Retailers and their customers – what’s now and what’s next – Interview with Ian McGarrigle of the World Retail Congress

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Following on from my recent interview, #PositivelySocial and why customer service in social media is a failure – Interview with Frank Eliason, today I’m very excited to share with you an interview that I recently conducted with Ian McGarrigle, Chairman of the World Retail Congress about the upcoming conference in London on 19th-21st September where they will be discussing the key topics at the heart of every retail boardroom – customer understanding, changing patterns of behaviour, mobile, stores, omni-channel, sustainability, brand and marketing, leadership, technology, and international expansion.

This interview makes up number twenty-sixth in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that I think that you will find interesting and helpful in growing your businesses.

Below are highlights from our interview:

  • Ian is Chairman of the World Retail Congress, the pre-eminent meeting place for retail leaders from across the globe, which he established in 2006 and launched in 2007.
  • Fascinating time within retail as retailers facing several challenges including a low growth economic environment, the digital revolution and retailers are responding to the changing behaviours of consumers.
  • Retailers are looking to understand and learn about what makes customers tick. That goes beyond just looking at their data, their are keen to learn more and more about customer behaviour.
  • Customer service is a leading competitive advantage
  • Retail is a simple business really and we should champion the return to good-old fashioned retailing where customer service and the customer is at the heart of everything we do.
  • Tesco has learnt the hard way where they seem to have lost sight of the customer and got stuck in their ‘data’ but are now gaining market share back by investing in more people in store, improving their stores which all facilitate their ability to deliver better customer service.
  • We need, as businesses, not to get distracted by the next new shiny object, like new technology or big data or whatever, and remember that people both inside and outside of our businesses are what make the lasting difference.
  • Recommends Sir Terry Leahy’s (ex-CEO of Tesco) recent book: Management in 10 Words
  • In retail the fundamentals remain the same.
  • Retailers are getting a lot of flack in social service but they are learning new ways of doing business. Many of the people who run these businesses won’t necessarily use or understand new social technologies but that is their challenge and they are learning as fast as possible and are catching up.
  • New technologies should not be something that you fear but should be something that you embrace.
  • Social technologies are forcing businesses to consider their organisational structure and is it right of the changing environment.
  • Retailers are faced with moving from a single to a multi to now an omni-channel world, which aims to create a seamless customer experience across all channels.
  • Angela Ahrendts of Burberry is a very eloquent advocate of this social business approach.
  • To get started on this, start by taking a step back and go back to fundamentals by putting the customer back at the heart of your business.
  • Sage piece of advice to CEOs: stop thinking like a CEO and start thinking like a customer.
  • How many CEOs have ordered from one of their stores or via their website or via their smartphone? How many have experienced their business as a customer would?
  • There are customer understanding and employee engagement benefits from more CEO immersion in the frontline of their business.
  • One key opening line question that CEOs can ask their frontline employees: What is Head Office doing to make your life difficult?
  • One exciting element of the World Retail Congress is the Retail Futures Challenge where they invite a number of colleges and students to come and present to the congress in an X-Factor style way about their thoughts on the future of retail. This year’s brief is “Imagining the Store of Tomorrow”, particularly in this omni-channel world. Students with no legacy of stores or a website have to come up with a vision for the future, how the business will reach its target customers – on-line only, multi-channel, pop-up stores or kiosks or some other way.
  • Many participating students get ‘snapped up’ by employers at the congress.

Ian McGarrigle World Retail Congress

About Ian (from his LinkedIn profile)

Ian has worked in business to business journalism, publishing and event organising for the retail industry for over 20 years, in particular with Retail Week, Retail Solutions, Retail Interiors, Retail World and now the World Retail Congress and Awards.

Ian recently joined Pelham Bell Pottinger, a financial PR and communications company, in January 2012 as Director on the retail team but continues as advisor on the programme and Chairman of the World Retail Congress.

You can connect with Ian via Twitter @IanMcGarrigle1, read his Retail Voice blog and connect with the rest of the World Retail Congress folks via their Twitter feed @worldretail2012.

Thanks to CHRISSPdotCOM for the image.

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