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Martin Newman, CEO, Practicology
1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
Everything comes down to data and the insight that can be derived from it. We all want to make fact-based decisions. So we’re making quite a big play on that moving forward and we’re creating some Intellectual Property in this respect as well.
2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?
It is around scaling and how to retain the core culture of the business. We’ve grown a lot in the past year, and will do so again over the next year or two. As such, we have had to put in place more of a formal structure and reporting lines. I kept the structure as flat as I could for as long as I could. But I’m determined to retain our culture.
3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
I would have brought in more specialist skills more quickly such as those we have now including analytics, business intelligence, CRM/segmentation and marketing acquisition (SEM/SEO etcetera).
4. What is the future of the physical store?
Good. Providing it’s leveraged effectively. Burberry has led the way with their store in Regent Street, which leverages digital and technology to fundamentally enhance the customer experience. This in turn drives sales but also builds loyalty and increases retention. M&S has done likewise. Also, more businesses need to be aware of the change in customer behaviour in-store. House of Fraser and John Lewis are seeing the rate of customers choosing to click and collect grow at twice that of those ordering for home delivery. And more stores will take the till to the customer by replacing fixed point of sale with iPads and other devices that improve the customer experience.
5. What will the high street look like in a decade?
There will be a lot less empty stores! There will be more stores providing a Burberry-type experience where the store provides the theatre and brand experience. Landlords will have woken up to the opportunities provided by pure plays to have pop-up stores and click and collect fulfilment spaces on the high street. Existing bricks and mortar retailers will open up order points such as House of Fraser has where they are able to take their proposition to consumers without having to open up a 200,000 sq ft store!
6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?
Anything, Anywhere, Anytime is where we’re going. And this ability for the customer to choose whatever they want to buy, whenever and wherever they want to buy it, will be driven by screens and voice recognition and the underlying technology and their increasing ability to engage and interact in multiple environments. So whether that’s mobile technology or technology in your tadalafil online shop house or in your car, it will be touch screens and voice recognition driving this phenomenon.
7. Which retail businesses do you admire?
Ted Baker. They have developed a fantastic brand. They don’t have any obvious weaknesses. They’re Internationalising in a big way and have a solid cross channel experience. Aurora Fashions are pushing the envelope. They continually innovate, but not for the sake of innovation. Moreover where they believe they can add value. I think one of the best examples is their shadow board. I think that was a very bold and brave move to open up the board and their decisions to a bunch of generation Y’s. But that was the whole point. It’s helped to keep them relevant for the younger customers. And House of Fraser as they turned what used to be a slightly tired and tardy department store into a cutting edge multi-channel proposition enabling customers to shop how they want to.
8. If you hadn’t been a supplier to retailers what would you have liked to do?
I do very much consider myself to still be a retailer. After all, we run the online store for a number of our clients therefore we have to practice what we preach every day of the week. I don’t know if any other job would have given me the same buzz as I get when we’re in our war room discussing how we’re going to make sales targets for the week for the clients sites we’re trading! Professionally I could have seen myself as a barrister as I would have enjoyed the psychology and the more theatrical aspects of the role. When I was younger I thought I would also have enjoyed acting. Of course I’m able to realise some of this every time I step on stage to deliver a presentation or chair an event. But I think I would have found the process behind acting pretty frustrating as it’s at a much slower pace than what I’m used to. And I doubt that I would have felt as much in control of my own destiny as I do now.
9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
I am definitely self-regulating. I don’t need anyone to tell me how well or how badly I’ve done. And maybe I’m being a little too self critical but I give myself 7 out of 10 so far. That’s from a career perspective as it’s taken me longer (in my mind) to get to a place of sustained growth and achievement. In the success stakes, I consider myself to be a long distance runner as opposed to a sprinter. I’ll get there in the end, it might just take me a little longer!