Retailing: “We must stop thinking about prioritising one channel”

By February 01, 2013

It’s not so much about incorporating new technology at the point of sale to make the retail outlet more appealing to the customer but really about deciding which tools can help to deliver a quality customer experience, whatever the channel. This is the view of Morgan, a French clothing and accessories company.

Interview with  Frédéric Wilhelm, Multichannel Distribution Director at Morgan, who took part in L'Atelier’s recent Thema round table on L'avenir du magasin : la fin du magasin ? (The future of shopping: the death of the shop?)

L'Atelier: People talk increasingly about digitisation of the point of sale being strategically key to reviving the physical store. Is this really an absolutely essential approach, then?

Frédéric Wilhelm: No, that’s not really the issue. Putting in tablets and smartphones, that’s not what it’s all about. Nowadays, nine people out of ten have already looked at the product on the Internet before going to the store. The main issue is that when you make the effort to go to the store, you only have a 50% chance of finding your product there. The whole business of transforming the store is therefore not about having a wide range of high tech tools available, or providing in-store delivery. It’s about being able to find in the store what you saw online, whether you have to go and find it on the shelves or get it through some other means. We need to find the right solutions: offering flexible options for obtaining the product, discussing product features with the customer so that we can provide real added service, and so on.

So the web should serve the store and vice versa. We’re no longer talking about competing channels.

That’s right. The various channels are not competitors. Every channel adds something. Above all we must stop thinking about prioritising one channel over another. Instead we should be following a seamless retail strategy. As far as retailers are concerned, the Internet has developed in two dimensions: horizontally, meaning that there are an increasing number of players in the market with whom we need to work in order to improve product distribution, and vertically, with the arrival of web-in-store.  Inside companies, we need to break down the silos. This is key to a company’s strategy. In the beginning, we had to really push to get digital into general strategic thinking, we had to build bridges. That’s been done now, and what we need to do now is continue to think about what we’re doing and to innovate, along with the people who are in the driving seat today, people who don’t come from IT.

How do you see the physical store evolving in the next few years?

It’s the customer who will give us the answer to that. This year and next, a lot of retailers will be looking to optimise points of sale and it may well be that some players go too far in this direction. Too much digitisation and not enough people, products or services, with customers being forced along a regimented path… this could end up reducing the appeal of these outlets. When you rationalise you also need to achieve the right balance. It’s about reviving the pleasure of shopping, creating different ways of doing business, offering new services, and so on.

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