Aislinn Mahon explains how Enterprise Ireland can provide retailers in the UK, and across global markets, with access to emerging technologies from Irish companies with world class solutions for retail. Aislinn is a member of the New Market Entrants Team in Enterprise Ireland UK, and supports the Retailer Solutions Initiative. For more on Retailer Solutions, check out this short video. eTail, the practise of selling products to consumers over the Internet, is a key area for focus for retailers in the UK and across global markets. The UK is Europe’s leading eTail economy and, at £68.2bn in 2011, now accounts for 17% of all UK retail sales. According to IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group), eTail sales are expected to reach £77bn in 2012, and there are now 37m online shoppers in the UK.
Not so long ago, many of the most successful retailers across the UK had little more than transactional websites to offer customers. Nowadays with the prominence of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, customers expect personalised and interactive experiences across all channels, buying when, what, where and how they like.
Bricks and mortar retailing has evolved, and serving this multichannel customer is at the top of retailers priorities. The concept is relatively new in the retail industry, and investment is essential as retailers compete with each other to offer the best multichannel experience for customers. Irish suppliers offer a plenitude of innovative solutions to help retailers in their quest to stand out from the crowd.
Strength of Irish Companies
Every multichannel strategy is underpinned by an ecommerce solution, which enables retailers to optimise the online experience for consumers. Established Irish company Buy4Now, led by CEO Michael Veale, has been assisting major retailers to build this foundation since 2000, and is behind some of the fastest-growing and most successful eCommerce websites.
The 24/7 consumer is always switched on, with touch screen devices such as smart phones and tablets transforming the way consumers interact with brands and retailers. According to KPMG’s latest annual survey, willingness to compare prices and complete transactions on mobile devices has rocketed. Bricks-and-mortar retailers need to respond to this rapidly changing consumer behaviour by directly engaging with their customers using the mobile channel. Tony Burke of Actus Mobile, who have just launched an App for Dundrum Town Centre, Ireland’s largest premier retail location, agrees: “Branded mobile applications built on Actus Mobile’s “Mobishop” platform assist retailers in building customer engagement before, during and after their shopping experience, thus driving footfall and increasing revenue”.
The rate of adoption of tablet usage is on the rise, with retailers striving to optimise this new consumer buying experience, referred to as “couch commerce”. According to Amplience, who has developed a platform for creating and managing multi-channel retail experiences “The rise of tablets is placing demands on retailers and brand owners to create super-rich merchandising experiences in yet another medium, one that constitutes an entirely new channel, with new technology, customer journeys and content and production demands”.
In a world filled with choices, consumers look to their peers for guidance on what to buy online. Customer reviews play an important role in persuading consumers to part with their money. Conor O’Neill, CEO of LouderVoice, the customer reviews solution provider, points to the benefits of investing in this technology: “Reviews grow sales through confidence, feedback, search engine optimization and social media referrals”.
‘eTail at the Embassy’, one of the many activities run by Enterprise Ireland under the Retailer Solutions Initiative
While online sales are on the rise, retailers are still committed to the value they can derive from the traditional, bricks and mortar experience. Indeed the worlds of online and offline are constantly converging, with many stores now offering consumers experiences that are traditionally found online. Eoghan O’Sullivan, CEO of Von Bismark, confirms this; ‘We have developed The Von Bismark Wardrobe platform which allows consumers to physically try on digital clothing, create biometrics profiles and share their experiences via social networks. It allows retailers to lower costs and returns while increasing customer retention and ultimately sales’.
When it comes to paying, customers expect that their experience is fast, secure and convenient, paying how, when and where they like. Realex Payments, who process payments for some of the largest names in retail, help retailers manage international transactions across multiple channels. Consumer payment habits are fast evolving, and managing multiple sales channels is a key challenge area for any retailer.
Not only are consumers becoming more mobile, retailers are too. Worldnet TPS, a provider of multi-channel online payment solutions, has recently developed Payjack, a mobile solution that enables mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets to accept payments. According to Will Byrne, CEO of Worldnet TPS: “This means that now all merchants no matter how big or small can accept credit card payments”.
Retail is a fast paced world, with customers dictating the pace of change. Enterprise Ireland client companies can assist retailers in staying ahead of the game, with a host of innovative solutions that can enhance customer experience and raise the level of innovation.