Takeaways from Internet Retailing Expo inc John Lewis, Sainsburys, and Maplin. All for the smaller retailer. (episode 097-5)

I’m really pleased to be bringing you a bonus episode this week, packed with my takeaways for you from last week’s Internet Retailing Expo that happened in Birmingham UK.

Just like last year I was chairing some of the conference – this year it was the From Clicks to Bricks agenda.

A strange title?

Well, it really fitted the content, because it was all about how bricks and clicks / omnichannel businesses are taking their online digital learnings and taking them across all their channels (including the store).

Even if you’re running a pure play online only business there’s still plenty of great lessons here for you too – so please keep listening!!

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internet retailing expo 2017 podcast
The Script

For you to read, print – whatever!

What will I be covering?

  • What John Lewis have learnt about mobile shopping
  • How Sainsbury’s are adapting their systems and processes to deliver what the customer wants
  • Fascinating Maplin case study of how they’re moving heaven and earth to reposition themselves in front of the right customer as the “connected home” sector is about to go boom

Lessons from John Lewis about Mobile Shopping

For those of you outside the UK John Lewis a big department store who sell across bricks, clicks and mobile.

A retail institution in the UK, and we had pretty much ran out of even standing room for this session.

This presentation was given by Tom Rooney, Mobile Product Manager.


No two customers follow the same path to purchase – there are 1,000s of different routes they could take. Different content, different platforms, different entry points – it’s endless.

So don’t try to envisage every journey, not least because customers are keen to tell you how they did it. So rather listen to the customers (what they say and what they do) to identify the areas you need to improve.

John Lewis have a whole inhouse testing facility – but Tom also have a great tip for all those of who aren’t that lucky!

Go search “Guerrilla testing” on Google to find lots of clever cheap, easy ways to find out what your customers want.


You need to know how your traffic behaves to work out what to focus on.

For John Lewis – the smart phone is now their number one traffic source, so they design everything mobile first.

However, this may be different for your business, and even for John Lewis it varies through the day.

john lewis traffic by device over the day

For example the eCommerceMasterPlan.com site this year – traffic is only 24% mobile, and 72% desktop – so I’m going to keep focused on desktop first!

Morning is all about the mobile (midnight to 6am), 12pm to 2pm it’s the desktop, and then tablet in the evening.

So know your customers’ behaviour and use it influence what you create and deliver.

AND although mobile is the top for traffic, ipad has the best conversion rate, then desktop then mobile.


The product page is the new homepage.

30% of all visits to John Lewis’s websites start on a product page.

So as well as selling the product the product page MUST:

  • Reflect your brand
  • Include your key messages

So you might want to include review scores there, a guarantee, price promise – what makes it onto the first mobile screen for you?

Why should they buy it from you?


Avoid solutions without problems

The new “bright shiny objects” I’m stealing this one.

You HAVE to learn to say no, to focus.

How Sainsbury’s are adapting their systems and processes to deliver what the customer wants

Fabrice Khullar spent his session explaining how Sainsbury’s have gone about switching to an agile technology approach over the last 12 months.

For those of you not familiar with agile it’s a different approach to tech development (and anything else!) that is focused on making changes fast, and testing quickly. it’s about evolving towards a solution not trying to fix EVERYTHING in one go.

(agile devotees will probably hate that explanation, but I wanted to keep it short!!)

It’s an essential part of delivering Sainsbury’s Omni-Channel Vision

sainsburys omnichannel vision

“Be there for our customers whenever, wherever and however they want”

AKA let the customers interact with us how they want to.

3 key parts to it:

  • Colleagues
  • Customers
  • Products and services at fair prices

2 out of the 3 are about people.

To prioritise projects they listen to the customers.

That was the other big lesson here (the first – listen to and look after the people), adapt as you need to.

They started with a complex gannt chart of all the projects they ‘needed’ to do. This how now become just 3 lists:

  • Now
  • Next
  • Later

One of the reasons it’s that simple is because they needed to fix the basics before they could move on to do more.

Lesson 3 then, get the basics working before you do the cool/sexy projects.

Fabrice also talked about getting better at saying no – and there’s a quite amusing cartoon he shared on the website for anyone who wants to check it out

how to say no cartoon

Fascinating Maplin case study of how they’re moving heaven and earth to reposition themselves in front of the right customer as the “connected home” sector is about to go boom

Maplin is an electronics retailer who have decided to take advantage of the coming boom in customer demand for the “smart home” the “connected home”.

Their eCommerce and Marketing Director Siobhan Fitzpatrick shared the instore development project they’re running to achieve this end.

They started out understanding the interest segments that their customers fit into:

  • The experts (tech pros and enthusiasts)
  • The appreciators (enjoyers and enhancers)
  • The novices
maplin customer segmentation

And how the market splits between these 5, as well as how their own customer base does. This quickly showed the biggest opportunity was with the Appreciators – so providing advice was critical.

It’s pretty obvious too that it’s a lot easier to SHOW how a smart home device works than to explain it.

So the team put together a completely new store format (in Cambridge if anyone wants to check it out). Which has an area where customers can get involved with the various smart home technologies to see exactly how they work and find the solution for them.

Results are:

  • Sales up by double digits like for like, year on year
  • In the smart home product category up 300%

Alongside the redesign they’ve also created lots of content and trained up the store team too.

This is very much an all encompassing project – no stone left unturned. But then, when you’ve done your research and identified the business case why wouldn’t go all-out for it?

But this is very much a test, a test of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) so they actually de-scoped a lot of ideas during the launch process.

They’ve also already rolled out a few parts of the test to other stores – well if it works well, why wouldn’t you??!

As it’s been so successful they’re now rolling it out through the other channels – YES this has been a physical store first test, that’s now being brought into the online channels.

This one is a work in progress – so if you’re interested keep an eye on Maplin over the coming months.

Bullet point takeaways

  • Avoid solutions without problems
  • Split your to do list into Now, Next, Later
  • Say “no”
  • Listen to your customers
  • People are more important than the tech
  • Product pages are key landing pages
  • Test, Test, Test!

Thanks for listening today to my takeaways from IRX, I hope you’ve found them useful.

Please also join the rest of the eCommerce MasterPlan World crew over in our Facebook Group.

Have a great week, and keep optimising