4th Spectrum & Ardent eCommerce Leadership Dinner, June 2015

Spectrum’s 4th eCommerce Leadership Dinner took place on 22 June in London in association with Ardent Advisors, the corporate finance firm.

As usual, the debate was wide-ranging, this time with the customer experience, and, in particular, the role of the physical store explored in detail.

The most notable discussion points were:

  • The role of the physical store for what were previously pure-play internet retailers is gaining recognition, in part driven by the need to offer consumers an ‘experience’ that goes beyond simply price and convenience.
  • A physical store presence was considered: to add trust in the brand; to provide a tactile shopping experience which online is unable to do; and to extend reach – to bring in new customers, for whom online doesn’t appeal to.
  • Apple was raised as an example of a cool technology brand that not only delivers the vast majority of its sales via physical stores, but which also provides its global consumers with a highly immersive shopping and brand experience.
  • The physical store option plays back to the customer experience and what it is that customers want.
  • Is service better in-store or online? Despite the Apple example, it was felt that store staff had to be highly trained, and that the Apple experience was far superior to walking into any other high street electronics retailer. When faced with that option, it was felt that online can really compete: providing a research tool, but also access to product reviews to inform the purchasing decision.
  • The economics of physical and online were also discussed. Of course, with a bricks-and-mortar store there are real estate costs; with online there are traffic acquisition, but also, and often underplayed, delivery costs and effects on efficiency particularly with regard to returns. The assumption that online is cheaper than bricks-and-mortar was well challenged.
  • Ultimately the discussion could perhaps be viewed as a subset of the multichannel debate, and the convergence of online and in-store: click-and-collect means that customers can buy online but collect in store; conversely customers may assess product in-store and buy online (often, whilst situated in the store itself).
  • Cost and convenience remains important for customers and plays well to the strengths of online; however, as consumer expectations continue to evolve and increase, the experience is growing in importance. Online can capture this – the ‘white glove’ delivery service was mentioned – as can the physical store.

The Spectrum & Ardent eCommerce Leadership Dinners are a quarterly invitation-only forum for peer-level strategic discussion and relationship building.  To register your interest in attending our next London event, please contact: sarah.rush@spectrum-ehcs.com.

To review key findings from the previous eCommerce Leadership Dinner, please click here.