IRX2018 PREVIEW From omni-channel to ‘non-line’ – retailers can no longer ignore marketplaces

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‘Going Omni-channel’ is the driving force for most retailers today and is likely to be a phrase banded about around IRX2018 on 21 and 22 March at the Birmingham NEC (that and how “there has been much bad press about AI, but…”). But what many retailers forget is that, firstly, in this day and age consumers don’t think about channels and, secondly, many think of marketplaces and search engines as the place to start their shopping journey.

Customer want to shop whenever, wherever and, most importantly, however they choose – but they do want a seamless experience across all touch points when they do it.

And this is the challenge for retailers today: to stop thinking in channels and delivery a coherent and appropriate – yet seamless – experience across, well, different channels.

This is leading to the idea espoused by Google of ‘non-line’ commerce, where retailers need to deliver am orchestrated, assistive experience across channels.

This, as Steph Osiol, industry manager at Google will be pointing out in her presentation is what consumers want, but is a huge challenge for retailers. For starters, they have to ensure that all teams are responsible for omni-channel priorities and are meeting new standards of customer convenience and they have to make sure they are using data to drive business and not channel goals.

“To move forward in today’s non-line world, retailers need to keep teams focused on business goals. Not channel goals. Not media goals. Setting KPIs based on the offline results of online investments is a good start. Linking offline and online data together can help uncover opportunities to drive additional volume to stores, while also helping tailor the local proposition to customer demand. This is important because multichannel retailers still have a clear local advantage vs pure plays. The most of retail activity ends in an offline transaction, but many of the retailers we speak to are only starting to scratch the surface on understanding this interaction.”
Steph Osiol, industry manager, Google

This theme of getting internal staff to think beyond channels is picked up later in the day in the Beyond Channels track at IRX2018, which will see Charlotte Briscall, Head Of Digital Experience, Sainsbury’s, Robin Phillips, Former Omnichannel Director, Boots, Sarah Stagg, Digital Director, The Rug Company and Stephen Langford, Ecommerce Director, George at Asda come together to debate just how to create a culture that revolves around the seamless experience even if it has specific channel departments. They will look at how to reward staff when the customer journey takes place across a number of channels and how to ensure one channel is not damaging to another.

While sorting the internals out is vital, understanding what consumers want is also going to be critical as retailers move to deliver this consistent, frictionless approach.

“You have to understand what 2018 customer expectations look like in a more seamless shopping environment and build a seamless strategy that drives ROI, customer engagement, loyalty and conversion. This means identifying and overcoming the key challenges of seamless retailing and ensuring that your strategy is sufficiently agile to cater for major disruptions in the market.”
Charlotte Briscall, Head Of Digital Experience, Sainsbury’s

But Omni-channel isn’t just about driving sales. Luxury rug vendor, The Rug Company, will be showing how luxury brands are re-inventing what omni-channel means, when sales aren’t the primary goal of the retailer.

“I want to first of all dispel the myths about the luxury sector and eCommerce and will them drive into omni-channel website design: driving customers not to the checkout. But here too employee engagement and culture post digital transformation.”
Sarah Stagg, Digital Director – The Rug Company

So where do marketplaces fit into this mix? Marketplaces are increasingly becoming an integral part of the omni-channel mix for both consumers and retailers. Some 41% of online sales now take place on a marketplace and, so, retailers need to seriously look to be there – it is where their customers are, after all.

Answers lie in both the Beyond Channels sessions at IRX2018 and in the Marketplaces & B2B track. Over in the latter, experts will be on hand from Amazon Business, Diageo, mGage and Trouva to help retailers and brands develop their marketplace-driven omni-channel strategy.

At first glance, it may seem hard to decide which marketplace to work with, but the answer is easier than you think. It’s likely that there’s at least one out there that suits you and your business. Marketplaces like Etsy focus on sellers crafting handmade products, Alibaba is good for European brands looking to reach customers in Asia, while Trouva only works with the best bricks-and-mortar shops who have proven themselves to be one of the world’s best independents.

It’s worth focusing on just one marketplace so you can focus resource and time to ensure it becomes a successful venture. Ultimately, working with a marketplace is more like a partnership than a new channel.

“Fundamentally marketplaces can give you scale and access to an incremental consumer base which would be impossible to achieve otherwise. My advice would be to do your research; really understanding whether a marketplace can help you achieve your business goals is the key to a successful marketplace strategy.”
Mandeep Singh, co-founder and CEO, Trouva

To find out more and to register free for InternetRetailing Expo and eDelivery Expo, visit Get involved on Twitter by following @etailexpo and with the hashtags #IRX18 #EDX18.


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