United bricks and clicks

Without wanting to sound like a broken record and bang on about online retailers versus the high street, a new report has come out forecasting online retail will sustain its double-digit growth in the coming five years.

Rosie Baker
Rosie Baker

The report by Forrester projects that e-commerce in the UK and Europe will hit €114bn (£103bn) by 2014, growing by around 11% per year.

The UK alone is forecast to hit €40bn (£36bn) by that time with the number of online shoppers rising from 31 million now to 41 million and spend per online shopper increasing from €483 (£437) to €601 (£544).

High street retailers are no doubt hoping there is a crystal ball somewhere forecasting a similarly buoyant future unfolding.

Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst Sucharita Mulpuru says that much of the retail sector’s overall growth will come from online operations and that the retail business that do well will be those that enable the kind of seamless crossover between “bricks and clicks” that consumers demand.

It shouldn’t be news to anyone in retail marketing that integrated on and offline operations are vital for a successful retail business but there are still too many retail business that have clunky online operations, or infuriatingly don’t have the multi-channel capabilities to allow customers to return an item bought online to it’s high street stores.

This kind of stilted and fragmented operation just isn’t good enough and retailers such as catalogue business Argos have demonstrated that it’s possible to weave online and in-store operations seamlessly together.

It seems timely then that John Lewis, the high street bellwether, announced on Monday that it is bringing the growth and development of both its bricks and mortar stores and its online operations under the control of one board director.

Commercial director Andrea O’Donnell will now take responsibility for retail development, format development and retail implementation as well as multichannel and online selling.

John Lewis says the move “recognises changing customer shopping habits” and I would have to agree.

Unless stores and e-commerce are operating in tandem with the same goals and messages, then the overall retail business will suffer – something that John Lewis has been quick to realise.

Hopefully John Lewis’s shift will spur others to take similar steps to align their bricks and clicks.

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