This is the first e-retailing conference in the UK. The same organising company has been running the East and West coast American versions since last year. This conference has attracted delegates from all over Europe and as far afield as Kuwait.
The speaker list for the two day conference reads like a who¹s who of eretailing. There are speakers from Lastminute.com, bol.com, CDnow.com etc.
The delegate list is pretty impressive too. Out of the 275 delegates there is an impressive smattering of MDs from major corporations, some of them already big in etail, others probably attending this conference to bring themselves up to speed.
The Chief Development Officer, Boo.com
Director of European marketing, eToys
Director of ecommerce, Great Universal Stores
Marketing manager, lastminute.com
National Retail Consultant, Boots The Chemists (does he consult for Halfords too?)
Senior marketing executive, IPC Magazines
Head of Communication, Decathlon Retail UK
Managing director, QXL.com
Chief Executive, Pentland Group (owners of Berghaus, Speedo and other sports brands)
Richard Hyman of Verdict Research was one of the first speakers this morning.
(www.verdict.co.uk) He is probably the premier retail analyst in Europe, forever popping up in TV and radio interviews.
He started by saying he was going to be a lot more skeptical about the potential of the internet than most of the other speakers at the conference.
The often quoted prediction of 23 million UK surfers by 2002 is probably too optimistic, he said, although massive growth is certainly on the cards. Take web statistics with a pinch of salt, he said. Of the existing 9 million UK regular surfers¹ this encompasses anybody online for just a few minutes in the last three months.
Only 5 percent of UK surfers currently buy online but this is forecast to increase to 24 percent by 2002 as acceptance increases and fears about credit card fraud subside.
Hyman says UK websites should become more women-friendly as it¹s still women who do the majority of shopping in the real world and internet sales will only take off when women get online in big numbers.
In the US, women do as much web shopping as men and do the same amount of surfing too, it¹s a true 50-50. British women lag behind US women, although the time lag is only about 12 months says Hyman and UK retailers ought to be making their websites more women friendly now in anticipation of the growth.
Websites should be much more than animated catalogues, they should offer a valuable shopping experience in its own right, he said.
The websites that work in the future will have brilliant customer service interfaces. The internet doesn¹t have be just a low cost channel, with people getting online merely to research the cheapest prices.
³It¹s important to add value to the internet experience or the net will continue to be driven by price which means only a precious few etailers would ever make any money,² warned Hyman.
Customers are willing to pay a premium for quality on the web, said Hyman. Adding value is the way for the best etailers to differentiate themselves from low-cost competitors.
Bricks and mortar retailing is going to change massively thanks to the internet, he says. Destination shops Bluewater, high quality IBDs etc won¹t be effected so much but shops in secondary retail locations¹ who fail to change their stores to the added value model will be beat into a cocked hat by the best e-tailers.
Sites should be sticky¹, a surfer is only ever a click or two away from exiting your site.
More findings will be uploaded as the two-day conference progresses.
PIC ON RIGHT: Richard Hyman