Our Mediocre Multichannel Mission

In celebration of the fact that my Forrester Boss, Patti Freeman Evans, was over this week in London, we thought we’d go on a multichannel retail shopping tour of London to see just how well some major UK retailers are integrating their on- and offline channels and enticing their shoppers into engaging with them online.

The answer is sadly, not very well at all.

Hitting Oxford Street on a sunny Friday at lunch time, we performed an eyes-on tour of a rough cross-section of some of the better-known UK brands. We went looking for exciting new uses of technology disrupting the in-store environment. Examples of beautifully integrated online/offline/mobile channels placing the customer at the heart of the brand experience. Innovative applications of technology that seamlessly blended the digital and physical brands, enticing shoppers into engaging with these premier retailers both now, and later when they got home. Or even, how excitingly, via their mobile phones.

So while a hungry band of devotees of the fruit-flavored tech-god gathered outside the Apple Store, not realizing that just round the corner they could get their paws on a new iPad 2, sans queue, we started our shopping trip.

Flippancy aside, we were looking specifically for how well multichannel retailers are integrating physical and digital channels.

The results were (depressing) surprising :

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Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks ?

Hot off the press from last week’s Retail Week conference, “HMV will still have a portfolio of hundreds of stores on the high street in five years, HMV CEO Simon Fox told delegates”

And so they should.

But in my opinion, some careful thought is needed to position the store chain alongside HMV’s evolving digital persona.  HMVDigital, launched last July, is their take on iTunes. As a digital destination for downloading music it seems to stand on its own two feet. Product scope is a little limited in that it’s music only (no videos), but I can only assume that they have a roadmap to open up new product categories over time.

They are clearly set on taking on iTunes at their own game, a fact that is evident from the site’s logo when you link to it from HMV.com – the old familiar, faithful HMV hound listening to a gramophone, sat right in the middle of a now familiar iPod control wheel.  An interesting choice.

It would be a shame if all HMV did here was attempt to mimic iTunes, as they have one ace up their sleeve that iTunes can’t (yet) mimic; a nationwide chain of high street stores staffed with music loving store colleagues. Although the products may become digital, I believe that there is a place for human interaction that multichannel retailers such as HMV can capitalise on. And interestingly, from the tone of his Retail Week address, Fox believes this too.

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Time for a local focus. Well, local if you live in Europe, that is

My first Blog post as a Forrester Analyst and I was going to go little further than saying “hey, hello!” but I figure why not take a few minutes to dig into a couple of subjects that I’m looking at.

Forrester have a large and growing body of research and a dedicated team of Analysts and Researchers serving eBusiness and Channel strategy professionals, and our research plan for the next year covers some bold topics like Agile Commerce, the future of Mobile as a channel and the growing power of Social Media.  While I’ll be looking at these topics and more, I’ve joined Forrester with a specific brief, and that is to bring some focus to the European Retail arena. 

I’ve come to Forrester from Boots, where I worked for the last 4 years in the Enterprise Architecture group leading the architecture strategy across both on-line and stores, and my move to Forrester is, in my opinion, a sign of Forrester’s commitment to do what we repeatedly tell you to do with your Retail efforts. 

Make them Relevant and Contextual.

So that’s my primary mission, at least to begin with.  Making what we do here at Forrester relevant and contextual to the challenges and opportunities of the European market.  That isn’t to say I won’t be looking at broader global eCommerce trends, and in fact one of the first pieces of work I’m doing is on the evolution of video in eCommerce (more on that soon).  But to support those of you who are either focusing on or are looking to move into the European market, I’m working on a broader piece looking into the state of Multichannel Retail in Europe.

If there is anything I can help you with, or if there are any burning topics you would like to see us focus on, then please reach out to me at mgill@forrester.com or get engaged in our community.