Richard Houlton, former director of channels for UK & ROI, Clarks
1. What is the greatest opportunity for retailers in today’s digital world?
The greatest opportunity is to interact with consumers in a personal way and to use the simple and cost effective ways that the digital world now enables – for the collection of data to further improve and personalise the consumer experience.
2. What is the biggest challenge to retailers in today’s digital world?
Prioritising investments – there are more ideas available than money and bandwidth to deliver them all.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far in your career?
Nothing at all as my career has been incredibly fulfilling and I am sure it will continue to be so.
4. What is the future of the physical store and the high street?
There is a great future for the physical store. When truly integrated with the online world it lets customers migrate at whim, to access the full range anywhere, and to make use of high speed and flexible fulfilment services at any point.
5. With the issue of digital wildfire how do retailers understand and control growing digital landscapes?
Retailers’ behaviours, standards, and policies can come under fire from a single tweet from a single customer and turn into a firestorm very quickly ending up with potentially mainstream media coverage. There are three things retailers must have in place. Firstly, clear standards, policies and business-wide understanding of what is not acceptable behaviour. Secondly, an active social media monitoring and response team with reactions as fast as call centre answering standards. Thirdly, planned escalations processes in place when the first and second don’t contain the fire.
6. What retail businesses do you admire?
Any retail business with unquestionable authority in their field and knowledgeable people at the front end such Waterstones, Apple, Nisbets, and Mothercare.
7. If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
Policeman as I am naturally inquisitive and am a lifelong student of human behaviour.
8. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
Eight out of 10. Still very capable of more!
9 .Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
Ajay Kavan at Amazon as he has one of the sharpest minds and highest work ethics I have ever come across. Steve Willet at Kingfisher as he is also incredibly quick, very knowledgeable and can turn his hand and mind to anything. He is also incredibly practical.