Movers & Shakers Q&A with Graham Cooke, CEO, QuBit

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Graham Cooke, CEO, QuBit

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

The greatest opportunity lies in the increasing realisation by retailers that data is the key to better business performance. Retailers have been collecting on- and off-line data for years and now they’re putting real effort into extracting value from it. That data is the key to better business performance and will – in the end – drive the customer experience.

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2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

The biggest challenge is helping retail marketers understand that they can be empowered to take control of their websites to optimise sales. For too long IT has closely controlled the website, making it hard for marketers to make the sort of quick and nimble changes that they need. New technologies like ours are now putting marketers in the driving seat, letting them impact customer’s online experience directly.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

Like any business we’ve had our share of mistakes and false starts, but they all teach us something and we’re where we are now because of them.

4. What is the future of the physical store?

I believe that there’s going to be a resurgence of interest in physical stores, but they’ll be seen as a marketing investment rather than a retail one. Online commerce is getting ever more competitive so the experience you offer your customer is becoming as much of a differentiator as price or product range. Whilst physical retail will never beat online on price, stock or convenience, it can add a unique experiential factor to the purchase process. Physical stores are essentially going to become brand showrooms for online retailers, letting customers interact with products and the brand before they buy them online.

5. What will the high street look like in a decade?

If I’m right, the high street is going to be more akin to an entertainment or leisure experience rather than a retail one. People will go to enjoy brand experiences, rather than buy products directly. It’s a change of mindset but one that could potentially make a real and positive impact on town centres everywhere.

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

Yes. At a basic level mobile platforms are rapidly catching up with fixed devices in volume terms, so its inevitable that commerce is going to be more and more mobile-focused. When mobile (whether that be tablet or handset) is the dominant computing platform then its logical that it’ll become the primary commerce channel.

In terms of specific user experience I believe that mobile will become the ‘continuity device’. We will always want a ‘big screen’ experience, but the mobile will sync us across multiple devices enabling the customer to interface in different ways and enjoy the experience based on whether they are at home, work or on the move.

7. What other retail business do you admire?

I really like the new wave of what I call experiential online retailers. That is retail brands that aren’t trying to compete with utility retailers like Amazon on price or breadth of stock, but instead are differentiating on customer experience and brand. People like Farfetch, TopShop and are giving customers great products wrapped up in a rich online experience, enabling them to maintain a stronger margin model away from the race to the bottom that utility retail is creating in online pricing.

8. If you hadn’t been working within the retail/IT industry what would you have liked to do?

I started out in the music industry many years ago so I guess I would have liked to run my own record label and production company.

9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?

We always judge ourselves harshly so I’ll give myself 7.5/10 – we’ve had a great start but there’s a long way to go and lot more to do.

10. Who would you place in the Top 20 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?

Its hard not to think that Natalie Massenet of Net-a-Porter has been one of the most influential figures in e-commerce in recent years. Net-a-Porter, and more recently Mr Porter, were real pioneers in experiential online retailing and they’ve helped a generation of online retailers realise that there’s more to e-commerce than price competition.