“But I’ve never caught a glimpse,

Of how the others must see the faker

I’m much too fast to take that test

Time may change me

But you can’t trace time”

David Bowie, Changes

‘Changes’ is certainly the topic for retailers racing to keep pace with consumers’ appetite for technology. Retailers need to determine what is the correct level of capital spend on technology – and in what specific area and over what period of time? In fact, the business case spread over two years or more is fast becoming redundant as technology generates change at a far greater speed than the traditional payback ratios.

So, who is mastering the race to greater customer fulfilment? Let’s take a look at well-documented UK merchandise retailer, John Lewis.

Having just returned from a retail research study tour in London, we see that John Lewis continues to be a forerunner in the Great British high street when it comes to omni-channel strategy. According toThe Guardian, John Lewis is investing heavily in omni-channel shopping, where online shopping as a percentage of total trade has more than trebled over the past eight years (from 10 per cent to 33 per cent).

From strong online presence and apps for when you’re on the go, to in store technology and click and collect improving customer service, John Lewis manages to integrate all channels to market in a relatively seamless way.

The apps allow customers access to 250,000 products whether already in store (on the free store WiFi), or on the move. Customers can check reviews, price match, form wish lists, watch inspirational videos, and the app even links to customers’ phone’s GPS to get directions to the nearest store.

The instore iPad and computers allow customers full access to thousands of products that may be out of stock or not available in that particular store, which they can then have delivered straight to their store of choice or home.brianwalker

However, the talking point around John Lewis at the moment is click and collect. John Lewis processes over six million click and collect orders a year, compared with 350,000 in its first year.

John Lewis announced last week that it will be the first to charge £2 for click and collect orders under £30 from the end of July, due to the free delivery service being unsustainable. Click and collect is particularly popular with John Lewis, due to Waitrose supermarkets (its partner) being a collection point, allowing customers to buy a varied range of products, from clothing to homewares, that they can then collect in one single trip when going to do a weekly grocery shop.

As John Lewis Managing Director, Andy Street said in The Guardian, “We are sure customers will understand why we are doing this. There is a huge logistical operation behind this system, and quite frankly it’s unsustainable. We consider ourselves to be leaders and we want to take the lead on this.”

Retailers don’t determine consumer behaviour per se, however their responsiveness and adaptation is at the heart of their future. John Lewis provides a valuable case study on this for all those who want to master the Omni channel retail puzzle.

First published on Inside Retail, 23 July 2015.

To discuss how to implement a strong omnichannel strategy for your retail business, call Brian Walker, CEO & Founder of Retail Doctor Group on 0294602882 for a complimentary 20 minute retailer diagnosis.