5 top tips for online retailers

Posted: Thursday 10th May 2012 in Retail Strategy, Thought Leadership.

The 5's for modern retailers

5 Top Tips for Online Retailers

The online medium has completely changed the face of retail in the last few years. Your customers today are aware of most of your competitors, differentiators and their own options – by utilising the power of the internet. But are you as a retailer embracing the opportunity of online technology and its impact on retail? If not, then here are our 5 top tips you can use to get started:

  • Stimulate – fresh ideas
    If you really want the most out of the retail opportunities presented by the digital age, you have to start in the Boardroom. Leadership comes from the top and many boardrooms remain the domain of middle aged executives who struggle to understand the new online world in retail. The situation is made worse in many cases by a culture of engaging “safe” Non Executive Directors (NEDs) who have retired from full time positions.

    Given the average age of many boards, is it any surprise they cannot see, let alone take advantage of the opportunities of the digital age? Companies should admit they need help and actively recruit younger people to the board to provide a fresh perspective and a new challenge.
    Why not have some twenty something year old NEDs in big companies? After all, the traditional approach hardly guarantees success or even survival in many cases.

  • Synthesise – new and the old
    Once your retail business has got its online presence established, don’t leave the online team as an add-on, but integrate it into the business.

    Make “targets and measures” matter to the sales director; the logistics team responsible for fulfilment; and the marketing director responsible for digital marketing as well.
    eCommerce Integration is the key, people will fight against it but it must happen.

  • Shift – your approach
    Apart from a vibrant board and sound internal structures, you also need to stay at the top of the game by staying focused on innovation in retail.

    Look at innovators and market leaders globally. Hire a top “Dream Catcher” whose sole job is to generate and capture new ideas. If you find a good idea, there is nothing wrong with copying it. Retailers experiment with store formats and marketing strategies all the time – so do the same with the wider business.
    Innovation will become one of the imperatives for leading businesses going forward. Some things won’t work but a lot of them will. The modern board needs the imagination and an appetite for risk to support this approach of course.

  • Speed
    Once you have the board, the org structures, are willing to try new things and accept that some will fail, what comes next? Easy! “Get on with it”.

    Speed and pace will be driving great businesses forward – Bureaucracy, procrastination and hesitation will be crippling many others. You can’t wait for the next committee meeting anymore, the pace of change is too fast for that.

  • Strong foundation
    Technology matters and a well planned technology investment can make a huge difference. Focus should be on customer facing initiatives, not back office systems.
    Don’t let out of date IT systems hold you back.
    Also, concentrate on retail insight rather than a large mass of data. You need actionable insight into customer behaviour and journeys. Massive databases that have obsessed IT and finance departments for years cannot do it – but modern thinking can.



This is one of a series of blogs that were generated following one of our regular retail workshops. Chaired by Robin Terrell, the Executive Director Multi-channel and International, at House of Fraser, attendees were asked to answer two questions:

  1. What must retailers do to embrace and take maximum opportunity of impact online is having on retail?
  2. If you were the CEO of retail brand that you have worked for (either as a client or as Summit) what would you change and why?

Conversation inevitably strayed.