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Ecommerce: Shopping habits in the digital age

A discussion at last month’s Samsung Futurescape pop-up at Westfield London offered etail insights.


  • Simon Forster Executive director of multichannel, marketing & supply chain, Selfridges
  • Jonathan Marsh Head of buying, John Lewis
  • Royston Seaward Partner, Deloitte
  • Annoushka Ducas Founder of jewellery companies Links of London and Annoushka

How can retailers use technology to improve customer service in store?
JM We’re always looking at how to make shopping at John Lewis even easier. For example, through an app already tethered to your My John Lewis account, which would speed up the payment process. We’re also currently trialling a service that will be able to get clothes to your changing room quicker, if you need another size.

RS Beacon technology allows people to browse at their own leisure and transact [on smartphones].

Which of the technologies on show today could you see yourself using in your field?
AD One that tracks when the customer comes into the store and where they hover [Cloud-based analytics service Walkbase, which tracks footfall via mobile Wi-Fi and beacon technology]. It would inform merchandising, because you could move products according to where people spend time.

RS The tagging technology [CloudTags, a tablet app that allows people to scan items in store], because it would help you get the physical bit of fulfilment right - getting a product in the right size and getting it delivered to you or to the store.

JM Beacons [featured companies included Red Ant and Walkbase]. They allow you to interact with a product [on a smartphone or tablet], understand what features it has, its functionality and if it’s in your size. It’s that instant customer interaction.

Are stores still important?
SF People don’t buy a coat from Selfridges because they’re cold; they buy it because of the brand, and the experience they get is part of it. [But] over the last five years we’ve seen a big swing in customer behaviour. They want to shop all the time, so go online. About 20 million people a year come to the Oxford Street store, but the website gets 75 million visitors - next year it will be well over 100 million.

AD If our customers have heard of us they will go online, but the store is still the flagship. No matter how good technology becomes, it doesn’t tell you how something feels.

JM We’re very aware of how our customers use all the elements; all we talk about is omnichannel. We’re investing tens of millions in refurbishing and opening stores, but they will play a different role in the future. It’s more of a social space.

What are you doing with data?
SF Our customers expect us to know what they want. Phones and tablets are personal devices, the emails we send people should be relevant. The challenge is how you pull that data together.

JM We’re doing a better job of building a profile around our customers, understanding where their interests lie and their recent shopping behaviours. How we interrogate that and push it back in a customer-centric way is much tougher.

RS I don’t mind sharing my data with you if I feel I’m going to get some value back - an offer that’s relevant. Misusing data can kill trust in your brand.

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