increased from 22.4% to 24.8%, a hefty hike. Services sales increased to $9.4Bn from $6.1Bn in 2011 and $3.4Bn in 2010. Suddenly the IT spending numbers start to make a little more sense. If that increase in IT spending has been primarily to support increased services sales, then an extra $200M of IT spend to support an extra $6Bn of services sales - 3.3% - looks much more like the kind of benchmark numbers suggest by Forrester.

But then it makes the "other" IT spending look even more woefully inadequate...

Monday, 29 April 2013

Amazon results 2012 - Logistics is still the new marketing?

So, Amazon publishes its full year results - a loss of $39M - and everybody is happy that their strategy is still on track. Would this work for your business?

Anyway, in a series of brief posts, I'll take a bit of closer look at some of the obscurer numbers buried in that 10K filing. First of all, my favourite "logistics is the new marketing" figures.

Net shipping costs fell as a % of sales apparently from 2011 to 2012, from 5.1% to 4.7%. Amazon overall sales grew from $48Bn to $61Bn, but $3.3Bn of that growth was services (up to $9Bn). So if you assume shipping only applies to the sale of goods and not services, actually those numbers adjust to 5.5% in 2012 versus 5.8% in 2011.

This doesn't appear to be driven by any improvement in shipping costs, despite lots of hype in the 10K about how they manage their fulfilment and delivery partners. Outbound shipping costs were a painful 9.9% of goods' sales(!) in 2012, compared to 9.4% in 2011. It's a bit unclear whether Kindle downloads count as goods or services, but assuming they are "goods" then this suggests a rather alarming trend - shipping costs are significantly up on a unit basis, despite a presumed increase in non-physical goods in the mix.

They actually make a reference to this: "We expect our net cost of shipping to continue to increase to the extent our customers accept and use our shipping offers at an increasing rate, our product mix shifts to the electronics and other general merchandise category, we reduce shipping rates, we use more expensive shipping methods, and we offer additional services. "

Then comes the interesting contradiction. The reason net shipping costs have fallen, despite this increase in outbound shipping costs, is that they are charging customers more for shipping. Shipping income is up from 3.6% to 4.4% of goods' sales. And this is what Amazon has to say about this:

"We believe that offering low prices to our customers is fundamental to our future success, and one way we offer lower prices is through shipping offers."
So, interestingly "lower prices" appears to include charging more for shipping...

For consumer electronics retailers it's quite difficult to make the business case for home-delivered eCommerce add up once shipping costs get included: the margins on most consumer electronics won't stand it. I can't help wondering if Amazon is actually finding the same issue - only in Amazon's case they can afford to cross-subsidise heavily from very profitable categories like media/books (and presumably Kindles)? They are very careful to evade margin questions other than a general note that gross margins are up overall but they don't believe it's the right way to measure the business.

Not only is logistics the new marketing, but a loss appears to be the new profitable...

Friday, 1 March 2013

Lessons from the carnage? After the sale.

The BBC has helpfully published this list of UK high street retail failures in the last 12 months: Republic, Blockbuster, HMV, Jessops, Comet, JJB, Clinton Cards, Aquascutum, Ellie Louise, Game, Peacocks, Pumpkin Patch, Past Times, Hawkins Bazaar. Actually the BBC list goes on back into 2011, but 12 months of depressing news seems enough for one paragraph. Is it possible to derive any general lessons from the list?

The first group is fairly obvious: Blockbuster, HMV, Clinton Cards, Game. In all these cases, the high street business model is simply obsolete, overwhelmed by the internet. Why rent a DVD from the tiny selection in a Blockbuster store when you can choose from practically every film ever made online? Why buy music or a video-game in store when you can download it cheaper - or more likely unofficially free - track by track? Who wants a bog-standard greetings card when you can design your own online?

A second group is more interesting. Retailers such as Hawkins Bazaar  and Past Times are (or rather were) primarily plays on unorthodox assortment. In theory unorthodox assortment should be relatively immune to the depradations of internet retail. In practice, this is only so if your products are genuinely unique - and you are the only stockist. Otherwise, online is the natural place nowadays to start hunting for unusual items. Almost certainly you will find a much wider choice online, and non-unique products will probably be cheaper there too.

A third group - JJB, Peacocks, and a number of smaller players - simply drowned in debt following ill-conceived refinancing. Online isn't really responsible, although it's probably a contributing factor.

A fourth group - Republic, Ellie Louise, Aquascutum - goes to prove that a fashion retailer still needs to sell stuff that people actually want to wear. Although there's no evidence to support this, I can't help feeling that the continued growth of Asos, whose outstanding site makes it extremely easy to find something you really want to wear, is a contributing factor. It is steadily becoming a category killer, and you could argue that these are the early signs of it doing some killing. Asos can't be the only factor though, and what then of Comet or Jessops? How come Dixons Group is posting its first real profits for years while Comet is going bust? Or Jessops (a specialist photography retailer) - seemingly doing the right strategic things - good service, plausible prices, online channel doubling sales in the past year? Why is Waterstones (books) still trading at all?

One possible answer lurks in the announcement that John Lewis, still a case-study for successful multichannel retail, has appointed the former CEO of Collect+ as Multichannel Director. John Lewis appears to be making a statement here: they've appointed an expert making stuff happen for the customer after the sale.

Back to Asos for a moment. Yes, their website is very good, their assortment excellent, and their marketing outstanding. But their prices are nothing special, and if you start looking for testimonials online - trawl the blogosphere for example - what do you typically find? Tributes to their Returns process/policy. I know this isn't a very statistical data point, but try it for yourself. Once again, it's all about after the sale.

Dixons' (PCWorld) "KnowHow". Yes, their increasingly predatory sales-floor staff do appear to know their stuff, but KnowHow itself - it's an after sale proposition.

What about all those coffee shops? There's one just opened in my nearest PCWorld, there's a Costa in the local Waterstones, and don't forget how long this has been a successful formula: anyone know the date the first IKEA restaurant opened? Actually it was 1960. Do you actually go into an IKEA restaurant first, before going round the store? Thought not. You view your main purchase-under-consideration, collapse into the restaurant/coffee-shop, and then suitably fortified return to the store to make a purchase. Maybe not the main item, but still a purchase.

Developing my "Logistics is the New Marketing" theme a little further, perhaps it should be "After Sales is the New Marketing".

And if you are a small high street retailer, feeling the squeeze and wondering how anything in the Portas report is relevant to you, maybe stop reading it and start using the time more constructively calling your customers a few days after they bought something to check it's all OK.  And if it isn't, pop round and fix it. That's a service that Amazon are never going to offer.

What does it mean for the bigger retailer? After Sales is complicated and difficult to train in a purely process way. The situations that arise are more unique to each customer. Which means, inevitably, that you need more sophisticated staff, operating under more flexible policies. Goodbye McJobs, hello iJobs (or should that be Steve Jobs).

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Multichannel Retail Handbook

Apologies for the radio-silence on this blog. Not only have I been busy with a couple of clients, but I've also just been finishing off "The Multichannel Retail Handbook, a guide to planning, implementation, operation and enhancement".

It's now out on Kindle: or ; and I'm just waiting for the paperback version to make it onto Amazon's listings. You can find it anyway by searching for ISBN 978-1-300-65266-3.