John Lewis leads the way for Multichannel Retailing

With more than 40 stores nationwide and plans for 10 new stores under a new smaller format in city centre locations, John Lewis’ growth has been robust despite the difficult economic conditions. So just how has John Lewis continued to outperform its rivals and deliver strong profits when others have struggled with the modern multichannel shopper?

Last week we were proud to announce the winner of the Postcode Anywhere Multichannel Retailer at this year’s Oracle Retail Week Awards to the UK’s favourite department store, John Lewis.

We caught up with Chris Hipwell, IT Stakeholder Communications Manager at John Lewis, to ask how they have become so successful at multichannel retailing. And his answer? Technology of course!

Technology has been identified and supported at Board level as the single most important driver of our already impressive business growth – in the UK and internationally.”

“We aim to be thought leaders in IT-enabled retail on a global basis, and we believe that this strategic programme of change will cement that reputation. We call it our ‘Retail Revolution’ and we see IT as powering that revolution.  To help with that drive, we are developing a culture of innovation, with leading-edge project delivery methodologies and tools in use every day. We encourage our Partners to innovate too, through employee-driven innovation initiatives as well as reaching out to innovative small business in the UK.”

John Lewis has long been synonymous with excellent customer service and satisfaction. The store has an unprecedented focus on fulfilling a multichannel service strategy that ensures customers continue to enjoy excellent service regardless of whether they are shopping in a department store, supermarket, online or mobile.

Whilst most other businesses are still struggling to implement a multichannel strategy, John Lewis was paving the way as far back as 2009, long before it emerged as a buzz word, when it pioneered the delivery method ‘Click & Collect’. The flexibility of Click & Collect, where an item it ordered online and can be collected from a shop of the customer’s choice at a time that works for them, proved a revelation. Today more than a third of all online orders from John Lewis and Waitrose are collected in store.

In October last year, John Lewis opened its very first ‘Omnichannel store’ in Exeter – offering the full list of John Lewis products in a smaller store through the use of online technologies.

Melodic marketing

In addition, they’ve fused inbound and outbound marketing into a compelling tool by utilising PPC, Social Media, and TV (including that Christmas TV ad in 2012, which was responsible for over an astonishing 3 million hits on YouTube), together in harmony.

More recently, the companies’ strategy has evolved to include innovative use of mobile apps to complement the in-store experience, including in-built barcode scanners and store finders as well as offering free in-store Wi-Fi to help their shoppers find and purchase products in a way that’s suitable for them. John Lewis reports that mobile now accounts for an overwhelming 40 per cent of their overall traffic, up 115% year on year.

But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the firm, Chris tell us some of the problems the store faces in forming a joined up, multichannel strategy:

From Click and Collect, to kiosks and the increasing use of tablets in store to complement our renowned face-to-face customer service, we’ve already begun to integrate our channels. The ongoing challenge is to develop a strategy that ensures that everything is joined up – and that we recognise our customers, whether they contact us online, in store, via our call centre, on a mobile app, or through Facebook or Twitter.

So what does the future hold for John Lewis? Will they sit back on their laurels and enjoy the ride? Of course not! Chris told us that the goal now is to become ‘Britian’s leading omnichannel retailer with an unparalleled customer experience across stores, online and mobile’.

Today’s remarkable growth story for John Lewis is a story of not just online, not just multi-channel, but a full ‘omni-channel’ approach where customers expect a seamless and inter-connected performance across channels.  That means that at John Lewis, we are engaged in our biggest ever strategic technology challenge which is fully to integrate our award-winning omni-channel customer service offering, giving each customer a seamless, high-quality experience however they choose to interact with us.”

Truly successful retailers will be the companies that can offer customers the most convenient and seamless shopping experiences and John Lewis is a perfect example of seamless multichannel ecommerce. Whatever the customer’s preference; browsing in a shop, price checking on a desktop, in-store collection or home delivery, there’s no set path to purchase from. We are now at the stage where the website should not be viewed as a stand-alone entity with a different set of customers. Rather, it is part of the integrated business, and as a business retailers will need to fully integrate that and present a very seamless, single presentation to the customer.