Mark Felix, director of online trade at John Lewis
- What is the greatest opportunity for your business?
We have a relentless focus on our customers – on delivering them more convenient ways to shop, while inspiring and delighting them with our product ranges. Because approximately two thirds of our customers shop across both online and in our shops – and the channels have blurred in our customers’ minds, we have an even bigger opportunity to continue to deliver them a great experience of our brand regardless of where and when they shop with us.
- What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Technology has given customers huge amounts of choice as to where, how and who they shop with, plus access to almost unlimited amounts of information. Breadth is no longer a differentiator in itself in an ‘endless aisle’ world, and customers are almost overwhelmed by the tyranny of choice. While I believe this has raised the bar as it has improved the experience and service customers receive, we need to give our customers a reason to choose us – whether that be through product or our own differentiated brand of service. This is why we are introducing more own brands and exclusives and we continue our focus on delivering for our customers.
- With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?
Many things – such as when my friend suggested I join him as he built a social network website. At the time I thought it wouldn’t catch on. If I had joined him, I would probably be working only for fun now…
- What is the future of the physical store and the high street?
Our shops continue to be more than a route to sell things – rather places that inspire and delight our customers and bring to life our particular brand of service and what we stand for. If a customer is investing in a product, be it a significant emotional or financial investment, having the option to interact with the product physically and receive advice from someone trained and qualified who understands their needs is something that will continue to be valued. For example, offering customers great products as well as an experience that inspires and delights while providing great service is at the heart of our plans for our 49th shop, opening in Oxford in October.
- What technology-related plans have you got for the next 12 months?
We have a lot of plans. The one I’m most excited about is our Partner Device programme. Earlier this year, we announced the trial of Partner devices in some of our shops with the view to equipping Partners to better serve our customers. In response to overwhelming feedback from Partners and customers, we have now decided to roll them out to all branches before Peak.
- With the issue of digital wildfire how do you understand and control your growing digital landscape?
It sounds boring, but for me it is about processes and frameworks. Having clear ways and means through which you manage your content and its distribution and processes to monitor it as it spreads should hopefully drive control.
- What other retail business do you admire?
Although I’m rubbish at DIY, I’m a fan of Screwfix – I think they know exactly what their customers want and their multi-channel experience is brilliant.
- If you hadn’t been a retailer what would you have liked to do?
A History teacher – I am fascinated by the past and how we learn (or not) from it.
- What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?
The average of what others think! It isn’t for me to judge how well I am doing. Hopefully next year I will score higher than this year as I continue to focus on self development.
- Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?
I think the Operations people often get overlooked yet they have some of the hardest jobs. Dino Rocos’ team at John Lewis, headed by Mark Robinson, helps us to deliver a seamless experience, whether a customer is picking up their order at John Lewis or Waitrose or having it delivered.
This is one in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with individuals that are featured in the annual ‘Retail Insider Movers & Shakers in Retail Top 100’ report.