Retail Insider held its latest Breakfast Event with Mark Lewis, online director of John Lewis, who highlighted how his present role will soon become extinct as the channels all converge and e-commerce directors become a “dying breed”.
Senior executives from Marks & Spencer, Boohoo.com, Dobbies Garden Centres, and Farfetch were among those who heard how this focus on a seamless multi-channel model was leading to companies like John Lewis restructuring their senior management teams – as evidenced by Lewis’ himself shortly moving on to a retail director position to oversee both online and stores.
He told those gathered at The Delaunay in central London that retailers had to “embrace this or face trouble” as consumers increasingly shop across channels and utilise powerful mobile technologies to engage with retailers.
This was leading to a situation where there is a pressing need for a single view of customers and stock, but he acknowledged that there are challenges involved in achieving this for established retailers compared with pure-plays, which are built with this capability from day one.
Lewis suggested mobile has “changing everything” and that there was a deliberate move by John Lewis to a mobile-first strategy as the numbers were clear on customer usage on such devices.
Interestingly he revealed that tablets had passed their peak for John Lewis: “Customers now visit the web predominantly by mobile and increasingly this is on small screens, away from tablets where sales have slowed. The usage to small screens has been very rapid.”
The objective now is to look at how to integrate the customer experience on mobile with the company’s stores and that apps could possibly provide the answer as their value-added aspects now become more appreciated: “Apps were out of favour but we find they can add value over mobile-websites through functions like scanning items.”
He also indicated how John Lewis is keen to innovate through partnerships with smaller technology start-ups but that innovation can also be about making significant changes to its existing back-end infrastructure such as the supply chain. As such Lewis says there is need to “be able to play at different speeds involving both multi-year platform change projects and [quick] tech-driven web-based activity”.