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World Retail Congress: To digitally innovate don’t lose focus on retail fundamentals

“We at the foothill of the [online] journey, we aren’t at the summit” and retailers must not forget to retain focus on service and execution while innovating digitally, Tesco’s group digital officer has said.

Speaking at the World Retail Congress in Paris today, Michael Comish said retailers need to innovate to stay ahead, but they must ensure “the balance is definitely about execution” and they do not lose sight of the core retail fundamentals.

Hayley Tatum, executive people director at Asda, agreed: “Metrics like customer service still matter; don’t get seduced by the technology. If your service isn’t fantastic you will be found out. The basic core things in retail still matter.

“Investment does need some reserve time to make sure you stay ahead but don’t lose focus.”

Comish added: “Technology is still moving exponentially and that is moving customer behaviour. Keeping up with that creates a few surprises.”

He said to keep ahead retailers should be focusing on changes that will be necessary for the next three to five years, rather than next year, and to do this digital teams need to be given the freedom to innovate.

“When things are changing so quickly, you can’t be a general dictating from the top; you need to trust your people and enable them and give them the right tools to allow them to make decisions. That’s a big change from where we have been coming from historically.”

Tatum said that, to ensure staff are motivated to push Asda’s online business, stores are credited with multichannel sales - so if a customer collects a purchase in store, the purchase is linked to that store.

“it encourages staff to get behind the online business and promote the online and the store business,” she said.

Comish finished by saying: “Loyalty doesn’t diminish when shopping in different channels, it can increase. The more channels you shop in, the more you buy.”

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